Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New Beginnings

It hit me like a thunderbolt. I was replying to a comment from Melisa on DadBlogs about my school photo from last year. I told her that the company that takes student photos also takes the teachers' photos for ID purposes and even gives us a package with an 8 x 10 and wallets! It's kind of funny.

What the picture people also do is encourage family photos. The moment I thought about this while responding to Melisa, I felt a lump in my throat and had to wipe a tear from my eye, because for the last three years, when Kendall was at the middle school with me, we had a mom/daughter photo taken, just for fun. This year, she'll be at the high school, so it's not going to happen.And just like that, the era of my kids being with me at the middle school is over.

I'll never forget that night, six years ago, when I announced at dinner, "You know, kids, if I get this job in Tinytown, I'll be working in the same school that you'll be in. A thundercloud appeared on Kyle's face, and tears well up in his 5th grade eyes.

"What's the matter?" I asked, surprised that he wouldn't be happy that I'd be teaching at the middle school, where he'd be starting 6th grade in a month or two.

"That's just great! Now you'll be spending all your time with Kendall!" he spat it across the table. I was taken aback by his adult-sized anger.

"You have it all wrong," I replied. "I would be at your school, not Kendall's."

The light in that kid's face was blinding. He leaped from the table and hugged me, hard. Mr.4444 and I smiled and looked at each other with knowing eyes; he was happy to be starting at a new school where his mom would be available for moral support. That night, as I completed the application on-line, Kyle stood behind me and rubbed my shoulders, encouraging me to do my best. The rest, as they say, is history.

For the record, aside from the occasional Ibuprofen or forgotten lunch money, Kyle never needed my support at school. He mostly did his own thing, but he always owned me in the hallway when we passed. In sixth grade, it was"Hey, Mom!" from across a crowded room. By eighth grade, it was a smile and cool nod of the head, but he owned me, nonetheless.

When Kyle left for the high school three years ago, I was a little sad, but the sting was lessened by the salve of knowing Kendall was coming up to sixth grade the same year. She and I have always been close, and having Kendall at the middle school with me (though not in my class) was an absolute treat. She, too, always owned me in the hallway, giving me a big hug, and even holding my hand sometimes (outside the school day). She was one of my Student Council kids (I'm an advisor) and she and her friends sometimes hung out in my classroom after school before practices. We even went out to lunch a time or two.

The best part of both of my kids going through the middle school where I work was the pride I took in seeing their growth as young people, as leaders. Each of them had teachers who (unsolicited) complimented me on what great kids they are; so responsible, respectful, nice to other kids, etc. I got to bask in that glow every time.

This year, Kendall and I will not take a Picture Day photo together. She will be across the street at the high school, learning the freshman ropes under the guidance of her senior brother. [insert the tears of letting go here] I know she will be in capable hands, but I will miss her.

I will be starting a completely new venture, too, this year, teaching 6th grade cross-categorical special ed, working with kids of all academic and emotional levels. I'll be busy learning new content (Greeks, Romans, Human Body, etc.), so I'll be plenty distracted. And for more than one reason, I'm truly excited about that.

I resisted calling this post The Beginning of the End. I could have called it, Saying Goodbye, Another One Leaves the Nest, or The End of an Era. But instead, I'm going to call it "New Beginnings."

And I'm going to go outside to take some new photos with Kendall..

....and Kyle, if he's not too cool.

[Written last Sunday, before Kendall and I took those pics in the woods :) ]

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