My Last “Last Day”

IMG_9673The last day of school is always a mix of emotions for me. Mainly I feel relief that I survived another year, as well as a sense of mission accomplished. But as those buses pull out each year, and I am standing at the edge of the bus circle waving with my colleagues, there are usually a few tears when I watch the cheering students hanging out the windows to say goodbye. It is my sentimental heart that thinks on all I taught these kids and all that I have learned from them this year. Sadness that another year is over comes quickly to my eyes…for a minute or two anyway…then I do the happy dance that summer is here!

This year it is my last “last day” and my emotions are somewhat heightened from the usual end of year craziness in combination with resigning a twenty year career. I feel a sense of freedom rising up. I feel exhilarated by the possibilities waiting for me. I feel lighter and joyful that the hard season of the last few years is over. At the same time, I know that grief will be coming. How can it not? For a good portion of my lifetime, I have poured into this career of mine. You do not walk away from that much time without a sense of loss. Especially when the departure is not something you wanted. The goodbyes to my colleagues will be difficult, yet I know will see them all again. However, the goodbyes to my students? They will take pieces of my heart with them. My eyes will leak and possibly unblock the grief that I know is sitting, waiting for me to stop ignoring it. And what can be said at this point that hasn’t all ready been? Nothing. And so, my dear readers, I decided to write to my students on this momentous occasion of my last “last day” of school.

My Dearest Students,

I have a few things I want to tell you.

  • I care about you, more than you will ever know.
  • I love how you tell me stories about EVERYTHING.
  • I wish I had more time to listen to them.
  • I love how you learn without knowing you are learning.
  • It is one of my specialties to make it happen this way.
  • When you tell me about the things you love it makes me happy.
  • I only pretend to be scared when you show me pictures of snakes, spiders, and sharks in your library books.
  • I do it because it makes you laugh. (Ok…I might be kinda scared…but just a little bit.)
  • When you use pencils as drumsticks it is annoying.
  • But then I think you might make a great drummer someday so I let you do it…sometimes.
  • I don’t like it when you fight with each other and argue.
  • I tried to teach you kindness. It is the most important lesson you need for life.
  • It makes me sad when you struggle to learn something new. My heart hurts with yours.
  • Remember what I told you? Never. Give. Up.
  • Perseverance is as important as kindness.
  • Your tears of frustration are not lost on me.
  • I do everything I know how to do to help you avoid them.
  • Sometimes, after trying everything, I go home and cry too.
  • But then I try again…because…well…Never. Give. Up.
  • I hate that I have had to teach you things that are developmentally inappropriate.
  • I know I said not to use the word hate.
  • I abhor the fact that I have had to teach you things that are too hard for your brains.
  • What does abhor mean, you ask?
  • Remember….sssssssynonym….ssssssimliar…..ssssssame.
  • hate=abhor=detest=despise=dislike (Remember the lesson on using a thesaurus? Comes in handy sometimes.)
  • I tried to break things down to fun bite-sized pieces.
  • I am sorry if what I was required to teach you made you feel like you can’t do anything.
  • That is not the truth.
  • You can do many, many things.
  • You are amazing.
  • Your hugs are the best thing ever.
  • I think your fishing and hunting stories are some of the best ones I get to hear.
  • I do not hunt or fish, so you are great storytellers.
  • Except for the how-to-gut-a-hog story.
  • It grossed me out.
  • I like it when you tell me about your hobbies.
  • It makes me a better teacher to know these things about you.
  • I hate it that sometimes you do not have enough food at home and you have to sleep on the floor.
  • I pray that life will not always be this unkind to you.
  • I really pray. Hard.
  • I know that blended families are confusing sometimes.
  • I think you are doing a really good job at trying to keep up with the constant changes at home.
  • I will always give smiles and hugs…that will never change.
  • Your pets are so funny.
  • Dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, chickens…they are all entertainment for me.
  • I also love hearing all about your siblings.
  • It gives me a heads up for the future.
  • I don’t like it when you get hurt…at school or at home.
    I don’t like it when your feelings are hurt…at school or at home.
  • It makes me want to take care of you.
  • I remind myself that teaching you IS taking care of you.
  • It is the best thing I know to do.
  • I hate that I sometimes have to put a trashcan beside you during testing in case you throw up.
  • I feel like throwing up too.
  • I wish I could do something about that.
  • Maybe I can.
  • Maybe I will.
  • I want you to think school is fun.
  • I tried to make it that way for you.
  • It is getting harder and harder to do that.
  • I have great confidence in you.
  • You are going to change the world.
  • I know it.
  • You are amazing, marvelous, fantastic, wonderful, and spectacular.
  • Those are adjectives.
  • They describe YOU.
  • You will make a difference.
  • Just be your awesome self.
  • Always.
  • You will go far.
  • Remember, that I will always be for you.
  • In your corner. Always. Forever.
  • I will miss you.
  • I love you.


