I survey my empty classroom, sure that someone had been there for a while. At first glance, the classroom seemed empty. I looked at the perfectly perched trays eagerly anticipating the student thoughts that will be graced upon them. My eyes followed the rows of desks standing at attention, knowing full well that by this time next week they’ll be scattered around the room, the messy aftermath of creative collaboration. I pass my clipboard, barely remembering that the post-it-note schedule needed updating, my mind still subconsciously looking forward to 1:45, when my planning time was taken over with friendly faces and bean bags. I find you, knowing full well you were in my room somewhere. You’re always there somewhere. My freshly set up classroom knew to make room for you, my most valuable possession. I find you in my whiteboard markers, which seem conjure up misspelled words all on their own, reminding me to embrace mistakes as they are how we learn. You’re in the Disney wand labeled “Hall Pass” because being silly and a child is still okay sometimes. You’re in the orange and black hand-crocheted paw print pillow whispering to me “Go to that game. It could make all the difference.” You’re sitting in that desk in the back corner that keeps bugging me, saying “Watch who sits here. They might give you the hardest time, but it’s from them you have the most to learn. You’re in my Starbucks cup, reminiscing about how I never should be on cup #2 before the first class of the day, but that I probably will do it anyway. You’re in the chair beside my desk who seemed to roll itself up while I had my back turned, waiting for that student who will need it and need me. A person to talk to. A tutor. A mentor. You speak to me most loudly in the letters hanging at my desk, words that console me, that reassure me that I can make a difference here, as long as I care enough.
I wonder where you really are right now, and how you can be anywhere else when you’re so present in my classroom. Four hundred miles away, I look at my clock and imagine where you might be. Maybe your child is waking up and smiling at you, or kicking your belly. I hope you know how great of a parent you are just for taking the responsibility without complaint. Maybe you’re heading to the shop to fix your first car of the day, or to your job somewhere to support yourself. Maybe you’re heading to your first college class of the day, or somewhere on the military base. Do you know how proud I am? Do know know how much you’ve grown in the past year? What wonderful people you’ve become?
Or maybe, you’re heading to English 12, first period, to be woken up with the revitalizing voice of the infamous of Boss Woman Bailey. Do you know how good you have it? I hope you embrace it. I hope you find comfort there, find the courage to be yourself, and the strength to work hard. Thank you for letting me keep a small piece of you with me this year. How can I ever thank you enough for giving me the purpose to keep going, keep teaching, and to have the audacity to think that just one person can touch the lives of many.
To those of you returning to Gibsonburg High School, have a good first day of school and remember to really soak up all that you are given. Make every day the best day of your lives, folks.