I guess it didn’t occur to me until today that the end of the year is approaching. I mean, it’s been approaching since the first day, but now it’s literally around the corner. It’s so close I can smell its cologne. What really brought it home to me today was the 7th grade End of the Year party, in which my students celebrated two of their friends who will be leaving the school. One goes off to public school in the area, and the other goes off to Venezuela. A couple of students made a video dedicated to one of their friends, complete with video clips of her and her friends, a soundtrack, and pictures from her childhood, and several students stood up to say very tearful farewells.
It reminded me of my own middle school experience, wherein people would go away and we others would be left behind to mourn the loss of our friends. I vividly remember the time Lydia left our group of friends and even though I was further outside of the tight circle than others, I still felt her absence. I never moved when I was younger; like the majority of my friends, I lived in the same house in the same town my whole life. The truth is, I could never really imagine living anywhere else, and although at one point my parents talked about moving to Virginia and we even went so far as to look at houses during summer vacation down there, it was never really more than a series of conversations and an eventual “guess not.”
But these kids, many of whom are here at this school because of their parents’ jobs, are maybe used to coming and going. The girl who is moving to Venezuela, that will be her fourth country she’s lived in. I can’t imagine making that kind of transition–between languages and cultures, not just between ZIP codes. She will be experiencing a whole different kind of life and it’s interesting to think about how this kind of transient childhood will effect her later on as an adult. Maybe she’s yearning for a place to stay put, or maybe she’ll be interested in combining all of her international experiences and using them to her benefit in college and beyond. Myself, I stayed put my whole young life, and since leaving the house, haven’t returned. But now here I am, just days away from going home, and wishing the time between now and then would up and disappear so I can be there sooner.
My students have been bugging me this year to be their 8th grade teacher. At first I was tempted to continue working with them; knowing them as well as I do might allow me to push them in ways unique to each individual next year. But as this year drew to a close, it occurred to me how much richer their experience will be if they don’t stay with me, and indeed how much richer my experience will be if I don’t stay with them. What makes us grow is the variety of activity, the variety of people with whom we connect. While it is comfortable to stay put with the familiar, it is invaluable to say goodbye and to push out of that comfortable place, to move beyond the boundaries of the known and to venture into the area of the unknown. Lately, I have been telling my students they don’t need me next year, that what they need is a new teacher and a new style of learning. But maybe part of it is me telling myself that I need to give them up, give this year up and tuck it away into the folds of my memory, much like my two students–and in fact all the others–will need to tuck each other into the folds of their memory and move on to different worlds. There will never be another year quite like this one.
And knowing that, I easily fold and store and keep moving.