A New Year: Smooth Operator

“. . .no place for beginners or sensitive hearts. . .” 

-Helen Folasade Adu and Raymond St. John

Becoming veteran to the last day, which began my first year of subbing middle school over 15 years ago, there is something magical on the last day of school. There are no more chances, this is the final performance, no retakes. The ending having entered (hopefully) all grades finally Sunday at 1 (before the famous Progressbook cut off like Cinderella); sent back the majority of 3-5 work on Monday; seen the last of first grade 3D magic fish Tuesday, along with the last of the refrigerated wallpaper paste to close up papier mache; trying to reconnect pottery to over 200 owners; and at last bagging of Kindergarten handprints (except several I have screwed up), I knew it was going to be over. This is always harried.

Classroom teachers, on the other hand, are stripping down and closing rooms. The kids watching movies, etc., marking time before the final handing out of report cards and the sometimes traumatic goodbyes. I watch 5th graders today making the connection that this is it. One or two teary-eyed looking, beginning to realize that lifetime milestones will be made of these moments. I track down another kid delivering a planet, my little kitty, or a piece of broken pottery, now glued together somewhat.

Several shockers at the end of the year. Some teachers being ricocheted across grade levels or other posts. Two fifth grade teachers one shifted to special area (just what we needed not: another science teacher), one to CRT support. Another moves to 2nd. Jenny, an old pal, will move from first to second, a dream she has had for a while. First will have respectively: one teacher from Kindergarten, second and third moved to it. One wonderful Kindergarten teacher, did not have her annual contract picked up. Another third grade teacher in a don’t ask, don’t tell mode. Still another third grade teacher, high test scores, mysteriously, and with much resistance,  moved to first.

Next year sees classroom numbers swell. Thirteen fifth grades. Fourteen classes for both Kindergarten and First. Wednesdays may be a lost day, since the latest is a “remediation” day, or as they are referring to it, “intervention” day, regrouping kids by ability done mostly for low students. Who knows what this mess will bring us?

Money was saved enough to hired paras to watch kids at lunch, so the dumbbell one teacher watches two classes while the other eats, followed by the other teacher watches two classes during recess, while the other eats, disappears. The end of a dicey situation, where some kids were hit by flying balls, noise was rampant, kids running, one maybe breaking a leg, were all part of a plan to stretch nonexistent dollars.

On the last day of school this year, I saw fewer “lost” students. I remember three years ago, a girl who had never been my student and seeing me only in the halls or during various photos sessions, came and give me a giant bear hug. This was unexpected, and I saw in her face, that look of trying to make a final connection, with a school she had not made that kind of roots with. Today, several members of a fifth grade class rushed me for hugs, quite surprising, for this is generally done only by wacky Kindergartners, which literally almost knocks you off your feet. This connecting is a very important element to kids, and it wonderful that they share it so freely with us.

At final dismissal, parents come by in cars, wishing me a happy summer. I joke to parents at the end of the day you will see a first grader get in your car! Too fast, they say. This morning several kids stopping by giving me presents of candy (which will go to Pat) or wallets and pen sets (which will join others). I still have two watches sitting in drawers and one or two shirts. I wish they would bank this money for their kids future. As I go to the back of the loop to gesture to make one lane entering, I watch three sets of parents, who have shown up to cheer their children on. They have cameras and are taking pictures. These are our pioneers, kids that started generally Kindergarten, but sometimes first. These kids, all girls are even more special, they are the last of the siblings. Brothers and sisters before have gone off to middle school a while back.

I move from the back of the loop, to help at the front of the loop, loading kids into cars. Two of the dads come over to me, very unexpected and never done before. They are there with handshakes and good cheer, to thank me for being part of their children’s life experience. It is touching and interesting to see this in dads, and I am at a loss. Thank you for nine years of being part of our child’s life. This really is something for someone to come out of their way to do. This has been the year of dads, I see them come to me often, to make a connection. Very unusual, either I have never noticed it, or it is a new pattern.

Elementary, in particular, is a world of women. Out of 90 teachers and paras, only three males are classroom teachers: two in fifth, one in fourth. Dave, who teaches music, and I, are in special area, with two male paras serving each of two female PE teachers. We have a dean and two APs (a first this year) who are males. There are only 2 male custodians and no male office or cafeteria workers. I do not know how this fares with other schools. I do not know if this means anything. This year it got so contentious, they elected a dad of one of the kids, president of PTA.

At seven, long after everyone is gone, I am putting some final touches on a giant banner for two retiring teachers, a couple (he fourth, she the CRT), who opened the school back in 1988. Tomorrow, I am sure will be teary-eyed for them as well. Both in their mid-50s, I am shocked anyone would want to retire at this age. I will never know that feeling, having started my career days in another part of the forest.

I fell asleep in front of the computer about 11, and woke up around 1. Tonight is the first night I will fall asleep in bed, after sleeping in this chair for two nights. Tomorrow is cleanup day. Smooth?

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