Closing the Door: Goodbyes at School

I’m at that point in my service where everyone looks at me with their eyes full of memories (and also possibly, tears). After two years of pulling struggling students out of their classes for literacy interventions, it is finally time to stop.

During our last class ever.
During our last class ever.

I had a vision in my head of my last-ever small group sessions being a perfect model of the practices I’d worked hard to teach my students. I planned a fun-filled session about kindness and cooperation, where we’d speak anecdotally about the themes, say kind things about ourselves and others, and wrap up with a story about friendship à la Frog and Toad. I pictured them being well-behaved, tuned in, reflective, and hanging on my every word. After all this time, I can’t believe how little attention I paid to my own advice: leave your expectations at home.

As it turns out, life is messier than my dreams. As it turns out, despite how much work I’ve put in over the last two years and despite how much progress my students have made over that time, I seemed to have forgotten something: they are 8-year-old hyperactive third graders.

Despite their overzealous energy and my as-of-late paper-thin emotional stability, there were a few really great moments tucked into my goodbye classes. As a final activity, we all stood in a circle and I asked each student to say one kind thing about his- or herself, then pass a ball to a classmate so that they could do the same. Then, I had students say something kind about a classmate, pass the ball to that person, and so on.

Now I’ve heard that you’re not supposed to pick favorites, but I’m only human. One of my favorite students is a boy in Grade 3 who has grown immensely as a reader. He’s opened up to me about things that cause him sadness at home and occasionally gives me candy. He still loves to play but has become a more dedicated student and now reads slightly above grade level! So anyway, this kid gets the ball, turns to me and says, “Miss Dominique, I like you because you’re the most wonderful teacher of all time.”

Most original compliment ever? Not entirely. Most genuine compliment ever? Without a doubt. Did I cry after he said it? I’m damn proud of how well I choked back those tears in the moment, thank you very much (but boy did I let loose when I got home that afternoon).

After two years of service to my school, I can’t say that I’ve accomplished every goal that I had set for myself. I can’t say that I’ve changed the world or the face of the Jamaican education system. What I can say is this: I have met the challenges in front of me with wholehearted effort; I have impacted the life of at least one child by showing him love and compassion; I have done things that I had no idea how to do, like create a successful school library program; I have built relationships that have changed me for the better; I have made a change in myself, and that really is good enough.

 

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