The Long Goodbye(s)


Because I know you just wanted more waxing rhapsodic on the weirdness of teacher’s college.

Well, this sort of applies to the profession in general. When a school year ends, you have all these big celebrations of your time together, especially if the kids are moving on to another school. Perhaps it was because I find that university convocations are obnoxiously pompous and overlong, but I found myself far more overcome by mooshy sentiment during the graduation of my grade sixes. Is it that some sense of grandfatherly generativity has already kicked in for me at this point in my life? I don’t know. But I was feeling a strange degree of pride and hope for these kids, who I met all of about 4 or 5 months ago.

When you first meet a class, you do everything you can to build a rapport, so that the kids like you and want to work with you. You build up as much of a sense of community feeling as possible so that they like and want to work with each other. You share a lot of drama, a lot of fun, and a lot of weirdness, as anyone who has ever been around children for an extended period of time can assure you. And then, about 10 months later, you break up.

One of the teachers I worked at on internship looked on his grade fours a few weeks ago as they went about their centres with manic efficiency, turned to me and said wistfully, “They’ve outgrown me.” What a weird-ass feeling, but it’s one that’s sort of built-in to the relationship. You are gearing yourself to a room full of grade fours, and by the end of the year, you face, essentially, a room of grade fives (or whichever respective grade). They are ready to move on.

It’s something strangely more wrenching than I anticipated, especially as I try to maintain that I am not that much of a softie. But you pour a lot into those kids, and yeah, you’ll be in their hearts and blah blah, but the students are still leaving. They move down the hall, or to another floor, or to another school altogether. And you get another batch and the whole thing starts again.

I can’t tell if it’s easier or harder in the alternative school, where my sixes are from. Their teacher has been with the sixes, at least, for three years. The kids have been with each other, most of them, for seven or eight. When I think of it that way: the teacher I worked with had been teaching those kids for a quarter of their lifespans. And now they are going off to middle school (sad in a way, happy in another, because: ugh, who wants to be around middle schoolers).

Teacher’s college tries to overload you with all sorts of teacherly programming and workshops, but it also tries to load you up on some teacherly feelings, and maybe that’s why this aspect is hitting me so hard. It’s not one class that’s moving on, it’s three or four. I just added it up: I had roughly 82 students in this last year, and that’s only including those who were in classes I regularly taught. Add on to that another 70-odd adults that I met in my B.Ed. program who are moving even further away, and it makes teacher’s college into a very rocky experience.

On Friday, my grade sixes graduated; on Monday, my Kindergarteners are celebrating moving into grade one; my OISE friends are jetting off to Saskatchewan, Quebec, England, Sweden, Korea, even further. Given how reticent and nervous I was at the beginning of the year, I did not expect to be anywhere near this invested in all the people I met through the year, but here I am. Maybe they shouldn’t teach us how to build quick rapport and togetherness, it makes it a lot harder when everybody leaves.

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