This year marked the first June since 1959 that I wasn’t excited about the last day of school because for the first time since 1959 I wasn’t in school.
My school career began in a wonderful little kindergarten run by the Sisters of Mercy. I started a year early because I was so hyperactive that they needed to get me out of the house. And so I was thrust upon on poor Sister Damien, an apple cheeked, jovial nun who eventually wrote a book about the hilarious things her students said over her 50 years of teaching. “P is for Puppy so lively and quick” was my part of the graduation ceremonies and I can still remember the dress I wore for my first public performance. I enjoyed kindergarten, but, sadly, I was made to move on to the educational equivalent of the third ring of hell.
In first grade Sister Christine discovered that, although I was pretty intelligent, I was a handful so I spent many a day in a corner thinking about what I did wrong. The problem was I couldn’t remember why I was in trouble, so I didn’t know what I did wrong. In second grade, Sister Thomas Ann used me for the Confession practice dummy so she could mention sins that I’d surely forget once I got there. We had to list our terrible crimes, venial and mortal and the number of times we committed them; how many times you hit your sister, sassed your mother or spit on a classmate. I had no idea. Dozens? Hundreds? Sister was quick to supply the number; two-hundred and eighty six lies, seventy-two times disrespecting my teacher. In third grade, Sister Ann sent home a card expressing her concern for the health of my mother. I couldn’t do my homework because my poor mom was at death’s door. Actually, she was just fine. You get the idea. The educational system and I were never on good terms. School was torture, plain and simple, because no one knew what to do with me. They hadn’t invented ADHD yet. Perhaps I did.
Despite the trials and tribulations of getting through the Catholic School system, I managed to graduate from college with a teaching certification. There was no question that I wanted to teach in a Catholic School. I didn’t even consider public school, and so I shopped my music degree to local parishes. Eventually I was hired as both a music teacher at the school and music director for the parish. I’ve never left that position – until this year.
An older teacher friend of mine told me that I’d know when it was time to put my chalk away. She was right. After thirty-five years I realized that my passion was beginning to become a job, so this year, for the first time since I was four years old, I wasn’t in school, even though I’m still working at the parish. I did miss the kids, though, and the great times with my fellow teachers. I always loved it so much, but it was time to move on.
I received a message from the school last week, asking me to play for the closing school Mass. Because of another commitment, the music teacher who had taken over for me was unavailable, so they needed me and I came happily. The last day of school is awesome. It was so wonderful to be with the kids again, sharing in that unique blend of excitement and joy that happens on the last day of school when endings and beginnings meet.