It’s day two of Christmas vacation ... and much too early to be awake. Yet, here I am, curiously wondering where he may be. HE is one of my second grade babies I’ve had the pleasure to teach this school year. He was absent the last week and a half of school, presumably moving to, yet, another school after the holiday. Something he’s been forced to do far too many times. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. 

This student came to me a bit late in the school year. He actually hadn’t been enrolled at any school for months and already had missed so much content, so much time, so much love. But here he was ... and I was charged with his care, his growth, his learning, and his support for eight hours a day. Teachers typically spend more time with their students than their own children throughout the work week.  During that time you grow to understand one another,  push one another (oh, and he could push), and support one another, and love one another. They become ours.

I didn’t even get to say goodbye. 

He came to me basically a non-reader. He struggled with the simplest phonetic skills needed to sound out words. He wouldn’t write one sentence at writing time. He wouldn’t always cooperate. However, with time and gentle and not-so-gentle nudging, he began to get excited to go to the media center and check out books, even if they were on a very basic, starter level. He would constantly interject himself into whatever I was doing throughout the day just to ask me to tell him a word. Eventually, with prompting, he would sound it out himself. The smile he would give me then — and the spark I could see in his eyes ... that’s why I became a teacher.

He began to excel in math and demonstrated a strength in that area. He learned! He grew! And you could see the sense of accomplishment grow in his eyes. No, things weren’t perfect. His handwriting was nearly impeccable but he talked too much during instruction. He would sometimes annoy and pick on his classmates, and he would be a typical 7-8 year old boy ... wild! But he was MINE. He was my student to mold, to teach, to build. 

I didn’t even get to say goodbye. 

Teachers love children. We couldn’t do what we do if we didn’t. We cultivate relationships with our students, worry about them, get over-the-top frustrated with them, become overjoyed, celebrate with them ... and spend most of our time just simply thinking about our students.

Then, one leaves.

No explanation, no see ya later, no collecting supplies from their desk. They are just ... gone. We teachers are left behind with an overwhelming measure of love for that child and an unfulfilled longing to see them through. All we can do is cherish the time we spent with them and accept ... it’s someone else’s duty now. 

I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

 • Mandy Williams lives in Blackshear and has been teaching for 13 years at Memorial Drive Elementary School in Waycross. She has an eight year old son and 21 other seven year olds she considers “hers.” A baby boy is expected in June. Email her at mandylee@hotmail.com.