Class Dismissed


After I dismissed my fifth graders for the final time last year, the school guidance counselor found me and said, “Mr. Foteah, I’ve never seen a fifth grade class leave like yours. On the last day of school, all the other students say, ‘Bye, teacher! Bye, teacher!’ But all of yours are in tears.”

Well, what can I say? I’m a sentimental guy, and I lay it on thick for the last day of school. Although the little rugrats may test my patience and nerves as the final day approaches, I’m not the kind of person to look at the last day as liberation. Sure, I look forward to the summer, and I enjoy the break from the stress, but I believe my job is about instilling memories that my kids won’t soon forget. And so, I look at the last day as one final blowout in celebration of our accomplishments as individuals and as a family.

In my limited experience, the last day is one of subdued joy – almost somber, even. Sure, we’re all thrilled to be moving ahead – to the summer, and in our educational careers – but there’s a decided tug that tethers our hearts to the memories of the previous six months, and the realization that we are leaving the comfortable community we established can be very difficult.

One of the activities I have planned is sharing the final product that is the scrapbook the class designed with major assistance from Mama Foteah. It turned out beautifully, and there are some surprises in it for them to enjoy.

At graduation, students viewed a slideshow of all the fifth grades, separated by class, where each class had about a dozen pictures. While it was nice, and some students remarked they came close to tears reliving the memories, it lacked a personal touch. When you’ve got more than 12 classes and someone else is preparing your class’ photos, it’s understandable.

Last year, I created a two song slideshow for my class. I told myself I wouldn’t this year, not feeling quite the same emotional attachment I felt to my first class. When I saw the photos I got from Field Day, though, with their arms wrapped around each other, as carefree as I’ve ever seen, I knew I had to do it. So this year’s installment of Mr. Foteah’s slideshow features three songs and pictures of each individual from the first week of school and one of the last. There are also considerable numbers of photos from all our wonderful memories.

Last year’s slideshow left even the most hardened of my students sobbing with their heads in their arms. This year, I’ve warned some of a very emotional surprise for the last day of school. We’ll watch tomorrow as our final collective act before I dismiss them with some words of advice and wisdom for each student as s/he heads out the door.

From there, I’ll take an overview of the room I loved and must leave, and like the ending of a television series, I’ll close the light and door for the final time. As the camera fades to black, I’ll walk out of the building for the final time, prepared to embark on what should be a challenging, rewarding change in my career next September.

Class dismissed. See you in September.

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7 responses to “Class Dismissed

  1. I bet you were in tears as you wrote this. :) Very sweet. I was surprised last year, too, that kids left in tears. I wasn’t expecting that at all. Generally, I try to just be very excited for them so that they really feel like they accomplished something and leave looking forward. This year, many of them have expressed surprise that they’re all moving on to 6th grade, so I really want them to feel confidence moving forward. Because of different things they’ve said or asked, I’m wary of them thinking they succeeded in this class because of something unique and special and not because they have the power within themselves to succeed. But, at the same time, I wish I knew how to “lay it on thick” like you and make the last day more sentimental for them :)

    • If you’ve done nothing else, I have no doubt you’ve planted seeds in their minds as they go forward. They’ll forever remember you and the confidence you instilled in them. As for me, no, no tears. But watching the slideshow today to make sure it’s right did leave me a little goosebumpy. Anyway, I’d imagine your last day will be spontaneously sentimental. There’s no doubt some of your kids will be just devastated to be leaving you and each other.

  2. Be confident that what you’ve worked so hard to instill in the children in your class will not be easily forgotten by them. One of my favorite quotes, “A teacher effects eternity: you can never tell where his influence stops.” -Henry Adams., certainly applies here. (Please feel free to share this quote with Ms. Flecha, but tell her to substitute the word her for his!)

    As you close the light and door for the final time for this school year, remember that you will opening a new door and light for the first time in September. How lucky those children will be to have Mr. Foteah as their teacher.

  3. Pingback: Another year finishes with a blur… « My Life Untranslated

  4. A wonderful description of a bittersweet time. Your students will remember it forever.

  5. Pingback: The Last Day of Class | DeTocqueville's Daughter

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