Tuesday, November 3, 2009


It’s a funny thing, this feeling. I vividly remember the first time I experienced some form of it. I was nine years old. My birthday party, that my mom and I had been excitedly planning for some time, had just wrapped up. The guests had gone home, the mess put away, and I was sitting with my mom in our living room.

‘Mama, I feel…sad? I feel like, we just looked forward to it so much and now it’s over?’

She smiled at me. ‘Anti-climax girlie. That’s the feeling you’re experiencing. When you are looking forward to something a lot, preparing and getting excited for it for some time, there are certain expectations that go along with how it will turn out. Then the day comes and goes, and even if it’s a wonderful day, where everything goes as planned, there is often a feeling of sadness or being let down that follows because it all over. Feeling this way is normal.’ And then she gave me a big hug.

Throughout my life there have been a number of occasions upon which I have had the confusing sadness associated with this feeling, they were usually after a big event that I have put a lot of time and energy into planning.

Which is why I initially felt confused about why I feel this way today.

I sat and thought about it for a bit in my classroom just now. And then it came to me.

I will be away from school for the next three days, and exams officially start on Monday, meaning this is my last day of classes with my students for the year. In addition, the Grade 12s, whom I taught in Grade 11 and many of whom spent a lot of time in my classroom this year despite my not being their teacher, are leaving. When they finish their exams in a couple weeks, there is a good chance I will never see any of them again. This makes me sad.

My two classes of grade 11s, whom I taught last year and again this year, and with whom I have connected and established what I believe is a good educator-learner relationship will likely be taught by another teacher next year. As I am not officially employed by the state’s Department of Education the management of Fezeka is wary of giving me a grade 12 class for administrative and accountability purposes.

The Grade 10s, whom I have struggled with since the beginning of the year, who are routinely very challenging when it comes to eking out any sort of class participation, the majority of whom are completely apathetic about their learning, despite my best efforts to the contrary, are likely the only students I will continue with next year. Not that this is in any way a negative thing, just the way things are.

And then there are the feelings of self-doubt in regards to my teaching and how well the students will do on their exams. