The End of the Year That Wasn’t


It’s May.

Most years, this month is filled to the brim, and I am both mentally and physically exhausted by the end. I pack up my classroom in a haze of sore muscles, wave good-bye to my students, and prepare for the slower pace of summer with my family that comes with the last day of school.

But not this May. 

There were no Mother’s Day brunches to plan. My sons did not make their First Communion with their class last weekend. The kids won’t get to play games on field day. There will be no academic and sports awards banquet for the school. Our eighth grade class will not pass the light of leadership to my seventh graders. Teachers who have been with our school for almost 30 years will retire without a final opportunity to say good-bye. Students who have been at my school since they were three years old will not graduate in the typical way but instead will have a postponed ceremony with limited guests. 

Teachers everywhere are headed into their schools to pack up empty classrooms. Classrooms that were abandoned without warning. Stepping into my own classroom, it hit me hard. 

The desks were in their typical haphazard rows, there were pencils on the floor, and papers stacked on my desk, ones that would never be passed out. The posted March calendar was full of cancelled events. I spotted the to-do list on my desk, packed with tasks to prepare for those May events that would never happen. 


Some of my students set foot in my class for a final time, yet none of us knew it at the time. I missed my last opportunity to look over their shoulder and read their writing in real-time. I’ll never again greet them by name as they walk into my class and laugh when they roll their eyes at my jokes.  

Yes, I am still teaching my students. We email, Zoom, and work together on assignments. I have sung happy birthday from the sidewalk of their front yards and left them books on their porches. We laugh, smile, and learn. But it’s not the same. 

The school year is coming to a close in an unprecedented fashion. I will still pack my books into boxes, take down my charts, and pile all my desks in the middle of the room. I will still make several trips to my car, carting home the little bits of life that made it into my classroom over the year. I will still turn in my keys and laptop and sign report cards.

But I will do it all without the help of my students. I will do it without popping over to the next classroom to chat about summer plans with my colleagues. I will do it without the chance to say good-bye to the smiling faces that make my job worth it. 

It’s the end of the school year, and I’ve never felt less ready for it. It’s the end of the school year, and I never got to say good-bye. It’s the end of the school year that wasn’t. 


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