It used to happen every year. We would gather on the sidewalk and wave as the children began their last bus ride home for the year. Then we would meander to our classrooms, all looking a little bit lost, gathering up loose papers and little bits of broken pencils left under the coat hooks. Thank goodness for our school counselor’s yearly ritual of singing “schooooool’s out for summer” over the loud speaker. It was just the bit of levity I think we all needed to help us navigate that awkward place between joy and sorrow, relief and nostalgia.
As an elementary teacher, you spend 9 months entrenched in the academic and social lives of your students. You struggle together. You succeed together. You form a bond that will never again exist. When you really think about it, the exact combination of students and teachers will never share the same room again. And no matter how welcome that fact might make the impending break, there’s a sadness about it, too.
I’ve been out of the public school classroom for 5 school years, now. From my living room window, I’ve watched the first bus of the year pick up excited students carrying brand new backpacks and I’ve watched the last bus of the year bring home jubilant children. And because I get to use my teaching chops workshopping piano solos and providing academic tutoring to private students, I haven’t found myself missing the classroom. It’s the best of both worlds, staying at home and teaching.
And then this year, as my tutoring student handed me a thank you card, I fought back tears as I tried to find the words to tell him how proud I was of all his work; of how much I enjoyed working with him. I was instantly transported back to those afternoons, standing in the center of an empty classroom, hoping the students I just sent into their summer knew how loved they were.
I realize now that I want more of that. I don’t think I’ll find myself back in the public school classroom again. But I’d like to take my academic tutoring from an occasional favor for friends of friends into something more. Now I just have to figure out what.