We started the day with our end-of-the-year slide show - over 600 photographs in 67 minutes, set to appropriate farewell music.
Pretty soon it was time to take our yearbooks to the gym where we conduct our traditional autograph session. Sometimes it's hard to know just the right things to write - something personal that will mean something to each student for years to come. We spent about an hour in the gym, with me sitting and signing with a line of autograph hounds in front of me.
Afterward, we returned to the slide show, and there may have been a couple of songs taken from our Veterans Day program in November. It was great to remember the program as the class sang along.
Finally, some students wanted to make speeches. Honestly, when a couple of them took to the stage, I wondered what they might say. I remembering thinking, This should be interesting. But they did not disappoint. They hit on the main points of our class this year, recognizing that we are different, that every person has improved, that we are a family, that everyone feels the support of his/her classmates, that we will never have this experience again. JOSIAH pointed to his head and his heart respectively, as he told us, "We may not remember each other here, but we will always remember each other here." In line going to get lunches, he also told some of his classmates, "Anyone who doesn't get teary-eyed, today, needs to find a heart."
The kids ate lunch on the back porch and played for just a couple of minutes before going back inside for a huge group hug and one last "Once a Hoggatteer, Always a Hoggatteer!" Lining up for the final departure turned out to be too much for some, and the waterworks began. While other classes were celebrating the last day of a torturous year of slavery, Hoggatteers were expressing a bond - a connection based on respect and love.
It's always interesting to this teacher which students are the most affected. Strangely, it's often that tough guy - the one who gets in trouble the most - who starts sobbing first. His face gets red and wet. His eyes are bloodshot. And he's not embarrassed because he is in the moment, experiencing loss and sentiment. He means it. His emotions are raw and real. Other students, again, reach out to him with support.
I'm still getting messages from supportive parents. It feels great to see that parents and students alike have appreciated my efforts. Even when I make mistakes, they know that I have put my all into their children. They understand that the love and concern that I have for their kids is genuine - that I want the best for each and every one of them.
So off we go into the summer season (which actually isn't until June 21). We shall enter the season with the relief, satisfaction, and fatigue of knowing that we have grown mightily during this school year.