A teacher's two favorite days

As a high-school teacher, I had two favorite days. Opening day was one of them.

Nothing beat that first day for excitement and anticipation! The tedious hours of "orientation" were behind me, my classroom smelled of fresh wax, and my bulletin boards were newly done.

It was a day of beginnings. This was the year it would all come together. The year all my students would respect me and follow instructions without whining. The year homework would be turned in on time. The year all my students would bring their books to class. The year I would meet challenging situations with humor and grace, not irritation or anger.

It was a day for new approaches. Had I always seated students alphabetically? Time to try something different. One of the marvels of teaching was that, every year, I could make a fresh start with a new group of students. Every fall presented a new opportunity to teach more effectively!

It was a day of surprises.

Boys who'd come up to my shoulder as freshmen towered over me as juniors. Girls who had been somewhat gawky and loud eased toward womanhood with a smoother, more mature look.

It was a day of confusion.

A few students always wandered in late, having just found my classroom. Others popped up partway through algebra class, blurted out, "This isn't world history?" and then dashed for the door. Former students stopped to say wistfully, "I wish I was in your class again," while new students wondered how tough it would be.

It was a day of optimism and hope. A day to savor. A favorite day.

My second "favorite day" came a long time later. The day I was finally done!

It wasn't a day of "wrapping things up." That was pretty well over by then.

It wasn't a day of relaxation; there was too much turmoil in the air.

"What did I need on my final to get an 'A' in this class, Mrs. Flower? ... Could you just glance at mine and tell me what it looks like? I know it won't be my real grade; I just want you to look!"

It was a day of holding the line.

"Just look outside, Mrs. Flower. Everyone in the whole school is already out!"

"We're not."

"But everyone else is! Mrs. Flower you're too hard on us."

"Tell your friends," I'd reply.

"Whaaat?"

"Tell your friends. It'll make my job easier next year."

It was a day to make me ask myself why I'd wanted to teach and whether I could face another class in the fall.

But students could surprise me, even on that last day.

There was the year I stood outside my door watching a geometry class head off to summer vacation. A tall, burly football player hung back. "Thanks, Mrs. Flower," he said simply, then wrapped me in a big bear hug.

And the year I received a special note: "You have made X, Y, and Z very interesting to me."

What more could a math teacher ask?

Always, on that last day, there were bright spots to remind me that I had, after all, "connected" with a particular student. Perhaps with an entire class. Something to make me realize that, while some things hadn't turned out as well as I'd hoped, others had turned out better.

And next year?

I'd have a whole set of new ideas to try! Why, I had all summer to think of them.

It was a favorite day.

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