Friday, June 26, 2009

The Last Day

Today I took my last 9 students on a long walk. We went through the Arboretum, where we looked for frogs and turtles, counted dragonflies, and identified catbirds, red-winged blackbirds, and exotic trees. We ambled through long grasses and along stone paths, then came out on busy roads where we walked to our favorite local ice cream shop. We ordered pizza across the street, then had ice cream (smalls, one topping per child). Finally, tired, hot, and sticky, we headed back toward school, this time along the road instead of through the Arboretum.

At least four times we stopped to make friends with dogs that were walking by. Each time we had the same conversation. "What's your dog's name?" "How old is he? Is that in dog years or people years?" "How many years is that in people years?" "What does he like to eat?" "Really!? He eats that?"

I thought a few times about all the things they say and notice that they learned from me. I mean, I thought it humbly, with a kind of awed amazement that I have influenced these kids in a few ways. But they see the world in some new ways because of me. The way they notice and talk about bikes. The way they think about recycling (Ivan carefully found the recycling container at the ice cream shop for his plastic cup.) The way they point at every bird they see. Israel and his ability to identify some of the common birds around here -- grackles, starlings, finches. The way they helped each other get up a steep hill, and Amalia said, "It's a good thing we support each other!" All the knowledge they have, and share with each other, about insects, mushrooms, plants, rocks.

I mean, I definitely don't get all the credit for any of this. I probably only get a little bit of the credit for it. But we've made a community together, for two years now, that is characterized by taking care of each other, the environment, and our neighborhood, as well as curiosity, excitement, and enthusiasm for new ideas. It's been a place where it's safe to share your feelings most of the time, where kids take risks and stretch themselves, and where we have a lot of fun. I feel really proud of that community, and proud of my kids for being such willing and happy participants it in.

Israel came up next to me as we neared school. "I'm kind of sad that it's the last day of school," he said, with an embarrassed laugh. "Me too," I agreed ruefully.

Amalia didn't leave my side the entire walk. Each time we got separated, there she was again next to me, her little sticky hand slipping into mine.

We were sitting in the coolness of the ice cream shop, all of us gathered around 3 tables, when Israel looked around and said, with his customary little chuckle, "It kind of feels like a family."

Now they are gone, and I am in my almost-empty classroom. It's started raining outside. (We forgot to repeat the sun dance today.) I'm facing a big stack of paperwork, but officially, I'm on summer vacation. The traditional end-of-year song is being blasted over the intercom. (Usually, it's "I Will Survive." This year, it's "The Way You Make Me Feel," in honor of Michael Jackson.) I'm tired. I'm happy. I'm sad.


  1. I will miss these posts all summer long! Good work, Ms. Swamp. I am glad that you are molding our young minds.

  2. I totally understand the reflection on the community built together and the way everyone treats each other. And your last day sounds like a really good one. ♥