Is the sorrow really sweet? I suppose so, yes.

My AP classes run for three marking periods, which means I see the same faces for an hour and a half each day for seven + months. They come to me with lots of notions about themselves and literature and my job is to help them grow as readers and writers. What that inevitably means is a wrenching feeling at the end, as I struggle, strive, and strain to give them the last bit, the last few ideas, the last words of encouragement, before they leave me and go on to somebody else.

What with all the grading and drama and quizzes to make up and wranglings about whether this or that quiz was completed and work from months ago now a gaping hole in the gradebook, this is a difficult time of year—compounded by my worries about meeting two new classes and figuring out how to put my game face on for them and come up with something sparkly for day one.

But mainly it’s just plain hard to let them go, little birds that they are. Out there out of my nest, where I can no longer offer them whatever it is that I think I know about life, they have to fend for themselves. We’ve become a kind of schooly family. We’ve shared an awful lot of sublime books and poems.

Poised for take-off.

Poised for take-off.

I feel exactly like Charlotte the spider on the day her children are born and all of them fly away: I’m the dried up husk on the barn floor.

I remember one of my good teachers, Mrs. Morrow, saying something like this: that it was really painful and annoying to watch her students graduate and go on to wonderful things. I thought then, how very selfish! Now I think: I miss them so much. I hope life is good to them. I know now that this is what Mrs. Morrow meant.

So here I am, soldiering away, hours of grading every day, leaving work at 4:30 to come home and grade some more, just stack and stacks of it, wondering if any of it does any good (they can’t even all of them remember to underline titles of major works, for pity’s sake)—what’s the use? And then this arrives in my inbox:

 

Thank you for all of your comments on my essays today. I know this must be incredibly stressful time of the year for you with the myriad of papers and quizzes you’ve graded, but I hope you know just how appreciated you are by everyone in our class and 2nd block. Although we tend to whine, forfeit your generous thousands of dollars, and generally exhibit symptoms of the s-word (the one that begins and ends with “s”), you have completely transformed our way of thinking and writing. You’ve created an incredible atmosphere of open-mindedness in the classroom, and I believe you are to everyone what Mrs. Luckie was to you. 

 

And all my keyed-up, overwrought wishes for their successful fledging bubble up in great welling sobs, mascara smudging, head down on the desk, shoulders heaving.

 

I have discovered that my cunningly hidden blog is not so well concealed as it might be and some of those very kids have broken through the firewall and (horrors!) read some of it. So this is for you, guys. I love you dearly and intensely. I want the very best for you. I want you to write like angels and read the greatest there is. I’ll miss you keenly for a while, and then I’ll give my heart to the new ones, as is right and proper. May you take everything I had to give and may it serve you well. Truly, it is an honor and a privilege to teach you.

That's what you will be.

That’s what you will be.

 

(and would it kill you to underline or italicize the title of The Shipping News?)