At over-night summer camp, relationships can seem to grow faster than weeds. Kids of all ages legitimize the seriousness of their new-found loves by explaining that “one camp day is like one normal week.” Meaning, if you stick with someone for the duration of a four week camp session, it’s as if you’ve been dating for four months. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means mocking the ratio; after all, I married my camp love. That being said, it is quite hilarious every time an adolescent explains this principle in complete earnestness.
Today left me thinking that maybe a classroom isn’t so different. My kindergarteners and first graders came to their first day of school last Wednesday; we just finished our eighth day together. Our eighth day was also one students’ last day. Antonio’s mom can no longer transport him back and forth; his sister is starting Pre-K at his neighborhood school, so he will be joining her in the 1st grade there.
Last year, I experienced massive transience within my class. Over half of the group I started with transferred out at some point, and over half the group that I ended with hadn’t started with us. Typically, I didn’t know that a given day was a student’s last, and I definitely never knew when a new friend would show up at our door. Because I had no advanced knowledge of the roster changes, kids just came and went without a lot of pomp and circumstance. When someone wasn’t in school for a few days, the other kids would announce, “Oh, I guess he transferred.”
This time, I knew it was Antonio’s last day, and I decided to take full advantage of this privilege. I saved a few minutes before dismissal for Antonio to talk about where he will be next week and beyond, why he is switching schools, and how he was feeling about it. The other students then had a chance to ask him questions and wish him well. Their comments were powerfully sincere and full of love. “I’m really going to miss you Antonio because I think you were my best friend.” “I hope you have good luck at your new school.” “I noticed that you’re really nice so I think the other kids will like you.” “Are you going to visit?” “Do you think you’ll come back next year?” “I had to change schools once after pre-school and I was sad too.” “I think you’re really fun to play with.” “Thank you for sitting by me at lunch yesterday.” “Is Mrs. A still going to be your teacher?” (Now that would be some serious multi-tasking talent on my behalf.)
Antonio was sad to be leaving, but I’d like to think that the love the other kids showed him gave him extra strength for his move. And though the rest of the class was disappointed to learn of Antonio’s departure, at least they had the closure of knowing where he is going and why. We’ve only been together as a class for eight days, but in camp time that would be eight weeks. It’s clearly the only possible explanation: the relationships amongst these kids are already so strong because one school day is equivalent to a “normal” week. Our classroom community is at least eight-weeks-young.