Celebrate with Ruth Ayres Writes …. because we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get.
My school year ended at about 1 o’clock on Thursday afternoon. The last bell of the school year had rung at 12:30, followed by the raucous cheer that only the last bell of the school year can bring. There was the last wave of students swooping into our classroom to say goodbye and catch one last hug of the school year, then the loud rat-a-tat of sneakers and sandals beating their retreat down hallways and stairwells, and finally the receding shouts and whoops of gaggles of kids heading downtown for pizza and ice cream or towards the town pool for the first summer vacation swim.
The school grew quiet in the way that schools do on the last day – a reflective quiet, as though the building itself was thinking about the year just past, and the children who had given it life and meaning from September through June.
The school year seems long in September, with plenty of time to accomplish all we need and hope to do. But, at the end of June, exhausted and deplete though we may be, we know once again (as we do each June) that a school year is in reality a very short time when it comes to the lives of the children entrusted to our care. The eleven and twelve year olds who come to me each September are at the very beginning of figuring out who they are and what they can be.
I am reminded of this every time I run into a Smithling alumni: the sensitive poet who returned to my classroom years later as a new Marine shipping out for duty in the Middle East, the “allergic to books” kiddo in pigtails who barged into my classroom years later to announce that she was off to the college of her choice to study literary criticism, the quick-to-tears self-doubter who stops by to announce he’s off to study “neuroscience with an emphasis on researching brain disease” at a university on the opposite coast of the country.
They change, they grow, they become who they are meant to be. You begin to realize that you were merely at the starting gate – their jumping off point into a future you can’t even begin to guess at.
We raised our own three children with this poem in mind, but it applies just as well to the children I teach:
Being that stable bow, year after year, is my life’s work as a teacher. I send them forth into the future, their future. Sometimes, I get to see where the arrow journeys…most often, I do not.
Which leads me to a moment from last year: sitting on the New York City subway, I look up from my book to notice a very well dressed young man looking at me rather intently. His beautifully cut suit and tasteful tie catch my attention, but so does something about his smile. I know this smile. It belonged to a sixth grader once upon a time who walked into my sixth period writer’s workshop every day with evidence of the lunch he’d just eaten on his sweaty T-shirt. Our joyful reunion is a reminder that he lives in that house of tomorrow. I cannot visit it…but I was a small part of all that it took to get him there.
So, at the end of my 18th. school year, I celebrate the work of teaching. I am glad for it, for it is the work of the “house of tomorrow”.