Why Bother To Finish Well?
Today was the last day of the 2020-2021 school year. Teachers and staff at the little rural school where I work completed 180 days as public school employees. The big yellow buses, full of children, lumbered away with their load while teachers stood on the playground waving good-bye. Little arms flapped back and forth from the bus windows and I heard a few cheerful farewell words , “Good-bye Mrs. Luikens.” The last day of school, though welcomed by most everyone, is always a little nostalgic.
There are a few traditions that lead up to the last day of school. For instance, seniors from the high school who attended our school for their elementary years, revisit its hallways, teachers and the playground. Dressed in their caps and gowns, they peek into their old classrooms and give their previous teachers a hug. It is heartwarming to see these tall smiling eighteen-year-olds bending over to embrace the ones who first taught them how to read and write. Though I’ve not been an instructor long enough to receive one of these warm hugs, when these older students pop into my classroom, I ask them to give my fourth graders some good advice. “Do your work and stay organized,” one smiling young man tells them. Ah, the voice of experience.
Field day, when our playground is turned into a variety of contests and competitions, is another tradition for the last day of school. Each teacher thinks up a fun contest that any kindergartener or sixth grader will be pleased to play. Then, for two hours, groups of students rollick, romp and run through the games. It is a test of endurance for teachers and kids alike.
The final report card goes home on the last day of school. Though teachers are expected to compose comments on these cards for each of their students, I opted out of writing anything. Instead, I called the child’s parents and conversed with them about the strengths and areas of growth that I observed in their child over the last ten months. Every parent loves to talk about their child and grades are not necessarily their greatest concerns. Instead, parents wonder out loud if they are doing a good enough job of parenting their child. Hearing the heart of each of these mothers and fathers reminds me of the privilege I have. Not only do I get to help shape the lives of children, but inspiring and encouraging the parents is part of my job too.
Yes, it is the last day of school for this year. I wave goodbye to one group knowing that in eighty days, I will do it all over again with a new batch of students.
Why bother to finish well? No matter what we do, it is worth it to finish well so that we see the value of beginning again.