Rituals are important. I need more of them.
The last days of school are pouring over with emotions. Joy pervades the perpetual ten-year-old in me. I see that glint of summer in my students’ eyes. I have it too.
I stifle the feelings of regret. The idealistic teacher in me is forever wishing I did more. Failures stick out more right now than successes. Anxiety creeps in here and there as I think about my to-do list. There’s so many things to do before I leave for summer break. Then, of course, there is the sadness.
I love my students. It’s always a little hard to see them go. We’ve shared our lives together for nine months. I don’t do well with change. I know some students don’t either. I feel their pain. It’s a big deal to unhook and shift into summertime. This is where rituals come in.
The Writing in the Journals
We journaled in class. A lot. Every morning without fail for the last two weeks of school, in fact. I’m a big believer in journal writing. There is something so cleansing and purifying about it.
I fought to keep our schedule as predictable as possible. Sure, we had some unexpected things pop up for the last week, but we always journaled. I challenged the students to write at least a full page every day. It was probably the only thing we did daily. It was our anchor in many ways.
The Passing Out of the Sticks
I’ve just completed my seventh year of teaching. One of the things I do every year is make a cup of popsicle sticks with each of my students’ names on them. It’s old-school for sure, but comforting. As I pass the sticks out to the students, they’re always amazed.
“You mean we really get to keep them?”
The ritual of passing out the sticks is when I realize that it’s going to be over soon. It’s symbolic in many ways. The sticks are mine all year. They are my tool and under my control. They are my students. Now it’s time to let that go; to let them go. Passing out the sticks is a metaphor for release. I’ve taught them all year that they are responsible for their own learning. Now it’s their turn.
The Breaking Down of the Room
The students always get to help me break down the room. I save this for the next-to-the-last day of school. There is furniture to label, shelves to clean, and books to organize. The room has been our shared space. It’s the silent partner in our learning community and now it’s time to shut down shop.
The Class Meeting
We save our final class meeting (we call round table) for the last day. We all reminisce about our best times of the year. There are usually tears. Sometimes the kids cry too.
The Taking Down of the Papers
The last ritual might be the most meaningful for me. I save the cabinet doors in my room for all of the notes and pictures that students make for me. It’s another one of those things I’ve done every year. It’s an instant pick me up to see all those loving pieces of paper. They stay up all year, and they are the very last things I take down.
I have a special spot in my filing cabinet where I keep most of them. I take them all down, one at a time, making sure to fold back the pieces of Scotch tape before they go into my file. The stickiness of the tape gives me hope that many of the things I’ve talked about will stick with my students. I always play a song while I’m taking down the papers. We listen to lots of music. I teach with it, we write with it, we relax with it. There is usually a song that resonates with me during the year. This lovely song was my soundtrack for the taking down of the papers this time.
I look at each paper and think of the face behind the it. These students are no longer mine. But, then again, they never really were to begin with.
This is closure. Palpable closure.