For teachers, graduation day is a time of mixed emotion; a time which, in retrospect, appears to have snuck up unexpectedly, yet ten months prior, seemed a light year away.
In those ten months, the little cherubs, who crossed the threshold into a new school year full of learning and discovery, transformed from coddled babies to independent learners. They had entered timidly, eyes alight with wonderment, into the cheerful, welcoming classroom.
The students, dressed in their crisp new school clothes and back-to-school haircuts would need time to adjust to their new routine and the unfamiliar face at front of the room, who for seven hours, would take the place of Mommy. Yet, the teacher held strong in the faith that she and her new pupils would eventually flow together like the gears of a well-oiled machine.
For weeks, the teacher and her students practiced the simple art of lining up quietly, taking turns, and sitting “crisscross applesauce” on the classroom rug. And she, the Jill of All Trades, alternated the many hats of teacher, confidante, surrogate parent, and at times, referee.
There were countless afternoons where she worked in her classroom long after all others had gone home, and fretted that she had not “reached” her charges that day. Yet over the weeks and months that accumulated into what was now a school year gone by, the children had risen above temper tantrums over blocks and dollies, or weepy good-byes, clinging to the legs of an equally forlorn parent. They had learned their letters and numbers, and some were even on the verge of the educational miracle-- learning to read.
And now, despite the many occasions spent pining for June to arrive, the teacher, on graduation day, finds herself longing for more time with her surrogate children.
Will they be okay without me? Will their new teachers figure out the magic trick to getting them to behave/listen/learn?
Recollections filter in—a child who shared his snack with another who did not have one; the student who, after many months was now able to say “three” instead of “free”; and the little one who finally tiptoed out of the safety and solitude of the corner to join her classmates during circle time.
These are the moments that made the many hours spent planning, preparing, and instructing all worth it, and the reasons she will do it all again come Fall.
Here on graduation day, the children, a bunch of proud peacocks, belt out corny songs to the captive audience of family members. It is a sight to behold and a glimpse of who each child will become, years from now, on High School Graduation Day. By then, no one will remember that Billy is picking and flicking boogers at Seth, or that Rachel is sitting, knees bent, under her pink dress, giving the audience a glimpse of her polka dot underwear. Surely, no one will remember the boy dressed in a jovial bow tie to match his smiling face or that his Grandpa dressed him for the occasion. No one will remember the details of this bitter-sweet occasion, save one.
One day when Billy or any of the other children bump into an older, quiet woman at the supermarket, she will turn to them, memories of their youthful faces imprinted indelibly on her mind, and look upon them with pride.
“It’s so nice to see you again. You’ve grown, and I see you have a family of your own now. Thank you for making me proud and for being a part of my family so very long ago.”
The former students may smile, engage in some friendly conversation or even surprise her with a hug, but all too quickly, students and teacher will part ways once again. Yet, each time these precious moments arise, each party will walk away with a clear and strong knowing.
A teacher’s care and concern is a gift that carries on long after the last school bell.
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