For me, it’s the sound of an overly filled trashcan rolling down a darkened hallway strewn with torn paper and boxes in stacks that spells the end. For them, it’s the sweltering air at mid morning recess, less homework, and no more tests that issues fair warning that summer break is nigh. After dismissal this afternoon, the building quiet of the ever present, boundless energy of children, but abuzz with teachers’ activity within the singular rooms, it hit me – the lump welling until it was unmistakably bursting within the walls of my throat. I am leaving. This afternoon, the eve before I send fifth graders into their first of many transitions and one step into their vast educational endeavors, I am mystified that the next time I’m here, it will be brimming with exuberant fanfare so different than this quiet moment I have alone with the building – the promotion exercises to be held in the morning, followed by a reception, and classroom awards. Each year is bittersweet – sending students on to a new year; this year will be particularly challenging as I will no longer be an elementary school teacher nor an elementary school parent. The journey to the end each year, while joyful, make the milestones, initiated with a group of awkward strangers who magically are woven into a diverse classroom family painful to achieve. In a little more than 12 hours, the group I’ve grown so accustomed to will no longer be mine, and my experiment of teaching my own child will finish, and the anticipated last day will be here. I never expected to close so many chapters at once – leaving elementary school, leaving special education, my child growing so quickly. When I started teaching, two weeks after my wedding, PL 105-17 was on the horizon – but not yet passed, IEPs were handwritten on triplicate forms, and email was new. Now, seventeen years later, I have a high schooler and my youngest is finishing in elementary school; I finally feel like I’m grown up enough to teach high school English. In the years in between, I’ve done my best to advocate for hundreds of kids, met countless parents, given haircuts, ridden school buses, taught cursive and multiplying decimals, swabbed bloody noses, made state models out of flour paste, searched lost and found too many times, had bubble gum contests and arm wrestling competitions, played basketball, kickball, and three legged races, produced yearbooks, and snapped thousands of pictures of the wonder of what eleven and under can be. Tomorrow I promote 24, make remarks about their endeared characteristics, and on Friday watch them circle the corridor for their last time, my last time, with helium balloons in their hands ready to take flight and it’s the hardest goodbye I’ve had yet. It’ll be my last elementary class as a teacher and parent – and the last time I teach letter formations staying within the lines of wide ruled notebook paper, modeling reading with a finger following words on a page from left to right and top to bottom, and how to walk in line in the hallway. I can’t help but feel a bit like I’m deserting even though it’s into my next adventure, years in the making. Best of luck to my class this year and thank you for making me realize it was time and I could jump ship.