The first email was sent out last Monday telling the staff that we needed to lose one monolingual teacher because our student numbers were down (in third grade). The principal was asking for volunteers to move to another school. I knew if no volunteers stepped up that I’d have to go since I was the last one hired.
But the principal never came to see me, and I never got an email.
On Tuesday afternoon I went to see her to ask if there were any volunteers. She told me not to worry because several people had approached her about moving since the other school was more convenient to where they lived.
On Wednesday afternoon I had just finished telling my team leader that we didn’t need to worry about me leaving when the secretary called to tell me to call the principal at home that evening. That only meant one thing: The volunteers had decided they didn’t want to leave after all, and I needed to go.
For anyone who has ever taught at an elementary school, you know how close a teaching team can feel. And for anyone who’s ever taught or has children in elementary school, you know how close those student-teacher bonds can be. As much as I was hoping all summer long to get out of teaching first grade for another year, I returned committed to the year and had already developed relationships over a month with my students. They are a sweet, sweet group of kids this year. They work hard and respond well to kindness, gentleness, and encouragement. They are night and day to the students I had last year. There are a lot of academic challenges with this group, but I was looking forward to tackling those.
The team this year is also night and day to last year’s team. We actually collaborated and not only that, but we prayed together every morning! Every. Morning.
What do you do when you learn that you need to pack up your classroom within 48 hours, say good-bye to your team, and to 18 children that you love and know will be thoroughly confused and probably feel abandoned. (How do you explain low numbers and district budget to six-year-olds, especially when it’s not our class that’s low in numbers?)
Well, I cried a lot. In fact, all day Thursday whenever another teacher gave me a hug and told me what a loss it was that I was leaving, I cried. And whenever I thought of another teacher in my room teaching my kids, I cried. And I cried when my entire team – all nine of them – changed their evening plans at the last minute to take me out to dinner. But mostly I cried when I thought of the moment the principal would break the news to my kids.
Last week we were working on colors in ESL. I read My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss (published posthumously). Purple is a purple dinosaur dragging his long tail. He is sad. I decided on my last day with my kids that we needed to have a purple party. I made purple frosting to put on saltine crackers. (We had also studied families recently and talked about grandparents, so I wanted to share a treat that my grandma used to give me as a kid.) And I found dark Hershey’s Kisses wrapped in purple foil. (We read The Kissing Hand in the first week, so I could put a purple kiss in each of their hands.) My higher kids would get the references. My lower kids would just get excited that we were having treats.
On Friday afternoon the principal explained to the students how we like to be good helpers and how we needed to help another school who had too many students and not enough teachers. She said the principal of that school had called her and asked her to send one of her best teachers over. Someone asked, “When is Ms. Hubers coming back?” Someone else said, “My tooth is really loose.”
As comprehension started setting in with some of the kids, one little boy said, “Can I have a hug?” A few said they would really miss me. One told me at the very end of the day, “I just can’t believe you’re leaving.” I knew R. would be the first one to “get it”. He was with me last year, was retained, and his mother requested me again this year. On the first day of school, he walked right up to me to give me a big hug and said, “I missed you so much.” I’ve been so proud of him in the past month. He loves school this year and has been working so hard. Last year it was all I could do to get him to put his name on his paper. I think he also only turned in homework twice. This year he’s been doing his homework every night plus extra! (He’s also the one who wrote “boyoulikeme” to his neighbor.) As I was putting frosting on crackers, he said, “I feel purple today.”
I do too, sweetheart. I do too.