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Parent blog: The end of elementary school

EdNews Colorado writer Julie Poppen reflects on the end of her daughter’s elementary school experience and looks ahead with excitement (mostly).

I didn’t cry as I plunged a scooper into the container of partially melted chocolate ice cream.

It was the last day of school. These kids – my daughter – are done with their elementary years. And to celebrate, they ate way too much ice cream slathered in whipped cream, gummy bears, sprinkles and maybe a little fruit if the parent volunteers were doing their jobs correctly.

The tears came in the classroom before we headed outside to binge on sundaes. And they were from my eyes, not my daughter’s.

She’s our only child, so she’s the oldest and the youngest wrapped up into one beautiful package. (I can feel her eyes roll now).

The parents sat in chairs in the classroom. The kids clustered on the floor. We all faced the teacher, who stood up front, reading a reflection of the year written in between near drowning incidents at a pool in Longmont where the students celebrated the end of an era. She described getting to know these students over the school year. She shared what she would remember about each child. She cried. She wanted to make sure parents weren’t videotaping this unguarded moment. Then, she showed slides featuring school pictures for each child from every year, beginning with kindergarten. How she had time to put these together I just don’t know.

And yeah, that’s about when I reached into my pocket for some Kleenex.

My 10-year-old daughter had an excellent year this year. And you can’t always say that about school. The harder years have their place too because that’s how our kids really learn – about life, about finding your path, about leaving things behind that aren’t right for you.

This year I watched her love learning and push herself again, both academically and socially, thanks to a teacher who was the perfect fit for her at exactly the right time.

It was a year of projects – simulating the experiences of new immigrants who came through Ellis Island, of sleeping overnight at Cal-Wood – an outdoor education center in the mountains, of making new friends. Even through the sudden loss of a much-loved grandmother just before the holidays, who was a huge part of her (our) lives, our daughter has come out strong.

And now she heads to a new world entirely. She’ll have to advocate for herself even more, learn to say “no” to unhealthy temptations (Instagram!) and continue to cement quality friendships. It will be a place – we hope – of even more inspired teaching and learning, friends and fun.

The nurturing vibe of our elementary school, with its garden beds, public art and the bike racks (ever lively gathering place for parents and kids alike, even on bitter winter days) will still be there next year – buzzing with activity.

But we won’t.

She’ll be headed to middle school, a much bigger and more institutional-looking place. But we’ve heard that its walls contain a place of vibrant learning and incredible teachers. Yes, there will be social pressures too. So, it is with mixed emotions we take this next step. Middle school, here we come.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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