And just like that...the last school year of my teaching career is over.
You might remember a few months ago when I announced my new position as the director of special services in my current district.
At the time that I agreed to this position, back in late August of last year, it seemed like a lifetime away.
It seemed like there was so much more time left in my classroom. I mean, nine months is a LONG time, right?
And yet, here we are...the last day of school.
I'd be lying if I said I was over-joyed as I left the school parking lot today.
Yes, I'm excited for my new journey, but I feel like every time a season in our lives comes to an end, there is some grieving that must take place.
I have known that public education was the career choice for me ever since I can remember.
There was never a time in my life that I thought of any other career choice.
I can remember being preschool age and "playing school" with my dolls and stuffed animals in my bedroom. (I always tried to recruit my little brother, but it wasn't quite as enjoyable for him.)
My new role is exciting and refreshing and something I am looking forward to.
But in reality, there are things I am losing.
Things I'm giving up.
Things I am having to let go of.
Building relationships with the same 20-30 kids day-in and day-out.
Being able to make an impact in the daily lives of the students in my classroom.
Creating lessons that are engaging and interesting for my kiddos.
Spending time with some of my dearest friends all day, every day...my hallway colleagues.
Yes, I know I'll still be making a difference.
I know I'll still be able to connect with children.
I know I'll still have an impact.
I know I'll be in the same building I've been in for the last eleven years.
But this afternoon, my students of nine months walked out of my room.
I waved goodbye to my students and headed straight to the cafeteria to set up for the celebration we have at the end of every year.
When the staff get-together was finished, I headed back to my room.
I walked down a mostly empty hallway to my mostly empty classroom.
And it was then that I had a few tears.
Okay, I had a lot of tears.
Even tonight, as I sit here typing this, I have a tear rolling down my cheek.
There are a lot of things to look forward to..
There's a lot to be excited about.
But there are also a lot of things to be sad about...and that's okay.
I think that sometimes we feel like there's something wrong with grief.
Like we shouldn't feel sad when we are moving into something that seems bigger and better. Why would I be sad about this opportunity? Why would I have a hard time moving into a position that seems so perfect for me?
Well...because it's normal.
It's completely natural to grieve the seasons of our lives.
Change is necessary and important...but change can also be difficult and painful.
So as I sit here tonight on the farmhouse front porch, watching the fireflies blinking away in the field across the road...I will just have a good cry. You might remember that I believe ugly-crying is a vitally important part of life.
I will cry for the thirteen years I spent in a classroom.
I will cry for the dear friends and colleagues...my teaching BFFs.
I will cry for lesson planning and connecting with "that one kid" and lightbulb moments for struggling learners.
I will cry for read-aloud chapter books, scented chart markers, and my favorite bright pink fake leather rolling office chair that I bought on clearance for $15 a few years ago.
I will cry for my teaching partner who has become like an older brother to me over the last ten years. I will cry for the comfort and the security and the partnership that will change drastically in the near future.
I will cry and I will smile.
I will look back fondly on the experiences and lessons and memories that have become so important to me inside the walls of my classroom.
I will clean out that classroom over the next few weeks and I will move (some of) my belongings down the hallway to my new office.
I can't promise that there won't be more tears.
And there's nothing wrong with that.
Cherish the seasons, friends. Each of our seasons is filled with important lessons and precious memories.
But grieve the seasons if you have to.
Tears from the farmhouse tonight...and hope for tomorrow.
This morning, the elementary students in my district started the MAP test.
It's the state standardized test for Missouri.
We prepared and practiced and taught and learned.
We engaged and planned and discussed.
My teaching partner read Hooray for Diffendoofer Day to our students yesterday.
We encouraged them to do their best...
to show what they know...
to not stress and to just give it their best effort...
to get a good night's rest and work hard to be here for the next three days.
And then this morning...they opened up the Chromebooks and got to work.
I was so proud as they read and answered questions, working so hard through every single part of the test.
They went back to the text and reread the passages to find the answers.
They thought and pondered.
And hopefully, they answered in complete sentences.
I would love it if all of my kiddos scored proficient or advanced on the state assessment.
But guess what?
They might not.
And that's okay.
If they don't, I will still be so proud of the little individuals that they have grown into this school year.
My classroom is full of talented students.
Some are athletes.
Some are inventors.
Some are builders.
Some are artists.
I have students in my class who go out of their way to make sure their friends are feeling loved and included EVERY SINGLE DAY.
They are kind and caring and helpful.
Yes, I want them to perform at their own personal best on the end-of-the-year assessment, but to me...it's more about the effort, less about the final score.
More about the perseverance and less about the possibility that they might have answered a few questions incorrectly.
At the end of the school year, I hope that my students leave this room being more kind,
more understanding of people who are different than them,
more willing to work hard,
and knowing that they are unique and appreciated and loved.
I pray that they remember so much more about their experience in Mrs. Newkirk's classroom this year than the test we started this morning.
Love and hugs from the farmhouse,
dear teachers, parents, & students,
as you finish out your final weeks of the school year.