Monday, June 18, 2012

The Last Day of School

Educators will tell you there's a cyclical nature to the school year. Every year has a first day, and a last. Rituals precede the first day (professional development and staff meetings, preparing schools and classrooms) and rituals follow the last (turning in grade books, planning for next year, checking out). But those actual first and last days are magical.

I make a point of visiting schools on the first day. Partly it's to be supportive. Honestly, in large part, I visit schools on the first day because it recharges me to see all of those bright, enthusiastic faces. Friday, I reversed the trend and went to the last day at three schools. What I observed was true affection between students and staff as they said goodbye for the summer.

McMicken Heights Elementary

I started at McMicken because we had advance notice that Darcy Smith would be honored as the Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD) Teacher of the Year. The PSESD is an organization that exists between the state and local districts. PSESD covers the 35 districts in King and Piece counties, representing almost half of all students in the state. Ms. Smith, a sixth grade teacher, was teacher of the year in Highline as well. Her family snuck in for her recognition at McMicken's last day of school assembly, and her students went berserk when her name was called. Ms. Smith was ever gracious and humble in receiving the award, thanking her students and colleagues.

I got to see a little more of the assembly, including many student recognitions. The highlight was when the whole faculty performed to Taio Cruz's "Dynamite." Three talented staff members came forward to sing and the students threw their hands up in the air sometimes. A minute later, the whole staff, including principal Karin Jones, came up on stage to dance-dance-dance-dance. The staff really lit it up like it's dynamite. I loved the spirit and community building!

(L to R) Susanne Jerde, Carla Jackson, Darcy Smith, me, and Terese Emry from PSESD (Mel Ponder Photography)
Students watch as McMicken staff members perform "Dynamite"

Highline High School

I zipped over from McMicken to Highline High School, just in time for dismissal. It was fun and orderly. Kids were in great spirits. Staff was enjoying signing yearbooks and wishing their students well for the summer. After the rush cleared, I wandered over by the cafeteria, where principal Damon Hunter was grilling up burgers and hot dogs for the staff's end of the year lunch. Again, there were many positive vibes, and the morale building will help the school launch positively into next year.

Highline H.S. students display their school spirit one last time
Grillmaster (and principal) Damon Hunter, cooking up lunch for staff

Sylvester Middle School

After Highline, I made the short drive to Sylvester Middle School and again shared dismissal with staff and students. Encouraged by staff to celebrate appropriately, kids found out how rewarding it is to exchange smiles and hugs with their friends on the way out the door for the final time. I had a quick word with Principal Vicki Fisher as she stopped to wish students well for the summer. The buses lined up almost ceremonially for their final delivery. Staff obliged by waiving goodbye from the sideawalk. And summer was officially underway!

Buses line up to take students home one final time this year
Staff wave to students as they leave for summer vacation

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