Last Thursday was the last day of school at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. We celebrated with our last spirit day- summer wear- as well as picnics, crafts, and a ceremony that honored the hard work our students put into the Race for Education this year. The most anticipated part of the day, however, was the pizza lunch. The students had been talking about that all week!
It was a bittersweet goodbye. This year has been particularly challenging, for two reasons. First, we were operating in the midst of a pandemic. Therefore, there were a number of limitations, most notably our hybrid model. Most of our students attended in person, but quite a few also tuned in online. I had to conduct lessons and manage students simultaneously in-person and virtually. I am no multi-tasker, so this definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was even further stretched when we moved entirely to remote instruction over the holidays. I had never realized how much I valued and relied upon face-to-face interaction until I had to entertain easily-distracted children over a small computer screen. We also made sure to abide by important Covid-19 protocol, like wearing masks and social distancing. As those who have worked with or had children of their own, you’d know that they do not take well to honoring personal space, nor are they very keen about wearing something uncomfortable on their face all day long. We had to remain vigilant about our protocols all year, and that, in and of itself, was taxing.
The other and perhaps more significant reason this year was challenging was that it was my first time serving as a teacher. I faced a significant learning curve entering the school year, not sure how to conduct myself in front of a classroom or how to manage such a tight schedule of lesson planning and grading. I eventually got into the swing of things, and I discovered a rhythm and a place within the school. Nevertheless, most days I was exhausted by the time I returned home. I felt that I had been running on low battery most of the year. It was a relief to be done with the constant grind. In some ways, I feel I can breathe now.
At the same time, I am heartbroken. I fell in love with my students this year, despite the numerous occasions they tested my patience and sanity. They all hold a special place in my heart and I have fond memories with them. I also know that I will likely not see any of them again. Perhaps I will be lucky and run into them downtown or at the store, but it is more likely they are simply a part of my past now. I do not do well with good-byes. I usually find them awkward because there is so much that can be communicated at that time that I don’t have the opportunity or words for. Good-byes can often be filled with regret for me. I’m not sure what mood to approach many of them either: light-hearted and hopeful of some future together or sad and sentimental of times gone by? It’s hard to say. I tried conveying to my students how glad I was to be their teacher that year and how much I will miss them. Prayers that they all have another successful year at school and that I get to move on to something exciting too!