Posted by: joha5 | June 7, 2010

Saying Goodbye: Cathartic Reflections on a Part-Time Job

Well, this is it.  After close to 5 months of running an after school program for 7th and 8th graders, this will be my last week of doing it.  It hasn’t always been easy and it hasn’t always been fun.  In fact, it has been a bigger challenge than I ever would have anticipated.  Just imagine trying to get anywhere between 10 to 40 kids to sit down, be quiet, and do their homework – all this after they have already been at school for the previous seven hours.  It is basically impossible.  Yet after all of the trials and tribulations that these kids have put me through, I find myself becoming mildly nostalgic as I look back on the past few months. 

Will I miss the job?  Hell no.  Do I wish that I made more money doing it?  Absolutely.  But will I miss the relationships that I have built up with a lot of these kids?  No doubt about it.  While this part-time job started off being about money and keeping myself afloat while I looked for more permanent work, it ended up being anything but.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am very glad that I got money for doing this job and, in all honesty, I really deserved the money that I got.  But while I have been able to pad by bank account a little bit you start to realize that money comes and money goes.  When the money goes, I won’t miss it.  But when these kids go I actually realize now that I will genuinely miss the experience that I had with them and the working relationships that we formed together. 

I will miss them begging me to go outside and play ultimate frisbee.  I will miss hearing about their daily lives and all of the huge gossip they deal with on a daily basis (ie. Bobby likes Susie, Jamie got a new X-Box, George had a big zit, etc.  You know, the really important and life changing stuff).  I will miss talking to them and asking about their day.  I will miss them asking me to wear my sunglasses because they think they are ‘cool’.  But most of all I will miss the way that they made me laugh. 

I have dealt with fights – both physical and verbal – this year.  I have left the job feeling frustrated, upset, angry, and even defeated on certain days.  I have had to give kids detention because of bad language, bad behavior, not listening to directions, hiding from class somewhere in the school building, and even for throwing things at other kids.  I have had to have serious discussions with many of them.  I have had kids crying in the classroom.  I have had kids screaming in the classroom.  I have even had a couple of kids throw punches in the classroom. 

It's Almost Time For Summer Vacation!!

Yet through all of the good and the bad, I was almost never bored.  They challenged me to be a better teacher and I challenged them to be better students.  They challenged me to be a more patient person and I challenged them to be better listeners.  But perhaps most importantly, they challenged me to be a better person and I challenged them to do the same.  It’s tough to form such a close working relationship with these kids and then have it all end in the blink of an eye.  I don’t know if I have taught them anything, if they valued their time spent with me, or if they will even think of me as they grow up and learn bigger and more important lessons than I managed to impart on them this year.  I guess it doesn’t really matter.  I did the job that I was supposed to do and I just have to be happy with the fact that I have contributed to their lives in a minor way.  Maybe some of them will stay in touch and maybe some of them will have totally forgotten about me within the next year or two.  I don’t really mind either way.  I’m just happy that I was given the opportunity to work and to learn in such a vibrant and exciting environment. 

Yet, through it all, I suppose this is how life works.  People glide in and out while only a few stay to make themselves at home.  Jobs come and jobs go.  Money comes and money goes.  Yet all the while you gain experience in life, in friendship, in work, and in experience.  This chapter is closing and in two weeks a new one will begin for me.  I don’t have the personal and professional distance yet to really reflect on what it is exactly that I learned from this experience over the past 5 months.  I will have plenty of time once this chapter closes and the new one begins.  Who knows?  Maybe I will take some of the skills I learned from this chapter on to the next one.  I can only hope this is the case.  But to move on to the next chapter I will need to close this one out.

All of the students at the school will be receiving their yearbooks a week from today.  The following day is the closing assembly where they all gather to formally close out the school year.  I may just be a lowly after school and substitute teacher but I will be attending the end of the year ceremonies.  A small part is so I can say goodbye to the kids and colleagues that made this experience so rewarding for me but I will largely be going for my own cathartic and selfish reasons.  I want to experience that official separation from the kids, from work, and from school.  I want to definitively end this chapter and I want to definitively move on to the next.  Assuredly, it will be a big mix of emotions but – much like how this entire school year has been for me – it will not be boring.

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Responses

  1. Mr. Haworth, this was beautiful.


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