Fifth Grade

I distinctly remember my last day of fifth grade. I remember loading up my desk remnants into my bookbag. Broken pencils, smashed pieces of crayons, and little nubs of erasers falling out all over my area. I remember Mrs. Coughran, my fifth grade teacher, the one who had terrified me on the first day of school, for her direct eye contact and her “strict” reputation. I remember her being a little sad, but also proud. I remember her telling us that we would go on to do great things, all of us. I remember walking through the halls of the elementary school I had walked into as a shy, crying kindergartener. I remember stopping in to see my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Albright, who had taught us about outlining and fractions. I remember Mrs. Heim, my first grade teacher, grabbing me into a big hug and saying how she would miss my smiling face. I remember walking out of the building that day with my friends, waving, proud of what we had accomplished, but so uncertain and sad about what we were leaving, what lay ahead.

Yesterday was Jackson’s last instructional day of classes. In the real world, that would mean the rest of the week would be pure nonsense. Days of fun! Teacher versus Fifth Grade Kickball, a Fifth Grade Day of Fun, a graduation, to promote them to middle schoolers, to recognize their achievements, an all-school awards ceremony, where surely he would clean up. Instead, he logged onto a Zoom call to play a trivia game. (The teachers smoked the fifth graders, by the way, surely not the turnout the kickball game would have had.)

But it was fun. It was nice to see the smiling faces. It was something we’ve become accustomed to over the last two months, and it surely worked so well because of the relationship that had already formed in those seven months together as a cohesive unit. We don’t know at this point what next year will look like, and honestly, we aren’t trying to think too much about it. We are focusing on staying safe, talking to our friends when we can, and planning summer activities to take our minds far from where we are, even if our bodies don’t leave the house. In short: This has been different than what we expected, but we learned how to adjust our expectations. We learned to adapt. We learned, and isn’t that what school is all about?

Today Jackson is working on a letter to the fifth graders next year, a rite of passage the kids get on the first day. They get to read advice from the kids who sat in their seats the year before, they get let in on secrets, and jokes, and advice on how to get through fifth grade. He’s taking it seriously. He knows the importance of being a fifth grader, of being a leader, and he knows now, that not everything happens the way we wanted it to, or planned it to, and that’s okay. We will all be okay.

Hope you are okay today.

M.