Friday, June 24, 2011

The End of School is Here

So we've made it to the end of another school year.  You'd think that as a teacher, I'd be turning handsprings, throwing my hands into the air, singing my heart out to the heavens.  And believe me, this coming Monday, when I'm either writing at Barnes & Noble, enjoying a cool Mocha Frappe or writing in the delightfully hushed silence of the library at my Alma mater, Broome Community College (where almost all of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One was written), I'll be quietly ecstatic, believe you me.  But today?

Not so much.

See, the last day I'm at school always feels so eerie.  The halls, empty.  Barren.  Lockers hanging open, desks pushed out into hallways and piled up, rooms stripped and bare of ANYTHING giving them an ounce of personality.  Grades have been calculated, everything done except keys being turned it, the year is over.  Which, as I said, will be a huge relief on Monday.  But right now?

It almost feels....empty.

Because everything's done.  Gone.


In my mind, the halls should still be clogged with all the traumas and drama and hopes and fears and frustrations and plans and dreams that these students carry with them every day.  Where are all the students I've nodded to on a daily basis, the ones who've offered friendly smiles, exuberant greetings, casual nods, grunts, or even eye rolls?

They're gone.  And they won't be back, ever again.  Because over the summer they'll change.  Grow.  Become someone different, and therefore, new.  When graduation ends tonight, the official "wrap!" will be called on the 2011 - 2012 school year, and it can never be recaptured or touched, ever again. 

I once acted in our school's production of Romeo & Juliet, as Prince Escalus.  Through three weeks of quite arduous rehearsal, (for me, anyway), which left me often napping on my throne, I really kinda wanted it to be over. After the thrill of our first showing wore off and the adrenaline rush of the Saturday night showing faded and we were working through our Sunday morning show,  I just wanted it to be over.  But when it was over?  When the costumes were packed away, set disassembled, and everything was done?

I felt so empty.  Used up.


Because this thing we'd done, created with our words and actions and sweeping emotions was gone forever.  All gone, never to be touched again.  

I asked the student actors - some of them experienced thespians - if this was a common sensation.  These sixteen year old veterans smiled at me kindly, with their expressions reading: "Aw.  How cute.  Mr. Lucia's feeling his first post-play letdown." 

It's the way I feel after the school year.  Monday, I'll be charged up and ready to go for a summer of writing, Con traveling, and hanging out with my family.  But when I'm in school this morning for our closing department meetings?

The same way.  Like everything we've done and gone through and experienced as teachers and students will vanish into the ether, will be gone forever, never to be retrieved. 

Now, this is highly romantic thinking, fueled by the fact that this year's graduating seniors and I were "freshman" in high school at the same time, and now they're moving away, going on to do big and great things, while I quickly fade into maybe a warm and fuzzy (if I'm lucky) footnote in their lives.

And I'm sure most the students and several of my colleagues are thinking: "Good riddance!"  to all those things now vanished.  And on some levels, I'd agree with them.  But on another, I can't ever quite squash this lingering melancholy, this haunting sense that something good was done this year, and now it will fade and disappear.

At least I have the bulletin board.

This year, my bulletin board became a panorama of student whimsy.  Several of my Creative Writing students - one in particular - took it upon themselves to "illustrate" the year in all its silliness.  SO, instead of rules and regulations and dress codes, my bulletin board was covered this year with pen and ink snapshots of our year.
To some, fodder for the recycling bin.  For me?  Well, I put all these into a box to keep for next year.  I'm not sure if this particular year was any more significant than previous years, but SOMETHING was different, especially in my Creative Writing class.  Last year's class was unique because they were the first, but this year's class felt like the first Creative Writing class I actually TAUGHT.  

We DID stuff this year.  Read books and wrote goofy stories and exercises and watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  We explored the boundaries of what was considered "acceptable" and NOT, with much hilarity.  

We even talked about writing stories themselves.  Actual, honest-to-goodness discussions about the CRAFT, with high school students.  We visited with a ton of authors, had an EXTRAORDINARY workshop experience with Tom Monteleone and Paul Wilson, communicated via email with Norman Partridge, and even managed to cobble together a literary journal, which is at the printer's as we speak. 

So the year is over.  And with it, comes the requisite but thankfully temporary sensation of loss and emptiness.  But I'll still have those pictures, and over the summer, in true dorky-teacher fashion, I intend on cobbling them together, laminating them, and making a sort of poster out of them for next year, so I can point them out to incoming students and say: "Here's your challenge, kids.  Those students made an impact.  No matter how small, they effected change.  How are you going to top them?"

Until then, of course, I'll enjoy my Mocha Frapp and do a whole lot of writing.