Thursday, September 24, 2009


“Closing time, every new beginning

Comes from some other beginning’s end”

Dan Wilson. Song, "Closing Time" by Matchbox 20.

Each time I have to leave a group of students that I've spent an extended period of time with, I always get a bit melancholy. I got pangs of sadness when college recitations ended, but it was nothing compared to leaving younger students. The first time I experienced this was when I student taught. My stint was from the beginning of the school year in September until the last day of the semester in December. Although it had been a lot of work, I found myself disappointed that I wouldn’t be continuing the lessons until June. It was humbling to know that I had an impact on them as well; from the gifts they gave to the kind words they said.

I didn’t experience this again until I became a Teaching Assistant in the fifth-grade. It was frustrating because they were never “my” students. I may have taught a few classes, but I wasn’t there all day, and wasn’t considered the main teacher. My paltry paycheck certainly made it clear that I wasn't the teacher. But even with the limitations, I often made strong bonds with some of the children – especially if the classes I taught were their favorite subjects or if they clashed with the lead teacher. I always ended the year giving each student a new book with a note about what I thought was special about him or her. Often, just writing those letters would bring tears to my eyes.

When I left my class in March, not completing the year was difficult. That goodbye was the most emotional of all – for me and for them. I didn’t get called to sub at the school for two months – a day I concurrently looked forward to and dreaded. The children were elated when they showed up at PE with me as their Sub, and invited me to their class, so I could see them recite Longfellow’s “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”. Afterwards, they encouraged me to come to their “Poetry Slam”, and I promised that I'd attend. Even though I had nothing to do with their accomplishments that evening, I was so proud of them. The first day I subbed at my old school and the night of the Poetry Slam, brought me back to that melancholy place from when I’d said goodbye.

For the next two months I was called to sub PE at my old school quite often, since the lead teacher was awaiting surgery. While my students were happy with the development, it was strange for me. One child said that it was like having me be her teacher again. But I didn’t want to be teaching gym – I wanted to go back to Social Studies and Word Study. It was great to see them, but it wasn’t the same.

Now I’ve been teaching science to sixth and seventh-graders for four days. Some of the classes don't have a science lesson tomorrow, so I said goodbye today. The student whom I’d had in fifth-grade last year came to me at the end of class, disappointed I wouldn’t be teaching her again. Already in four days, I’ve grown attached to and in control of the students in all five classes. Everything that had been new about the school has now become familiar. And now it’s time for another goodbye.


  1. To misquote a Nick Drake song "Happiness is but a fruit tree. So very unsound. It can never flourish. Till its stalk is in the ground."

    This puts me in mind of children of military or of Japanese businessmen, finding hard to build anything because of constant uprooting.
    For me the solution was to center my world in me- yup, I'm self centered. ; j Forming a solid core of self, from which to look out. It has it advantages and its drawbacks. It's interesting though. How have you learn to deal with it?

  2. Alesa, our lives are in flux. I'd like more stability than I have now, but I just have to remind myself it won't be forever. Some days, that works. Other days, I become demoralized.

    I like Nick Drake and the misquote.