By the time you read this, the students and teachers around you will be counting the time left in the school year by the hour, as opposed to the number of days.
The joy I feel about school nearly being out for summer is difficult to quantify. This will be my first summer off in more than twenty years. Sadly, most of the rest of the workaday world doesn’t honor the tradition of a mid-year break. Considering how different life would be if they did boggles the mind. Certainly, there have been times in my professional life when much could have been improved with a two-month hiatus for one and all. (Let’s face it; August is no longer considered a part of the school break. Teachers in Lafayette Parish report to duty for the 2009-2010 school year on Aug. 4.)
Two months to go our own ways and live life at a different pace would likely have served us all well — such are the dreams of a romantic.
However, the last few weeks have been a slap-in-the-face reminder that there is a high price to pay for that break. The end of school is a whirlwind. Everyone — students, teachers, parents and lunchroom ladies — it seems, is a tat bit wilder than usual. A portion of the Amazon has been lost to the reams and reams of paper used for end of the year forms, projects, tests and reports.
While I’m still too much in the thick of end-of-year madness to have time for melancholy, I do remember a fleeting, but certain wistfulness when classes I loved dismissed. Granted, there was a definite prompt for that feeling. When I was in the seventh grade, Mrs. Norma Ruth Lee was my speech teacher. We were about at this same point in the school year when one day I casually remarked, “I wish school were over.”
Mrs. Norma Ruth didn’t miss a beat.
“You’re wishing your life away,” she said, as she smiled and shook her head.
In that moment, I don’t remember if I even acknowledged what she said.
But in the years since, her wisdom has stuck with me and led me to recognize the degree of sadness in things ending, whether they be special classes or not. It’s the realizing that this group of people, in these same circumstances, will likely never gather again that does it to me every time. In a classroom setting that melancholy is intensified on the rare occasion when real magic occurs — when the stars align and the foundation is set for a teacher and students to build extraordinary relationships that go far beyond shared knowledge.
Nope, in the rare classroom peopled with the right teacher and the right students at the right time, they all share their wisdom, their secrets, their wishes and their dreams. In my experience, those have been the classrooms that stick like glue to a student’s consciousness for the long haul, long after the final bell has rung.