1. The energy.
The way your students scurried in just before the tardy bell and rushed out at lunchtime. How they were always a flurry of laughter and gossip and fake-punching and hair-braiding and gum-smacking. How the room hummed when they were working in groups. Never totally silent. Never empty.
2. The drama.
The boyfriend-girlfriend, BFF-frenemy, he-said-she-said constant flow of crap that used to drive you crazy, but made you realize how much growing up sucks. (And how thankful you are to have made it through.) Now you’ll find yourself missing the mid-lecture Twitter fights, intercepting their love notes, and stealing their phones. You’ll miss their problems—sometimes silly, sometimes serious—that filled your daily life and in a strange way, gave you purpose.
3. Your students’ uniqueness.
Your students were trying to discover themselves, trying to fit in, trying to stand out, trying to understand school and life and significant others and how to be cool but not too cool. They rocked strange hairstyles and crazy clothing and changed and stayed the same and reminded you, day after day, that it’s okay to be unapologetically yourself.
4. The way you became such an important factor in the lives of so many miniature humans.
You’ll miss how your students would find you during your prep period and pour their hearts out. You’ll miss making them laugh, consoling them, and promising them that life would eventually get better. You’ll also miss the smiles, the hugs, and the little embraces that were constant reminders of the beauty in being human.
5. The pointless questions.
These used to drive you absolutely crazy. But each question showed that your kids cared. They wanted to know. (Or they wanted to annoy you). But ultimately, they wanted your time. And as annoying as those ‘Why?’ ‘How?’ ‘But why?’ questions were—each one was an indications of your student-teacher relationships.
6. The weird pictures, notes, and scribbles.
If you taught the younger grades, you’ll miss the countless stick-figure drawings of a human holding an apple and smiling at a chalkboard. If you had older students, you’ll miss the ‘I don’t get what you’re asking so I’m just going to write something. Here. Done.’ notes on their pop quizzes or the swirly designs in the margins. Simple things, but little things that showed you who they were as people.
7. The way that every day was a new adventure.
(Isn’t that the truth.) You were always on your feet—either diffusing a drama-bomb, restructuring a lesson because they completely didn’t get it, or going into a deep, but relevant conversation that changed the entire direction of the class. No day, no class period was ever the same.
8. The smells.
Which included, but were not limited to: Axe cologne, sweat, chlorine, coffee, crayons, fruity lotion, breakfast food, grass, and candy. A strangely comforting scent, when you look back.
9. The random bursts of laughter.
This happened about anything, really. In a lesson, in a side-conversation, at the end of the day. Your students were always making you laugh. And, of course, teaching you about what was ‘ratchet’ or totally ‘dope.’
10. Your students’ positivity.
This came unsolicited. Sometimes on your toughest days. Sometimes when you least expected it. They would hang back after class and whisper that they were thankful for you on their way out. They would give you a letter on your desk in their imperfect, scrawled handwriting saying how you changed their lives. Or they told you, in the corner of their paper, that you meant the world to them. And even now, as you remember, it still brings you to tears.