The Last Day of Fifth Grade

Today is Em’s last day of fifth grade. And I have mixed emotions about it, I really do.

Last August, in the throes of self-doubt, fears that I wasn’t doing right by her, feelings of overwhelm, and more – I made the decision to put Em in public school for the first time. I had spent my childhood, and most of my eldest’s childhood, as well as all of Em’s childhood, completely and totally against public schools.

My experiences had been mediocre at best, some of my eldest daughter’s had been downright damaging, and I was firmly convinced that public schools – and especially the Kansas City Public Schools that struggled with accreditation, poverty, and violence – were just about the worst place I could put my daughter.

If I hadn’t been inches from a complete spiraling meltdown, I never would have done it.

But guess what? I’m glad I did.

I took her to the “meet your teacher day” back in August and introduced myself to each of her teachers. Her homeroom teacher, Ms. L. was a petite woman barely taller than some of her students. Her big eyes, young face and kind heart hid a spine of steel, however, and I watched her in action later on in the semester and knew Em was in good hands.

Her reading teacher was an older, no-nonsense gospel music singing woman who had been teaching longer than I have been a mother. I’ll admit she rubbed me the wrong way at first, but she also expected good behavior from the kids and quickly warmed to Em.

Her science teacher Ms. G, was a warm, humorous woman and I could see that Em was instantly excited about being in her class.

The list goes on and on. Each of her teachers were responsive to my questions, engaging and kind to Em, and showed me that they were truly invested in each of their students’ education.

 

Today I received a photo of Em playing her cello at the talent show from her science teacher, along with the note, “Thank you for sharing your amazing and outstanding daughter with me this year.  She has enriched my year and the lives of those around her! “

All through the year, I have received updates, mainly from Ms. L, her homeroom teacher, and Ms. G, her science teacher, along with pictures, like this one from last Friday:

Which made me laugh.

I will miss the extra time I have had each day to write, even as I look forward to spending more of my days with my wonderful daughter. Time flies too quickly, after all, and I don’t want to miss any of it. In the fall we start homeschooling sixth grade and will move through the grades until the end of the tenth when I plan on enrolling her in the Early College Academy. She will be able to earn her Associate’s degree by the age of 18.

But that is all in the future. For now, all I can think of is how those last days of school felt for me as a child. No matter if I was in public school or private, they were bittersweet. The familiar faces of friends and teachers seen one last time before disappearing into the warmth of summer, the promise of pools and summer camp and plane trips to see family. Leaving the world you have lived in each weekday for nine months, replacing it with another.

Change.

Growth.

A rite of passage.

I cannot thank the teachers at Whittier Elementary enough. For their kindness, their dedication and open hearts. They made a particularly painful transition easy, and in doing so, helped me realize how much good I have done already and how much more I am capable of as we return to homeschool in the fall. I’m glad to say I was wrong, that my deepest fears did not come true, and that Em was able to see what public school was like while learning and growing and connecting with other adults and children.

p.s. After I posted this, Em came home, took one look at me and burst into tears. Even as she misses her teachers she is excited about homeschooling in the fall. She told me about her last day, her eyes and nose blotchy with tears, about the teachers who were retiring or leaving, and the others who were being reassigned to different grades and subjects. Saying goodbye was bittersweet for her, my sweet girl wears her heart on her sleeve!

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