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Class Dismissed

[Editor’s note: Mr. Foteah is a second-year teacher in an elementary school in Queens. He blogs at From the Desk of Mr. Foteah , where this post originally appeared.]

After I dismissed my fifth graders for the final time last year, the school guidance counselor found me and said, “Mr. Foteah, I’ve never seen a fifth grade class leave like yours. On the last day of school, all the other students say, ‘Bye, teacher! Bye, teacher!’ But all of yours are in tears.”

Well, what can I say? I’m a sentimental guy, and I lay it on thick for the last day of school. Although the little rugrats may test my patience and nerves as the final day approaches, I’m not the kind of person to look at the last day as liberation. Sure, I look forward to the summer, and I enjoy the break from the stress, but I believe my job is about instilling memories that my kids won’t soon forget. And so, I look at the last day as one final blowout in celebration of our accomplishments as individuals and as a family.

In my limited experience, the last day is one of subdued joy — almost somber, even. Sure, we’re all thrilled to be moving ahead — to the summer, and in our educational careers — but there’s a decided tug that tethers our hearts to the memories of the previous six months, and the realization that we are leaving the comfortable community we established can be very difficult.

One of the activities I have planned is sharing the final product that is the scrapbook the class designed with major assistance from Mama Foteah. It turned out beautifully, and there are some surprises in it for them to enjoy.

At graduation, students viewed a slideshow of all the fifth grades, separated by class, where each class had about a dozen pictures. While it was nice, and some students remarked they came close to tears reliving the memories, it lacked a personal touch. When you’ve got more than 12 classes and someone else is preparing your class’ photos, it’s understandable.

Last year, I created a two-song slideshow for my class. I told myself I wouldn’t this year, not feeling quite the same emotional attachment I felt to my first class. When I saw the photos I got from Field Day, though, with their arms wrapped around each other, as carefree as I’ve ever seen, I knew I had to do it. So this year’s installment of Mr. Foteah’s slideshow features three songs and pictures of each individual from the first week of school and one of the last. There are also considerable numbers of photos from all our wonderful memories.

Last year’s slideshow left even the most hardened of my students sobbing with their heads in their arms. This year, I warned some of a very emotional surprise for the last day of school.

From there, I took an overview of the room I loved and must leave, and like the ending of a television series, I’ll close the light and door for the final time. As the camera fades to black, I’ll walk out of the building for the final time, prepared to embark on what should be a challenging, rewarding change in my career next September.

Class dismissed. See you in September.