The classroom has been packed up. We’ve waved good-bye to all the students as the buses pulled away one last time. This is always a bittersweet event, for teachers as well as students. The prospect of a summer filled with warm weather, time to be outside, time to relax and enjoy favorite activities, time to just unwind, all of this makes summer a welcome respite. Yet I had a student say to me this year, “I bet you’re looking forward to not having to deal with all these crazy kids soon.” When she said that, I stopped cold and didn’t say anything for a minute. I just looked at her as a million thoughts and images flashed through my mind. And then I spoke. I explained that no, I would miss all the students terribly. I told her how the students are the reason I love teaching as much as I do. I love coming to school every day and seeing all my students. I love reading wonderful books with them, getting excited over great books, and discussing the books. I also love writing with my students, seeing the excitement they have when their writing takes off, and then the eagerness everyone has to share their writing once I become brave enough to share my own. And finally, I look forward to coming to school everyday and laughing with my students, because no matter how stressful life can be, my students can always make me laugh. When we’re in the classroom, whether we’re immersed in reading or writing, we are a community of learners that shares not only knowledge but also empathy, concern for each other, and humor. I quietly explained all this to my student, and to others who by this time had wandered over to listen, curious after catching tidbits of my impassioned declaration. In this moment I hoped my students realized how very much they all meant to me. But as teachers sometimes we never really know for sure if we’ve reached our students, if we actually did make a difference in their lives.Another school year has ended.
So on the last day of school, when I returned to my classroom after waving good-bye to the buses filled with students, I found a note hastily scrawled on the chalkboard from one of my students. In this note I received the best gift of all. I had made a difference.