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The Last Lesson

At some point on Friday, my Algebra 2 colleague said to me, “Well, today’s the last day of notes for the students.”

We both have them keep notes in composition notebooks. Sometimes they glue things in. Much of the time, they write notes and examples based on what I’m writing in my notebook. So the notebooks are … or at least can be … good references for quizzes and in-class assignments. And last Friday was the end. The last lesson. Nothing more. From here on out, we’re reviewing for a test and then for finals. 

The last lesson.

It didn’t really sink in until the afternoon. I was printing some review sheets. School was over, and as usual, all the seasoned teachers had long since left, because it had been, what, 10 minutes since the last bell. Zoom! They’re out the door, and there I am alone in the workroom, printing review sheets.

Well I wasn’t completely alone. Across the room, one of the senior teachers (she has 30 years behind her) was printing something, too. I walked over and got her attention. She turned and smiled.

“Last lesson today,” I said.

Her smile broadened, and she nodded. She knew exactly what I was talking about.

“And get this,” I said. “All my grading is finished. Quizzes and homework. Everything. I got it all done during the day. I have nothing to take home this weekend!”

She laughed loudly. She held up her hand. We high fived.

“So now you are teacher. For real!” she said.

It’s taken all year to get to this point. And on the last day of the last lesson, with no teacher stuff to throw into my messenger bag, I had a giddy feeling welling up inside me. It was like the feeling you used to get on the last week of school when you were a kid. I haven’t felt that runaway euphoria since then — that feeling of school winding down with the whole summer ahead, spring blowing warm air under a blue sunny sky, your heart wanting to explode with sheer joy.

Wait. School is winding down. Summer lies ahead. The sky has (sometimes) been blue. The sun has (sometimes) been shining. And, oh, the wildflowers… And the clouds drifting across the sky… And that bluebird sitting on that barbwire fence…

You see? Sheer joy.