Yesterday was the last day of the year at “my school.” It’s been seven years since I retired from that school, which is also the school my children attended. It will always be my school, though.
Every time I head north out of my subdivision, I pass the building. I look to see how many cars are in the lot. If my destination dictates a west turn at the corner, I can check the field and playground to see if kids are out. After seven years, I’m past the days of looking to see whose cars are on the lot. In that time many teachers have moved on to other buildings and many have retired. One of the new teachers is a former neighbor who attended the school as a child. Sadly, a teacher I knew, a woman much younger than myself, died this year. Those teachers I still know now have different cars. This year, the cars on the lot were merely an indication of whether school was in session or if it was a virtual month or day.
Yesterday, my husband and I picked up carryout at Bandana’s. As we drove past school, I saw a bus and realized that the half day would be ending soon. I wondered if the teachers would still do “The Wave” that has been a tradition for so many years. There was no planned last day in 2020. The kids just never returned after spring break. This year a number of families elected to keep their kids virtual, as that was a choice offered to them. The car pick-up lines have trailed further out onto the road this year as some families have opted out of sending kids on the bus because of COVID-19. So, generally, I think, there are fewer kids on the bus. I will have to ask someone if the tradition carried on.
What exactly is “The Wave” in a setting that does not involve fans sitting in a stadium? Once the teachers make sure all of the students get on the appropriate bus, instead of going back into the building as they usually would, they cluster together at the grassy area near the first bus. Boxes of Kleenex are involved. The first driver somehow knows when it’s time and begins the honking. Kids start hanging out of the bus window on the sidewalk side. Loud honking, yelling of goodbyes, and frantic hand waving follow as the buses slowly parade out of the lot, each driver stopping at the street to ensure all children return to their seats before leaving the parking lot. Many of the parents who pick up their children, rather than trying to scoot out of the lot before the buses, wait and join in the parade at the end. Some teachers get teary eyed. Most of the fifth-grade girls cry because they are leaving this place for the last time. It really is a wonderful tradition.
Many people remember the feelings associated with the last day of school.
As a child, for me, there was not only the sense of freedom but the sense of endless possibilities as the summer lay before me, an empty canvas. As the end of the summer approached, I could look back at the joys of the summer, but, because I liked school, I looked forward to the unknown school year with expectation and excitement for another new beginning. As a teacher, I was fortunate to experience all of those same cycles of life.
For many people, the first day of January is a time of resolution and reflection. As a teacher, I had three new year experiences each calendar year. Even though I have been retired for seven years, I still allow myself this luxury. I find myself engaging in this thought process without conscious effort. It is still my cycle of life. When the school year ends, I find myself reflecting on my years of teaching and my activities throughout the winter. I look at the summer as an open canvas and think about my color pallet.
This post, the first ideas I’ve put on paper in two months, are the results of the thoughts that crept unbidden into my mind during my shower this morning. My brain meanderings. My best thoughts, my best lesson plans, my best posts always began in the shower. They come from some unconscious part of my brain and I have to capture them on paper as soon as I’m out of the shower or they will be gone forever. What a loss to the world that would be!