Monday, 3 July 2017

Keep on Truckin'

On Thursday, June 29, I spent my last day at Eagle Heights Public School as a member of the staff. I walked to school in the morning, leaving early so that I would have time for a coffee and the opportunity to reflect. It was a spectacular morning, with a bright summer sun illuminating an impossibly blue sky. Perhaps, I am romanticizing a typical Ontario morning in June. In retrospect, I think I may be personifying an optimism that I needed to embrace that day.

Many teachers will agree that the final day of a school year brings with it a strange energy - a deliriously heady mix of excitement, nostalgia, anticipation, trepidation and resolution. It is a place of wild dichotomy, where a year’s worth of structure seems to come undone. Emptied desks, blank bulletin boards lead to backpacks stuffed with memories and mementos. An odd community where wild packs of exuberant ten year old boys, drunk with summer excitement, might race past hugging congregations of weeping grade 8 girls, some still clutching day old graduation bouquets.

This year, more than others, my ballasts were swayed by this turbulent sea. Unpredictable waves of wistful reflection and hopeful optimism swept over me throughout the day. At the morning assembly, two of my closest colleagues shared kind and honest words about me as I looked across an ocean of familiar faces. I was suddenly aware of how many students have passed through my class, or been on a team I have coached, during my six year stay.

My current students were wonderfully kind. Their sweet words, hand-written letters and determined hugs were a bittersweet reminder of the change that was ahead. I had a much needed laugh when one student said, “I hope you like your new job, but not too much - and you can come back and teach us in Grade 7”. My wife reminds me that I say this every year...but, they really were a great group of kids who made me a better educator.

The momentary calm after the final dismissal bell was short-lived. Staff members quickly scattered to predetermined locations where they met in groups of four. The annual Eagle Heights Road Rally was about to begin. Our team’s theme was “Sensing the Seventies” and I made the practical decision to dress as a 70’s basketball player because … shorts! My teammates rocked everything from platform shoes to tan coloured cullottes with yellow socks.  
Me and Captain Canada 

We raced around the city (respecting traffic laws, of course) guided by a list of eclectic instructions. This was, in many ways, a recipe for competitive mayhem. We were tasked with gathering as many peculiar items and intentionally choreographed, but comically ludicrous, photographs as we could before travelling to the party headquarters by the 5:30 deadline. It was the perfect distraction.

The evening featured lots of laughter, a great meal, sing-a-longs and speeches. It was a chance to reflect on the past while receiving and sharing well wishes for the future. I left at a reasonable time. A new chapter in my educational career would begin the next day and I wanted to be rested. Even though I am excited about my future, I will miss so much about Eagle Heights. I grew tremendously as an educator and a person over the past six years. I have such great respect for the wonderful colleagues with whom I worked. I am not sure if I conveyed that fully when I made a brief speech after dinner. I guess I am still not sure it has fully registered. I suppose, I'm still adrift, sailing between two ports and adjusting to the winds of change.

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