Love and hugs,

Mrs. Gunnin

(former) EIP Teacher

6 thoughts on “My Last “Last Day”

  1. Michelle, even though you resigned from this position, you embody the heart, soul, and spirit of a teacher. May God’s hand be on you, guiding you in the coming days. I know wherever you land, will be blessed by your presence. Much love to you.

  2. It’s so easy to see the junk piling up against the front door of every public school in America. But the back door should capture some concern, too. It’s just as unpretty.

    Teachers know how schools change over time. Serve a few decades and you’re not much bothered by the continuous, subtle adjustments from year to year. Schools are ever in a state of reform. They have to be. They have no alternative but to keep stride with society, and to be very nimble … because teachers expect to find themselves in new currents all the time.

    Way back when, the drug stuff had us all alarmed … and the beer stuff, too. That was everyday teen stuff leaking into our narrow world. We had run-ins with hygiene and sex and cigarettes. And, of course, drunk driving. Daring schools talked about daring stuff beyond classrooms … like alcohol and divorce … and physical abuse. Then there was AIDS. That was extra-delicate and owned a frantic immediacy. The right words were so hard to find. Lots of times, I felt like I was killing innocence. 

Other moments were colored by usual stuff. Usual for adults, trauma for kids. Big difference.

    Not many of us got much help from teacher-prep programs or post-grad classes. Not about those issues. There weren’t many best-sellers on the issues that seeped into our classrooms. No sexy titles like you might find today … like “ Beer and the Back Seat” … which would kill two sins at once. Or “I’ll Love You for All of Next Week” … which might seem cute, but is likely to be an overly graphic how-to manual for very young teens in this age of sexual over-kill. That’s the sad trend.

    Sexting is now a middle school sport. And cell phones are sex toys. Hazing never really goes away … it just morphs into some new ugliness. 

Today, schools are nimble emergency responders … making mighty efforts to cushion kids for any and all eventualities. Lots of schools have figured out how to deal with very different students with very different issues who weren’t part of the landscape even a few years ago. Not an easy feat when the student body itself is lost in the weeds of immaturity. Lots of adults become stumble-bumblers in such situations … and it’s often these kids who sort of tutor us big dopes. 

My point? Where does generation after generation of teachers get their wisdom for things like this? … and for other topics that seem invisible to outsiders? Who whispers to them?

    Who makes the greenhorns less green and the naive less naive? Who gives the next generations their reality booster shot? … and gets them to understand the nuances of their craft? Who oracles them?

    Know who? The folks walking out that back door. And they’re leaving in droves. 

They’re walking away from the New Nonsense and the New Idiocy. They’re fleeing the New Know-It-Alls and the Know-Nothing politicians. They’re leaving to save their sanity … and their hearts. They can’t watch the profession they adore undergo a renovation of horror. They’re leaving because they have something the New Intruders have never possessed … integrity. And they won’t ever compromise that. And they won’t betray kids. Not ever.

This sudden exodus isn’t just the usual changing of the guard. Nope. When this brigade of Old Souls … these Gray Heads … gather up their experiences and box their lives and leave for good … they’ll be packing up decades of wisdom that will no longer be at the ready for the newbies who are never, ever as ready as they think. 

The most important things learned about teaching happen in whispers, asides, or in simple observations. And it’s almost always at the knee of some Old Salt who did what we would all come to do later in our own careers … pass along big and small wisdoms. 

It happens in fable form and in funny-sincere recollections of long disappeared characters. And it could happen anywhere … at any time. In hallways. At a copy machine. Or the parking lot. In a stairwell or in an empty classroom … very late in the day … when the school goes silent save for the sounds of sloshy mops and things on squeaky wheels. 

And now those splendid souls …the Wisdomers … they’re leaving. Vanishing. Repulsed by the New Nonsense. The insanity of the now.

    And in their moving vans are the moving stories young teachers need to know … because those stories are informal survival guides. They’re reference material for soothing young souls and spackling torn hearts. What’s in those boxes are manuals for curing failure and repairing kids who’ve had a bottom-bounce. Those are medicine boxes with un-named elixirs for hurts of all sorts. And all of this magic is flying out the back door of schools.

    Those master-teachers … and their wisdom … are the antidote for this sick reform. But they’ll be gone when their wisdom is most needed.

    Someday … not sure when … but someday … we’ll come to our senses. We’ll have a national mea culpa. And we’ll get our educational priorities back in common sense rhythms. But it’s not going to be easy at all. It’s gonna be hard stuff.

    All of the wisdom whispers will have disappeared. And “starting from scratch” won’t be a cliche any more. It’ll be a reality.

    Wish us luck. We’re gonna need it.

    Denis Ian

  3. Pingback: A Good Point | Michelle's Mosaic

  4. Pingback: A Good Point | M&M Educational Solutions

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