I’m standing on the hill by our bus loop at the end of my 22nd last day of school. Like all my teaching colleagues, I hold a tube full of bubbles. We make a bubble trail for the kids as they board the buses for the final time this year. Each of them passes through the stream of bubbles into the next grade. Some of our fifth graders look teary and uncertain as they’re leaving us for good. Off to their middle school adventures. Up until this point, elementary school had been so-five-minutes ago, but not now. Some appear plain terrified and others keep looking back at our familiar faces as if they can freeze us in time.
I look down at my own personal kids—a Kindergartener and third grader beside me waving at their friends, blowing bubbles of their own. They are teacher-kids. The patient ones who stay after school during long meetings and sleepily eat Pop Tarts in my classroom early in the morning.
They are living their own last day of school rights of passage—my son is going to first grade, and my daughter heads to fourth. They are still safely here, secure with me—eating snacks our beloved custodian sneaks to them every afternoon. My kids run from room to room with the other teacher-kids. They still hide toys under my desk to play with after school. The faces of my own two children don’t mirror those of our fifth graders at all. The two standing next to me are thrilled for the last day of school, but secure in their next steps.
As the first bus pulls out, my eyes begin their usual sting. Kids wave frantically out of bus windows while their drivers honk. I will miss our fifth graders. Their hugs every morning before class are faithful as clockwork. It’s time for them to fly.
I’ll miss my fourth graders, but they’ll be back in a few weeks.
As the bubbles follow the last buses out, we all cheer. We did it. We got these kids ready, and we sure as heck earned our summer break.
I look down at the blond heads next to me encircled by bubbles. I cheer quietly to myself. These two aren’t floating away any time soon. I’ve got time.