An Amicable Divorce

Every May, I go through a celebrity split: after 10 months together, Ms. G and her students have decided to go their separate ways. They remain the best of friends.

Of course, it’s August, and I’m already back into the dating scene. The first day of school is always a little nerve-racking. I’ve got 21 speed dates – three minutes to make a good first impression, to decide if we’re going to be compatible or not. And even if we’re not compatible, we’re in this together for better or worse. It’s in our contracts. We’ve got to make this relationship work.

My students and I are in the honeymoon period. Everyone’s on their best behavior. Their enthusiasm is contagious, my patience is endless. We delight in getting to know each other and cut each other all the slack we need. Everything they do is fascinating to me – from the way they set up the dominoes to how quickly they complete their first writing assignment. I am thrilled they like my favorite children’s musician – Billy Jonas – and cherish their smiles as they try to guess the cat in “What Kind of Cat Are You?”

{What kind of cat hangs out in the house? House cat. What kind of cat hangs out in the alley? Alley cat. What kind of cat is a chocolate candy bar? Kit Kat!}

I love it when they beg me to read another chapter in Cam Jansen: The First Day of School Mystery. They can’t wait to find out who stole Cam’s teacher’s car and crashed it on the first day of school. It will probably be the first thing they ask me to do Monday morning.

When I see my exes in the hallway with another teacher, my heart skips a beat. I covet their smiles, their hugs, the way they knew exactly what I was going to say before I said it. I miss the familiarity, our inside jokes, the way I knew exactly what  they were going to do before they did it.

They all grew over the summer. Now they are “upstairs kids.” They have binders and switch classes through a secret passageway, and the girls no longer wear the precious button down blouses with the navy blue piping and the darling dropped-waist jumpers. They are so proud to be third graders, and I know they are ready for the challenge, but my heart wasn’t ready for them to move on, to learn without me.

Last year, one of my girls said, after I’d hugged some former students, “You can’t hug them anymore. You’re our Ms. Gartner, not their Ms. Gartner.” And it was so – I belonged to my new students, and they belonged to me.

Now, I hug that sweet girl and watch her as she goes up the stairs to her new classroom. An amicable divorce. 

I have ten months to fall in love with another group of students. To nurture and support them, to help them grow in knowledge and wisdom and kindness and compassion. I’ve got ten months of doing my best to understand and forgive them when they do something wrong and to challenge them to do the same for me. Ten months to wring out every bit of goodness I can out of our relationship before it’s time to break up.


7 thoughts on “An Amicable Divorce

  1. I can only hope that Parker has ONE teacher that has as much love in their heart as you do. I was so touched by your post, I had to share it with my husband. We both had tears…so thoughtful, so touching. You have a gift, Ms. G.

    1. Thanks, Jennifer! I know that parents want their children to learn at school, of course, but i think it’s just as important to parents that their children are loved. I’m sure your PBJ will ensnare many an unsuspecting teacher!

  2. I too have tears…And, i also know that some of those little ones you will know and nurture always…And, that ‘s a true blessing for them and you too obviously! LOL Miss Aunt Kelly

  3. I swear I feel this way toward many of my undergraduate students! I don’t think they understand how much we come to love them. I would like to offer it is not a divorce, but rather a separation – as many of them will come back to you and come back to you – many, many years later.

    As proof, I offer this: I have an entire Facebook page peopled with former students who are now having babies and asking advice about that. So we have a new dynamic going on, a new narrative. It’s wonderful! The rewards in teaching come log after the students leave the classroom!

    I would LOVE to repost this on my blog. Is there an easy way to do it, or do I just have to set it up and add the link? It’s THAT good!

    Lessons From Teachers and Twits

    1. Renee, you’re right – they do come back. I love that you have a little “village” on your FB page. What a great support system for those young parents!

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