“Can you be happy and sad at the same time, Mr. Stortz?”
The last day of school is almost here. It’s become routine for me. But it hasn’t become any easier.
I’ve given so much of myself to my students over the last nine months. I’ve laughed with them. I’ve cried with them. I’ve celebrated with them, and I’ve lost my patience with them. Day in; day out. Week after week for almost an entire year. Then it lurches to a sudden and grinding halt.
As teachers, kids come and go in our lives like a revolving door. I’m about to finish my tenth year in education, so the door has been revolving for a while.
I’ve had the honor to teach about 300 students. Some come and and go like an easy breeze across a sandy beach. Some I miss. Some not as much. Some kids are quiet, and I don’t get to know them as well.
Others sink their hooks in deeply. Those are kids we’ll never forget. Those are the kids that not only enter our lives for a season, but touch our hearts for a lifetime. I’ve had a handful of students like that. I was fortunate to have one this year.
”I don’t really like to read, Mr. Stortz.”
That was one of the first conversations I had with her. Most kids don’t say things like that, and definitely not the kids that
don’t like reading. Those kids tend to keep quiet and try to stay undetected. Telling me she didn’t like to read was like announcing a challenge. I interpreted it as “Help me find a book I’ll love!” I knew right away she was going to be something special.
She and I found several great books over the year. I got to hear her say “I love this book!” many times. Seeing her joyful turnaround was one of the best rewards I could receive.
She went from being below grade level in reading to being a full grade level above by the end of the year. She made the most growth of any student I had. But it’s not really about her reading skills.
So much of teaching is about the relationships we forge with our students. That’s what I’m passionate about. Great teaching happens in the context of great relationships.
She is an amazing girl. Her infectious smile brought joy to my heart each day. She was a rock of responsibility. I could always count on her. Her kind heart and wonderful attitude were felt by everyone in class. She was the eye of the storm on the toughest days.
She is smart, creative, and funny. Any teacher will be blessed to have her next year. She helped me be not only a better teacher, but a better person.
I received a handmade card from her today. It absolutely melted my heart. As I read over her words, I realized just how much I was going to miss her.
”Can you come to 5th grade with us, Mr. Stortz?”
The bittersweet taste of the last day of school hangs heavily in the air. There’s excitement on some faces. But teary eyes betray the smiles of more than a few.
The music of this year is fading. The laughter is turning into echoes, and the voices are growing distant. I’ll close the blinds and turn off the lights one last time. And I’ll count myself blessed for being able to teach and learn from this very special girl.
Although she will only be in my life for a season, she has touched my heart for a lifetime.