180 days of school. I was with them for 135 days. Yesterday on the final day I had eight students absent for a total of 11 present. One of my boys looked at me and said, "we're not going to learn anything today?!" At that point it was 1:00. So I looked at him and said, "quick, what's 8+2?" It took him longer than it should have, so I smiled and said, "I guess you need to learn that fact!" He laughed.
After having them help me clean, and eating lunch in the room while watching a movie and giving them a bunch of stuff that I didn't want to take home with me we had rolled up one of the carpets and they all sat down on it. Then I began:
"You all were my very first class of my own. I taught other classes but there was always another teacher there. You were the first class where it was just you and me and for that you all will always hold a very special place in my heart. I said this to you a lot before but even if you learned nothing else in this room, I hope you learned how to treat people. You treat people kindly, you speak to them kindly. You treat people with respect. (those were all really big things in my classroom and they always will be, especially within the population I teach). You treat people the way you want to be treated, because if you can't do that it won't get you very far in life. It doesn't matter how much you do or don't know, but you have to be kind and have manners -that will take you so much farther in life."
I continued to tell them that, "almost all of you read above first-grade level, even at a second or third-grade level. That is not just because I was your teacher, it's because you worked hard. Don't lose it over the summer. Read. Practice math. Be ready for the fall. You all are very smart people and can do anything as long as you try!"
Our school then has a tradition where the 5th graders have a parade through the halls, a bunch of kids get teary from there until dismissal. Then bus call begins and on the final load all the teachers walk their last load of kids out and wave goodbye to the buses. Of course the first grade teachers were the ones singing, "nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, good-bye!"
Many of my feelings are like what Oprah said in her final episode just two days earlier:
What I knew for sure from this experience with you is that we are all called. Everybody has a calling, and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it.
In every way, in every day, you are showing people exactly who you are. You're letting your life speak for you.
[People] want to know: 'Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?' [They want to feel validated]. Try it with your children, your husband, your wife, your boss, your friends. Validate them. 'I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me.'"
And the perfect culmination was this email I received from a parent, which is rare in a school like mine:
Well Ms.Cohn, its finally the end of this school year. I want to take the time to say how honored I am to have such a wonderful teacher
for my daughter. This was such a good year for her and I'm so proud of all her accomplishment. You have taught her to believe herself
and so much more. Once again Thank You!! I wish you all the best towards the future and have a great summer!!!!! Thanks for ALL your