Friday, June 17, 2011

School's Out

I think before you have kids, New Year's Day is a really super important day to you. It's a day to start fresh and have new goals and plans. But once you have school age kids, it seems like New Year's Day loses it's lustre, and is replaced by the September to June school year schedule. September is the time to start fresh, June is the time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the future.

Today was a bittersweet day. I'm not going to lie, there were a lot of tears shed.

Benjamin said goodbye to his second grade class, and to being a second grader. He was tearful all morning and again when I picked him up for the final time from school. I wrongfully assumed that his tears were over the fact that he had to say goodbye to everyone. The real reason? He just wished that he had two more weeks of school. I'm not done learning yet, he cried. He is an amazing student, and his report card showing straight A's for the entire year reflects that. I'm so proud of him. Especially because he has accomplished this without the slightest bit of help from me. He pushes himself to do good on his homework and study for tests without any encouragement from me. And his success is his reward in his eyes. He never asks for a treat beyond the 100% that the teacher writes on his tests. What a joy he is!  

Nathan happily shrugged off the 4th grade mantle, happy to be a newly minted 5th grader, happy that summer vacation started this afternoon, and happy to toss his homework folder directly in the garbage. He wasn't so happy to part with his best friend. We just found out Nathan's class and teacher will be "looping" next year, meaning that the absolutely wonderful Mr. G will move up to 5th grade next year and keep all the same students from his class this year. Nathan has been okay with the move to Macau up until the point he heard that. Suddenly he feels like he's the "only" kid who won't be a part of the group next year, who will all stick together without him, forgetting he was ever there. That's a tough one. I admit I had a brief crisis with my own thoughts toward this move when I heard that. I love their school, and I'm crazy about his teacher. There are so few male teachers anymore, and Nathan has been fortunate enough to have a male teacher two years in a row. Missing out on a guarantee to have not only a male teacher next year, but the very same teacher that has worked like crazy to help Nathan be successful this year? Painful. I lamented about it on Facebook, and my great friends tossed in major support and some terrific suggestions (Nathan will write his class postcards from Macau, and they will write him back) and I felt better. But Nathan still felt sad and left out today when everyone was waving and shouting, "See ya' next year! Same time, same place!"


Sadness.
And then there was me. I always cry on the last day of school. I always try not to cry because it's ridiculous. I'm not a hovering parent who gets all my satisfaction in life from my kids. And it's not like they're moving into middle school or high school or graduation (I'm gonna need the Costco-sized Kleenex when those days come). But I guess just like New Year's Eve, the last day of school is the closing of a book, the turn of a key in a lock, the final nail in the coffin, the very definite end of something. Today felt even more final, because we're not just leaving for the summer. We're walking away from this school, this school district, this school system, this country! But there was also another reason for tears.

This is my friend Keri, who I've known for 18 years. She was the first person I met when I went away to college. We were both theater majors, but she also got her teaching degree and then ended up using it. She started out as a substitute, but has been teaching full time for the last eight years at the school my boys attend. I would have loved for either of my kids to have had her just once. She is creative and sincere and very good at what she does. She really wanted to be an actress (we were in a movie together! You can see the backs of our heads in one particular shot if you're watching carefully in this terrible film), but she absolutely shines at working with children. And sadly, because the State of California is in such a horrible financial mess, she is one of the casualties of the cutbacks and won't be returning to teaching here in September. You know they always make cuts starting from the bottom seniority-wise. And you know that they are making very deep cuts when they're letting go of a teacher with eight years worth of seniority. We visited her 3rd grade classroom during Open House when it was filled with colorful and creative projects. And we visited it again today after the final bell and cried over the naked bulletin boards and empty bookshelves. 

Every year since Nathan started kindergarten, our school district has had to make cuts to the teaching staff. And every year I've felt very sad and expressed shock over the sheer numbers (the boys' school lost eight teachers last year!) of teachers being let go. But that was before the teacher being let go was someone I know and love. Someone who took theatrical makeup with me and walked across campus so we could get lunch while looking like this at 18:

Keri on the far left, me on the far right. Make up design final for A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Someone who was willing to go to Disneyland with me dressed like this when we were 20:


Keri on the left, me right next to her, Michael as the Mad Hatter.
Someone who asked me to be her bridesmaid, but I had to drop out when I found out we were expecting Nathan on the same day as her wedding (he came late, we got to see the beautiful bride walk down the aisle despite me not fitting into any footwear other than my dad's old Birkenstock sandals. Glamorous! No, I'm not posting a photo!). Someone who sent me books in English when we were living in Japan and I'd already finished all the books I'd shipped over.

You can bet that when those numbers go from being "8 teachers" to my actual, honest to goodness friend, I'm going to go from simply being sad and shocked to shedding actual tears. Good thing she was crying too, I hate to cry alone.

After leaving campus at noon to start our summer vacation, we did our traditional last-day-of-school trip to Disneyland. Even the Happiest Place on Earth did little to lift our spirits all that much.

But it tried, by golly, it tried.

Happy Summer Vacation my friends!

1 comment:

Michael said...

"I'm not done learning yet, he cried." [heart filled with pride]

love him!