Bittersweet

Here’s a surprise.   I don’t usually cry on the last day of school.  Those of you who know me know tears come easily and frequently.  But on the last day of school, there’s such a rush to get everything cleaned up and sorted out that I’m usually too flustered and exhausted to feel those “I’m going to miss these kids” emotions.

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This year was different.  Because this was the class that joined me on the journey known as the Year of Shirley.  They’ll forever be linked with this time of my life, a time like no other.  They listened with round eyes as I told them of my adventures, of Shirley’s place in history, of her impact on so many.

Good teachers always let their students in on their lives.  When my daughter was young, they knew all about her.  Then I regaled them with tales of my cat.  And then it was my trip to Laura Ingalls Wilder country.  Whatever it was, they were interested.  Plus, I’m pretty good at spinning a yarn….whatever it takes to hook ’em.

But nothing has been as satisfying as sharing Shirley.  Perhaps the most moving lesson she helped me teach was “you do you.”  Let’s face it – not many teens were playing with dolls and hanging Shirley Temple posters on their walls. Suffice it to say I was not in the cool crowd. But this year – for the first time ever – I was able to tell my students that story as an example of “just because others don’t like it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t like it.” In other words, be true to yourself.  Pretty powerful stuff.  Pretty relevant stuff.

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And so, I did cry today.  I’m crying still.  Because no matter what kind of class I have next year, they’ll never be THIS class.  I know the YOS will continue, and I know I’ll try to weave it into my teaching because the precedent has been set.  I can only hope next year’s batch will be this receptive, this open, this wonderful.

Thanks, kids.  Thanks, Shirley.

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