Today is the last day of school.
For me, the first and last days are always bittersweet. Days full of excitement and trepidation, fun and uncertainty.
This spring I watched my son learn to scull, and as he practiced, I couldn't help but compare the experience with my daily life as a special education teacher. In August, we push off from shore with our brand new clothes and our brand new shoes and our brand new pencils ready for a new adventure. By November, we've got the rhythm down. We know our roles: cockswain who encourages and directs, stroke teams working together to keep the rhythm and move forward. We've learned how to work in unison.
By February, we hit the doldrums. Exhaustion sets in. The end feels so far away. Are the kids where they need to be at this point in the year? There's so much left to teach. Tests loom in front of us like storm clouds, so we open our umbrellas and remind ourselves of how unimportant they really are in the scheme of everything. Like a winter storm, they blow in gray and noisy and then fade away a quickly as a whisper.
But then, the last few weeks of school approach, first creeping up on us with quiet little feet that soon graduate to determined, flip-flop clad stompers that will trample you if you don't duck out of the way fast enough. Those sharp pencils are now nubs. The soles on our shiny new tennis shoes are worn thin. But the same feelings echo in me. Relief that a break is coming, worry about whether my students accomplished all we set out to accomplish.
As I stood in the entrance to school this morning waiting and watching for my students who might be confused by the change in morning routine, I realized that sadly there are so many children that I don't "see". Those kids for whom learning comes relatively easy, for whom social relationships are built with fewer bumps and bruises. It's not that they are less important. On the contrary, I work with students in extracurricular groups like Student Council and UIL specifically so that I can get to know these students and keep my finger on the pulse of "typical".
But what I realized, as I stood there in the foyer, was that those students swim past me like schools of fish, lovely silver, swimming in straight lines, attending to the world around them with ease. But mixed in the current are rainbow fish, with beautiful, sparkly scales. One may have an odd-sized fin and swim in more of a zig-zag than a straight line, but he leaves a wake of beauty. These are the students who mean so much to me.
I'm so fortunate to get to spend my days in the company of these interesting and lovely little humans, these rainbow fish.