Here we are in the middle-most parts of May in the middle-most parts of spring. It is a full, sticky, sweet time of year.
And all is ripe with the world.
The air gets juicier by the day. Skin slicks with it and hair clumps in it. Honeybees swim through it, On the back deck, wasps suck its dampness from the floor joists. Dollops of Queen Anne’s Lace float at the roadside. A foamy fog fills the deepest morning fields.
For teachers and students, this time of year is even fuller, stickier, and sweeter. School is ending — and with that end comes exam marathons and grading marathons and all sorts of end-of-year obligations. But it also means that in just a few short days, all the challenges and hurdles of the past year can be put away. In just a few short days, the pool-sides and vacays will soon be underway.
But as I give my last two days’ worth of exams for this school year, the sweet milk of concord is tinged just a tad with bittersweet.
Because in four days’ time, I will walk out the front doors of Woodland and leave behind the school I have called home from the beginnings to the middle-most part of my teaching career. And that makes my heart trip just a beat.
I have loved Woodland High School. And oh, how I love it still!
I love the building – the red-bricked, columned, porticoed beauty of its structure. It is a beautiful and storied institution. And the view from its hilltop — Lord, have mercy! I remember the first day I walked into Woodland as a teacher.
I came in through the back doors of D-Hall at sunrise and turned back to take in the view. And what I saw… well, I’m pretty sure the mouths of angels dropped open to belt out some heavenly chords in my ear.
The football stadium is there in the back, and the home stands are carved into the rocky clay hillside. Gazing onto that field, with Ladd’s Mountain jutting to the north and the Etowah River snaking off toward the east — it was magical.
And I love the student body – the tough and tender teenaged population. I’ve taught so many beautiful students with so many powerful stories.
And as a teacher of students and stories, these sixteen years have been all about the stories. Not the stories I’ve shown them — the literature of canon and curriculum, but the stories they’ve shown me — the literature of their hearts. Their stories will never leave me.
There’s the rapper who mixed beats in his basement and hid battle-scars in his bravado. And the cowboy who wrote poetry, rode bulls and broke bones.
There’s the brooding brunette who pierced her tongue with a paper clip while I was absent one day so her parents would see all her pain. And the energetic junior who sang gospel music every seventh period — and one Friday brought a frozen snake to school in his backpack.
There’s the baller who crushed statistics and opponents on the field while the world had its way with him back home. And the crooner too shy to speak up in class, but who belted it out on the stage like a boss.
There’s the bruised, uncertain sophomore who slipped me a note at the end of class to tell me that what had happened in the book we were reading had happened to her in her uncle’s back room. And the brilliant, confident valedictorian with the bird feathers in her hair and the big dreams in her head.
There’s the ukulele-playing philosopher. And the soft-spoken thespian. And the bright, bubbly philanthropist. And the legally-blind visionary.
And so very many, many more…
And they’ve all had a story to teach me. And I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned how to laugh, how to cry, how to absorb, how to digest, how to digress, how to hold in, and hold on, and let go.
They’ve given and shown me so much. About them, about myself, and what teaching is all about. And it’s all about them. Always.
And in showing me who they are, they have shown me who I am.
And now, in this middle-most part of May in the middle-most part of spring, in the middle-most part of my career, I’m leaving Woodland And it is hard. And the closer I get to next Wednesday, the more frightened I become.
But I feel the pull of a new season – a swirling purple hurricane season. A season of new students and new family members and new stories all hang on the cusp of the solstice of summer. And all is ripe with the world.
I will always love Woodland. I met my husband here. My best friends all teach here. My favorite students in the world all went to school here. And so did my daughters.
It is truly full and sticky and a tad bit bittersweet here in the middle-most parts of this May.