Goodbyes and Bad Grammar

I hate goodbyes.

The school year is ending and I’m getting sentimental. This always happens to my June-self. June-self is way more mellow and emotional than February-self. That bitch don’t take nothing from nobody! June-self loves everyone.

Somewhere in my sub-conscience my February-self just shrugs and shakes my head and says “Don’t you remember that day five months ago, with that kid, the one who wouldn’t stop texting, and it took everything you had not to crush her cell phone in your gnashing teeth? Don’t you remember that day the entire class rebelled and told you ‘The Crucible’ was the worst play they’d ever read, and no way in Hell should you ever teach it again? Don’t you remember the day that boy sneezed all over his assignment, then passed it to you, glistening with sputum, and said ‘I hab a cowld’, while your immune system did backflips?”

My June-self smiles peacefully and murmurs something about barbeque, and beer, and sunscreen.

February-self plucks random grey hairs out of my head and asks if I remember that day I tried to actually count how many times I heard the F-word in the halls? Or the day that boy plugged the Art Room sink and turned the tap on really slow and I didn’t notice ‘til I heard the water trickling onto the floor? Or the day that girl rolled her eyes ‘til the ligaments snapped and crackled, and then she called me a bitch? Don’t I remember these things?

June-self gets misty-eyed and says, “Next year I’m gonna bring them cookies every Friday.”

I think it’s saying goodbye. The grade twelves are graduating. (Except for the kid who turned the tap on. He’ll be back.) The International Students are flying back to their countries. The classes I’ve had for five months are finishing and those kids, those darling little texting, napping, not-doing-homework, bored-with-everything kids are moving on and I won’t have to cajole, threaten, coerce, plead, demand, insist that they learn something, just anything, c’mon, please show me that my entire professional life isn’t being wasted on the altar of bad spelling… get it right, dammit… there, they’re and their… it ain’t f***ing rocket science!

February-self chuckles.

It’s like birth. If women remembered how horrible birth is, they wouldn’t keep doing it. The memory fades, the mother only remembers the starry-eyed infant in her arms, and she conceives again.

June-self forgets the day I delivered a lesson that took me three hours to prepare. I had video, I had music, I had things they could touch and experience. I was on fire, for twenty-five awe-inspiring minutes, then I explained the assignment and sent them forth into the world of knowledge and understanding to explore the topic I had sweated and slaved to present to them.

A hand goes up.

Ah. A question. I love it when they ask questions.

“Yes, young man? Ask, and ye shall receive.”

“Yeah, um, like… whut we doin’?”

“What are we… doing? You are asking me… what are we doing?”

“Yeah, whut we doin’… I wuzn’t, like, paying attention, so, um… whut’s happenin’?”

“I just did this whole song and dance for the last half hour… with the video? Didn’t you see the video? With the guy with the tattoos? And the song? Didn’t you hear the song… lalalala…no? None of that? You were sitting right there the whole time, and you missed all of that? And now you’re asking me… after it took me three hours to put this lesson together… you’re asking me whut we doin’?”

“Yeah. Hey, you kinda got a veiny thing popping out on the side of your forehead. Weird. So…yeah, whut we doin’?”

June-self only remembers those moments in a fuzzy blur of retrospect, because June-self really loves her job, and wants to remember the time that boy from Japan sang Italian opera for his friends, and the time that girl came in for extra help every day for a week so she could get her project done, and the time a group of kids walked by my class and I heard them say “That’s my favorite fucking class ever!”

June-self wants to sign their yearbooks with little happy faces, and accept the assignments they didn’t complete in March, and give them free tickets to Prom because they painted twenty-five paper kites to hang from the gym ceiling.

June-self also wants to sit on the deck at home with a mojito and six bags of dill pickle chips while listening to Fleetwood Mac on the stereo. In a bikini.

Ok, yeah, forget the bikini.

It’s the goodbyes that get me. I just sent my daughter back to Texas, where she rides horses, and has adventures, and kills rattlesnakes with her bare hands. I have done everything I can do for her, and now she is on her own, facing the world, becoming an adult.

We spend eighteen years preparing our children to leave, encouraging them to be independent and resourceful and resilient. Then we shove them out of the nest and hope their wings open on the trip out. I used to think, back when my kids were little and the house was carnage and there were tears and snot and tantrums and sibling pummeling… “As long as they can behave themselves in public, I’ll know I’m doing ok.”

One of my daughters has been known to roll bowling balls down Main Street at three am.

“As long as most people are asleep when they are out in public, I’ll know I’m doing ok.”

I think it’s like that with my students. I am done with them, they are on their own. I am sending them off into the wild world, armed with an English 11 credit and an abiding dislike of Arthur Miller, wallowing in a world of grammatical woe from which they must extricate themselves without me.

Your not alone. They’re is hope. Weather or not you realize it, I have tried to teach you that witch is relevant to you’re lives.


I hate saying goodbye.

Graduation is in a couple of weeks, and I know I’ll be sitting there, watching that kid who never finished his assignments on time, the one who was late to every class, the one who hated me in grade ten but smiled at me in the halls in grade twelve, and I will get all misty. I’ll sit there, watching them march across the stage… planning new lessons in my mind, wondering if I should play classical music for my 8am classes, or if I should invest in a taser instead… and I will love them all. Those rotten little teenagers.

I think I hear the tap running in my classroom.


Check out my new novel: That Thing That Happened, available for both kobo and kindle.

Finalist in WFNS Atlantic Writing Competition

Grub Street Endorsed

e’s that mojito?


5 thoughts on “Goodbyes and Bad Grammar

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  1. If your new book is anything like what you’ve written here, I am a definite fan. While I don’t teach high school (as I believe you do), I do teach at a university, and your comments are amazingly close to what I hear and think. Thank you for this!

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