Saying Goodbye in Fifth Grade
My students have been out of school for four days now, while I've been out for two. I'm a night person, so I admit that I love the luxury of not setting that 5:15 alarm . . . but I miss my students already.
Teaching fifth grade is especially strange, because my students will go to middle school, and I won't see them in the hallways next year. They may come back to visit for assemblies or younger siblings' events, and I may see them when we tour the middle school next February and we exchange waves or hugs or book recommendations.
But this is not the same.
We know so much about each other. We've spent eight or more hours of the past 190 days or so together. We know stories about families, about activities, about trips. We know about the struggles and sadness and triumphs and creativity over the past year. We know how to push each other's buttons, and we know how to make each other laugh.
Around April, all this familiarity becomes a little too intense. Really, you can see fifth graders transform on the bus ride back from the middle school tour - they sit a bit taller, and their elementary world seems too small. Lining up in the hallways and sitting flat at assemblies - these things no longer seem to apply to them as they reach toward French class and passing time and sitting with friends from other classes in the cafeteria. Elementary school suddenly seems like clothes that no longer fit.
Spring becomes an exciting time of year to try new things and mix it up. Fifth graders are ready for new challenges, so they are open to new projects. They create work with more unique voices and formats than they did in the fall, because now they are more interested in expressing themselves than in carefully following the modeled work sample. They are more confident, independent, and experimental. They are also less patient with each other, and in trying to assert themselves and figure out who they are, there are inevitable conflicts. These are painful, and personal. There are also extraordinary examples of kindness and generosity. We walk through all of this together.
And then the year ends.
I am happy for my students to move on. I know they are ready. But I think about them and wish so much for them: that they will keep reading, that they will continue to create things and pursue their interests, that they will use their voices for good.
I won't know all the details of those journeys anymore, but I did, for a time. I hope I have had a small part in making those paths brighter and better.
"My hope for all of us is that the 'miles we go before we sleep' will be filled with all the feelings that come from deep caring -- delight, sadness, joy, wisdom -- and that in all the endings of our life, we will be able to see the new beginnings."
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I've had the privilege of working with hundreds of students and families in IA, CT, NC, MO, TX, and Canada. I love being a teacher-librarian!