I set up a lot of chairs. I swept the floor. I scraped the gum off first. The cafeteria had once again been transformed into an auditorium: a gathering place for families and loved ones to come pay respects to the fifth graders who would be moving on. I will confess that this is a year when I don't have a particular tangle of emotions about any student or group of students. These guys are ready to move on and I won't shed a specific tear when they go. I'm sure there will be a time when I get around to missing them, but not right now.
Instead, I find myself dealing with that moment of departure when colleagues begin to pack up their boxes here at Horace Mann. For the last time. They won't be coming back. I will. I continue to be something of an anomaly in the Oakland Unified School District. When I take those surveys at the year winds to a close and they want to know how long I have been teaching and then how long I have been at this site, it's the same answer: Twenty-plus. And every year I have said goodbye to a friend I have made. Some of them are still seen around town, at the grocery store or at some teacher training and I share a moment describing "who is still there."
Well, there's me.
Which is why I was so very touched and embarrassed when I received and "unsolicited letter of recommendation" from one of my fellow educators who happens to be moving on herself this year. Having written a few letters this year to help my co-workers find the next step in their professional development. I will be maintaining my current level, much to the chagrin of many of those around me. This was not lost on my colleague. My friend. She mentioned the seemingly endless jobs I seem to have acquired to that original description of "prep teacher." And she appreciated me for it. In so many words.
And she recommended me to stay in my current position. Who else knows where all that construction paper is? Or how to get the staples out of the locked door? Who else has been around the block enough times to remain unfazed while one more teacher calls in sick without a substitute? I can't say that I've seen it all because every year brings a new flavor, a new surprise, a new set of faces. And I will miss them when they are gone. And I'm still here.
I'm keeping the letter. And the memories associated with it.