Friday was Sophie's last day of second grade. The end of a school year is always a remarkable time, but this year is different for all of us. She has been in a K-1-2 class with the same beloved teacher. At the end of this year, she said goodbye to him as a student for the last time. She'll see him lots next year, but her time in the room of childhood magic is done. She'll move on to many wonderful opportunities and challenges, but she'll leave behind the Imagination Center, the number gnomes, the story of the week each Monday, and the Thanksgiving feast. Hardest of all, she'll leave behind a teacher she admires, respects, and truly loves.
I'll be forever in his debt for talking me off the wall last year when Sophie still wasn't reading very well, telling me that when a child reads is no indication of how smart they are. They read when they are developmentally ready; Sophie's time had not yet come, but it would come soon, and the best thing I could do was relax and enjoy what she was doing well and let the reading come on it's own. It came earlier this year in a big burst, and it's been something in which she takes great joy. And I've fostered plenty behavior improvement by asking "Would you say that to Jim??" or "What do you think Jim would have to say about that??"
Jim is a big one for rituals, so of course the year closed with one that helped us look both back and forward with appreciation. He and the children dressed in white and gathered down in an area just beyond their playground called The Grove, inside a ring of redwoods.
The children sit in a circle, and Jim leads them in each sharing things like what they learned, what they liked most, and what they're looking forward to in the summer.
The special guests at the ceremony are three homing pigeons, who Jim says will show the children how to fly. He introduces each bird and passes it around for the children to gently touch and wish well and then tosses it to the sky.
When all three birds are gone, it's time for the children to fly away for the summer, one by one.
There were lots of goodbyes, and Sophie and I stayed for much of the afternoon while I helped with the staff appreciation luncheon. At the end of the day, it was just the two of us, and we started a ritual of our own. I'm out at school quite a lot and always admire the creek that runs through the campus, but I always seem to busy to do anything other than that. On this last day I asked Sophie to take me down to the creek (the kids know all the paths down the banks since this is where they do much of their play). The two us us say down there and did what I've wanted to do all year: Cool our feet in the gently flowing water.
We sat for a while in silence, something pretty rare at an elementary school. We talked a little about what a great year it was and how proud I am of her. And concluded with an agreement: See you right here next year.