Local Views: A teacher's goodbye

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Kris Kroening
Monday, July 22, 2013
The anticipated time has finally arrived…the last few hours I can lay claim to my classroom. Tomorrow, retirement will become my new reality.
 I had often referred to my classroom as my second home. Indeed, it had become such a “comfortably” familiar place; I knew every crack in the floor. My room was an exciting, action-packed environment, filled with the chatter of young children eager to react to one another, learn and be heard; yet also a place where calmness and quiet would descend, and gently nudge its population to think deeper and absorb.
 My charges began the year as novices, unsure of how to function in such a large school “family,” and for the most part ended the year looking forward to learning and the lively camaraderie. I knew the nine-month journey wouldn't be easy by any means, but filled with hard work, disappointment, late hours, assimilation of new learning and the inevitable reconfiguring.
My great reward was amazing maturation and academic growth, which would become visible on the horizon in February, and then slowly creep closer into view, much like the gradual lengthening of daylight in winter's waning days. Every teacher knows the stealthy “magic” of March, where it all seems to come together.
 It's early evening on the last teacher workday I will ever have, and I'm still sorting and tossing, saving and packing a lifetime of teaching materials and memories. It's harder than I thought to let go.
My “skinny” drawer in my desk has proven to be the hardest task to conquer. It's the harbinger of the “heart” things—little notes and pictures from my students that say “I love you Mrs. K,” or “You are my favorite teacher.” I see precious jewelry custom-made just for me from rainbow-colored beads and pipe cleaners, and an extra swirly glass marble—just a couple of the array of great gifts I received during the year. There are cards of appreciation from parents that can uplift me again and again.
I never underestimated the power of the “skinny” drawer, for it motivated me to work harder, reach further and strive to do my very best.
Time for reflection in my home away from home is growing shorter. The room is warm, as it always is at the close of the year, and the cranky windows are open as wide as they will go. My boxes and baskets are ready to be loaded up for the trek home, and the phone message has been changed from my personal greeting to a more generic-sounding one, with no reference to my name.
 I move toward my desk to push the windows closed, as they sing their last off-key song to me. My purse and keys are in hand. I take one last look and think about all the precious children who passed through my door.
I shut off the lights and walk through that same door. I reach out to touch my nameplate on room No. 35, and smile.
June 7 was the last day that Kris Kroening, “Mrs. K,” worked for the Janesville School District. She taught kindergarten from 1992 to 1998 at Jefferson Elementary School and from 1998 to 2013 at Van Buren Elementary School. She began her career teaching in Waukesha and then worked in Eau Claire before coming to Janesville.

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