I wrote the following to students (I didn’t actually send it yet, and I don’t know if I will) the day we learned that school was closed for the rest of the school year. I had bunches of kids writing me notes and telling me on Flipgrid that this was so disappointing. Even with our first day of distance learning, they still asked me, “So what about the musical? Graduation? Our 6th grade party?” They were holding on to one last hope (I had no idea they thought I could override the governor). The crying face emojis and “Noooooooooooo” streamed along the chat box. So here I am, thinking again of them and how this is rough on their hearts, and it’s hard on me, too. I’m switching grade levels next year, and there are so many special things about their last year in elementary school. I feel their ache and their loss.
Imagine with me that we didn’t miss events and projects and moments. I saw them all happen.
For our school’s history week, I heard Chris and Tanner give an amazing tour, retelling all of the pivotal moments of our school’s history. I watched all the students rub the wall in the cafeteria one last time for good luck.
Opening days of the musical for Mary Poppins, Jr., I watched Flint, Everett, Samantha, Hilary, and especially Anna pace back and forth backstage. They messed with the tape attaching their microphone to their faces so many times it was peeling, and I stuck it back on as they asked, “Do you think it’s working? Do you think it’s okay? Is my costume messed up in the back?” I watched Damien take his job with stage crew seriously, ensuring he didn’t miss a single cue. Jasper was wearing a hole in the floor of the stage, waiting for his moment to turn the trifold to the bank he painted. I watched Lily calmly await her moment to create the “beds” for Jane and Michael and set up Mrs. Corry’s cart.
I heard Sally share how much she loved the book, The War that Saved my Life, as she convinced everyone else to read it, and I got to hand out beautiful new copies to those who wanted it. I listened to conversations as people shared information they were learning about the past. I saw Jim bounce in the bungee chair and talk all about World War II and the battles he read about in Code Talker. For our final project in writing, I learned all about the passions of everyone. I learned how Natalia would open up an amazing store; she made artwork for her logo, and I saw it come to life. I watched Lucy and Nina show each other the web designs they were making diligently on Canva.
When the weather warmed, we had morning meetings outside. I taught you how to play silly teamwork games like One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and everyone begged for more time. Flint did a great job getting everyone to work together so that the class could win against me. When you all beat the game, you cheered and ran around, going bananas. I french braided Allie’s hair on a bench at recess, and everyone said how nice it looked. Emily told me it was no use doing her hair, but I did it anyway, and she laughed the whole time at my persistence. For my birthday, we had extra recess, and I gave out ice cream bars and popsicles. I watched Mike and Ivan run around on the playground, and the sun was shining through the trees. Aria ran over to tell me jokes then made everyone smile as he passed. I watched Kara, Ariel, and Nora huddle at a picnic table when we had lunch outside. They were laughing. The sun was hot and bright; they almost complained, but they didn’t, because it was too beautiful to take for granted.
At Field Day, I saw Samantha’s bright blue lips from her second snow cone and heard her laughter echo across the fields. I watched Allan and James pass the soccer ball back and forth on their way to put it back in the gym. I saw everyone come back from Specials one day to see invitations and sunglasses on their desks, and we were all so talkative and excited, no one could sit at their desks to write down homework. I saw silly photos on the Monday after the sixth grade celebration when you told me all about it.
On Civil War Day, I watched as your social studies teacher had Colby laid out on his medical table. He grabbed a saw and performed an amputation as Colby did the best acting moment of his life, crying out in agony. Everyone ate beef jerky and hardtack and beans, and Lynn was happy that the beans were vegan.
At the promotion ceremony, I got to give Carrie the award for classroom citizen, because she showed compassion to everyone and noticed if someone was having a bad day. I got to hug Sadie as she walked across the gym to get her promotion certificate. I got to tell each and every one of you that I loved you and was proud of you.
But now, I’ll get to do new things with you that I’ve never done with any class before. We’ll overcome challenges and learn new skills. We’ll laugh as we fumble. You’ll send me more emails and learn independence. You’ll appreciate school in ways you never imagined. You’ll make different memories. Memories that I guarantee will last you a lifetime in addition to the things we’ve already loved.
Because before this period of school closure, think about all that we did accomplish.
We had our Health Fair where parents came. So many of you were hesitant to share, but look how you shined! Look at all the amazing work you did! You wrote research papers. Do you remember how we drank hot chocolate and read one another’s memoirs? We drew special place maps of our school. I taught you mind games in morning meeting. We made a mess making smashbooks. You were surprised how many books you read. You learned all sorts of skills in PE and Art and with the musical. You get to say you won the 6th grade volleyball game because instead of teachers playing you, we just shut down the school instead out of intimidation. We went to Camp! You conquered the giant swing and the zipline. You played gaga ball and ate your weight in lasagna and brownies.
So don’t worry about missing out on all the things we didn’t have.
Know that there are so many good things we had, and there are so many more still waiting for you in the years ahead. You’ll always be my students, and you’ll always be loved.
*All names were changed