As the dismissal bell looms, I stand at the front of my wiggly students for the last time.

“Today our classroom door isn’t just a regular door,” I tell them.

“It isn’t?” one of my students asks.

“No. Today, on our last day of fourth grade, that door has a magic it hasn’t had all year.”

“Magic?” another asks incredulously.

“Yep. When you leave today, the exact moment your foot touches the ground outside our door, you magically become a fifth grader.”

I always say the same thing on the last day of school. When the dismissal bell rings, it’s fun to watch my students, freshly-printed report cards in hand, take cautious or excited or smiley steps out my classroom door. 

I say goodbye to each of them and watch as the last of my rowdy bunch rounds the corner and vanishes from sight. I stand there alone for a minute not knowing what to do. I turn back to my empty classroom. The walls are bare. All the papers I’ve graded have been handed out. The table and countertops have been scrubbed within an inch of their lives. There’s a pile of cards on my desk saying things like “You teached me good” and “Your the best techer evr except for Miss Kennedy”. I try not to notice the spelling and grammar mistakes and focus on the sentiment instead. I really do.  

I am sure you think teachers are celebrating at this time of year. You’re not wrong. However, unless you’re a teacher, you can’t appreciate how bittersweet the last day of school is. I’ll miss the easy rapport I’ve built with my students. We’ve become a sort of family after spending so much time together. I’ll miss the inside jokes and remembering the funny moments that have happened this year. There are always plenty of funny moments when you have 30 nine-year olds that you spend your days with. I’ll miss celebrating their successes with them. I will miss seeing how far they are able to go.

Sure, the prospect of time off to play with my family is welcome. Honestly, I am beyond exhausted and ready for a break. Still there’s a sadness at saying “goodbye”. While it is true that I will see them next year, it won’t be the same. It’s never the same. When we come back to school in August, they’ll be someone else’s kid. They move on and get excited about their new teacher. I move on and am busy starting a new year with a new crop of kiddos.

Standing there with only my thoughts for company, I gather my things together and head for the door. I step outside the room, but take a moment to peer back inside. I close and lock the door and officially end another school year. I get in my car and set off to pick up my newly graduated kindergartener. Life is good.