A Child’s Goodbye

thank you Mr. M card

I said farewell to a lot of kids in the last week.  A LOT of kids.  Two classrooms’ worth and a whole middle-school day-care group.  I wrapped up my 60-hour elementary school internship for CSUF and left my after-school job to pursue a great new career position, so April has concluded with a lot of hugs and hand-made cards.  Funny thing is, I hadn’t really been with these groups for very long, only about 2 months, but working with kids is like working in dog years — attachment rates are amplified.

For my internship, I was really blessed in whom I ended up working with.  I was able to spend my time in two first-grade classrooms at the same school: with one class on Mondays and the other on Thursdays.  Both of these teachers really took me in, made me feel included in their classrooms, and I left not feeling like a visitor at all, but as a part of that school family.  I’ve worked in other classrooms where the teachers were nice enough, but maybe just didn’t know how to involve an extra person in the room, but that was not the case here.  Heck, they even invited me into the teacher’s lounge to have lunch with all of them as if that was just a given.  This was, by far, the best in-class experience I’ve had while pursuing this degree, and I probably can’t fully express how much it meant to me and how much I appreciate these two gals for making me a part of their class.  All good things must come to end, though, so, last Thursday was my final day in class B.

Our schedule was fairly routine, but at the end of the day, during the class’s calm wrap-up group session on the carpet, I was presented (by an adorably shy student) with a stack of hand-written thank you cards.  They were concocted of drawings and a wide variety of appreciate comments, a small sample of which I will include below, and they all collectively said, “Thank you!”  One of the little girls stood up to give me a big hug, and that turned into a swarm of the little munchkins gathering around me in an impromptu group hug.  I made a joke about not being able to breathe, which of course only encouraged the mass to squeeze in harder.  After the kids had left, I talked with the teacher for a bit (exchanging thank-yous, well-wishes, etc.) and then I went out to my car to see just how fantastically adorable these cards might be.  I wasn’t disappointed:

(As a quick reminder, for those visitors I may have obtained since last mentioning this, I employ image hover-texts on this site for humorous purposes, so don’t forget to hold your mouse over each one for additional commentary — sometimes serious, most times not.)

child thank you goodbye card

mr m helping in shorts

Mr. M helping the class

Child thank you for happy goodbye card


Then, this Monday, I returned to that school one final time to work in class A.  This group held a special place in my heart because, in some ways, these were the “other” kids.  The class had originally been slated to be a K/1 classroom, before the Kindergarten part was removed, so it was very evident that this class was the “lesser” group when compared to the other classroom.  Heck, just looking at the two classes lining up after recess made it obvious enough: one maintained a nice, mostly-quiet line, the other was a more chaotic mob.  But I’ll be darned if these kids weren’t just as wonderful 🙂 .  Again, my final day was pretty routine, but it concluded in a similar fashion as my prior experience.  Before school was out, I was presented a single card that all of the students had signed (seen at the top of this post), and we sat in a giant circle on the carpet as the teacher asked all of the students to say something to me about what they liked about me or why they were thankful for my help.  It was darn adorable, of course.  One kid liked my watch, another said he’d miss me and then jokingly collapsed into tears, but it was the last girl who really got me.  She’s a really sweet gal for whom English is not a native language, and she can be quiet and bashful… so bashful that when she was actually supposed to start things off, she couldn’t, so we went around the circle in the other direction.  When it finally got back to her, though, she sheepishly smiled and awkwardly fidgeted out an “I love you.”  Right.  In.  The.  Feels.  🙂 .  We then ended with a dance session during free-choice time, following along with a Zumba routine on the SMART Board.  We then kept it going as first the class had to dance like I did, and then I got to choose who led the group.  After the students all left, with an additional thank-you notes placed into my hand “to read later!” I shared a similar farewell conversation with my teacher and the other student-intern, and the teacher got up and gave me a big hug and wished me luck.  Remember.. two months.  I’d been in that class for about 30 hours, and to earn this much love?  Boy.

Last but not least, the next day, Tuesday, brought my final day at the after-school job I’d taken after leaving Lego.  My resignation from this place was a career decision, and I’ll talk about that in another post, but it was also a very different experience compared to my internship.  My internship was filled with cute little first-graders, this after-school gig was filled with angst-ridden middle-schoolers.  That’s not to say I didn’t love them all the same, though.  Sure, they could get annoying, but I was also getting them at their worst: after being stuck in school all day.  Some days were better than others, but many laughs (and even a few serious discussions) were had, and I’m really glad to have met these kids.  This isn’t always a fun time of life, I remember, so we dealt with the lack of emotional regulation for some, the pain of having belittling parents for others, loneliness and the lack of empathy with many, and the anxiousness of what lies ahead for the few who are moving on to high school next year.  It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t able to spend better time with them, but I hope I was able to help out a little.  Oh, and since the kids these days are all over the Internet, and I know at least one of them has stalked me online and found all of my dark, dark secrets (like the existence of this here blog), in case you’re reading this… BE GOOD!

Anyways, a farewell from a group of middle-school students is obviously going to be a little different than from a group of first-graders, but it was a fun difference.  I was presented with a few cards, two of which are seen below, and one of the gals walked back into the room to give me a big hug after she had already left our room to meet her dad as he waited in his car.  For reasons of privacy, since I’m sharing stories and children’s artwork, I’ve kept the names of the schools and the people out of this post, so I’ll keep the inside of the card for myself since it’s riddled with names, but it read like a yearbook: some entries recalled memories, some were quick jokes, some hid more heartfelt reactions, and one of them was Hitler — literally; Hitler signed my going away card with his name and signed it with a swastika.  Crazy Hitler.

Middle school goodbye cards

I’m on to bigger and better things, but only in job-related terms, not in terms of the people I’ve met at these places.  They were thankful for me, but I’m just as thankful to have gathered a slew of memories from these short two months.  To borrow a quote from a first-grader’s thank-you note above, “thank you for happy.”


About Mark Mushakian

Just a man who loves God, women, kids, dogs, movies, and every other lovely thing in life :)
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