Meet Me Inside, Meet Me Inside

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

The students already dispersed. They left desks misaligned, books out-of-place, looseleaf discarded, and the only adult in the room weary. Last period is almost always exhausting, but, after a week of filing, organizing, and getting the last bit of learning into students, this’ll drain even the most ardent of us. I was three computer clicks, one disorganized pile, and 16 iPads away from leaving my room.

Once I locked the door behind me, I had this sudden revelation come over me: there are only a few days left until the end of the school year.

This is how the end of the school year goes for NYC teachers. It starts around late May when teachers across the country across the country wave their fingers and stick their tongues out at us for starting their vacations earlier than us. We finally get to take a few deep breaths to see what the students’ first marking period grades looked like and what their last may look like. But not before you’re pleading and begging them to turn in work they swear they have for you somewhere. The portfolios we’ve organized and the phone logs we kept suddenly look like security blankets in front of the handful of parents and administrators who might have questioned whether we weren’t keeping tabs on our students’ progress for whatever reason.

The sun rays pierce our windows harder. The coffee tastes like it has one extra cup of sugar. The lesson plans start to blend into one another. The quizzes barely make a dent on our digital grade book. The professional development sessions feel like partial nap sessions for the fatigued and exasperated. The papers are still stacked eye-high and we’re seated there determining priorities. The kids are tired. The adults don’t want to talk about it.

The end of the year means that, for all the worry about making it to the finish line, we’re almost there … and we’re kinda left hanging.

What could we have achieved with more time? More support? More energy? More reflection? Everyone has no one but themselves to blame and celebrate, really. Field trips, in-room movies, and the fa-real-fa-real conversations crowd our agendas. One room has a teacher sitting while the students do impressions of their teachers. Another room has students presenting their best and brightest work for a final grade. Another still is sweating it out without an air conditioner, and still enjoying their time in their sweatboxes.

Bless the children because they get to be a closer rendition of themselves now that summer unofficially arrived after the thermometer passed 70°. Adults, on the other hand, relish the idea of being called by their first name sans the implied powers and responsibilities that come with. Que será será isn’t quite it. It’s more like “What will be can still be fixed and, if not, can I do this again next year?”

As for me, I’m looking at the faces of staff and of students, all of which will probably change in some way. For the kids who stay, the summer will augment their heights and smells. For the kids who leave, they’ll remember me, but won’t have the time to bang on my door the way they’re wont to do. For the adults who stay, they (usually) add one more wrinkle, one more strand of grey. For the adults who leave, they’ll be memories, usually attached to laughter, pride, or bewilderment.

I’ll enjoy lifting my feet up, visiting all the doctors whose appointments I’ve missed and all the friends and family who got annoyed at my teacher stories. But for now, there’s about 140 students and dozens of adults who depend on me to close out the year with them. 12 years after I didn’t think I’d be a teacher, I get to pack up these memories and try again one more time.

This is the awe in awesome.