Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Last Day Of School
Yesterday was the last day of school, a day that feels very different as a teacher. When I was a child it was the king of all holidays, the day of the year when I knew I would never have more freedom. The entire summer, two and a half months of sun and fun without any bullies or authoritarian teachers to ruin it, was stretched out before me, seemingly endless. Leaving school on that day was always such a high, a feeling of complete and unaltered joy that I have only had small glimpses of since.
Nowadays the last day of school comes as bittersweet relief. My wife and I have honed our morning routines with military precision in order to be able for both of us to leave the house at the same time and for me to get to New York City, her to her school in suburban New Jersey, and my daughters to their preschool. Balancing the intensity of the school year with parenting is a daily test of our abilities. Summer feels less like freedom and more like being a World War I soldier on leave from the trenches, knowing full well that we'll be back at the front for the fall offensive.
Thus the relief. The bittersweetness comes with saying goodbye to the students at the end of the year, especially the seniors. This year there is a group of seniors who I have advised for several years and feel very close to, and their hugs and tears have moved me but also made me sad for their parting. Working in secondary education means constantly meeting new young people and helping them grow, and then having to watch them leave right at the moment they become adults.
Amidst the bittersweetness of the last day of school, I also get a needed reminder of where I've come in my life. Once summer starts I usually begin thinking about how fortunate I was to escape the world of academia and land where I am now. It is sad to see the students go, but they make me feel so appreciated. They make me feel like my work MATTERS. I got that feeling so rarely in my former life. It's the feeling that has me looking forward to September and a new beginning with a new class of students, an anticipation so foreign to my childhood summers, but one that tells me I've made the right career choice.