As another school year comes to a close, we have been taking party in many fun end-of-year activities and events. As excited as I am for summer break to finally get here, some of the festivities have been a little bittersweet.
Aside from the gut-wrenching realization that my youngest child is graduating from kindergarten in three days, I had to say goodbye to my art class students last week. (What? Didn’t I just write about my first day?!) I held it together and didn’t shed any tears, but it was a really special day that I will always treasure.
After over 12 glue sticks and countless hours of mounting and assembling about 140 art projects into twenty organized, neat little portfolio books, we met in the art room one last time.
I hung up all of the art examples we created throughout the year and displayed all of the fine art prints we studied. The stack of portfolios sat at the front of the room and I set out some fun snacks on the tables for us to enjoy. We were going out in style.
When the kids walked in they were immediately surprised and very excited.
They sat down around me and we talked about the fun we had and things we learned. I told them how amazed I was, not only with how much they learned and remembered, but how much they improved. I reminded them of how much trouble some of them had just writing their names (backwards letters, mispellings) and using scissors (some literally did not know how) in the beginning, and how now they are writing words and sentences perfectly, using scissors like pros, and their art skills had drastically improved as well. But what I was most impressed by, I told them, was how respectful they were to me and how excited they were about each of our classes.
These are some really incredible kids.
I told them, that even if they didn’t remember anything else I taught them the entire year, I had one last story to read that I wanted them to always remember.
I read them Ish.
(It’s a story about a boy who learns that when it comes to art (and life), things don’t have to be perfect. Thinking “ish-ly” is far more wonderful than “getting it right”. A beautiful story that I highly recommend for all kids, and it isn’t a bad idea for us grown-ups to be reminded of this message now and again either.)
I then called each of the kids up to the front of the room one at a time and had them share with the class what their favorite project was, or something they learned in class as I presented them with a medal I made.
On the back I wrote a message:
They were thrilled with these and wore them proudly.
We then partied like kindergarteners and snacked on grapes, fish crackers and jelly beans. It was so fun to relax with them and talk to them about summer plans, next year and whatever other random topics they brought up. Kindergarteners are really cool people.
Later, as I distributed the portfolios I received many individual hugs, one epic group hug, and several exclamations such as “You’re the best art teacher ever!” and “I’m going to miss you!” and “Thank you, Miss Candy!”
And then my heart swelled to twice its size and melted all over the floor.
All the time and energy spent preparing for classes, researching projects and artists, collecting supplies, cleaning tables and paintbrushes, hanging (then later removing) artwork in the school hallway, and creating those portfolios were completely and totally worth it, one hundred percent.
Seeing those kids enjoy creating art was such a joy. Hearing them talk about art concepts in their day-to-day conversations with each other was amazing. Getting to know the kids in my son’s class, the kids he will grow up with and remain friends with for many years to come, was fun. Exposing young kids to fine art and real-life professional artists is important and necessary. And watching those kids discover that they “can” instead of “can’t” was priceless.
I’m really going to miss those kids, but I look forward to possibly doing it again next year!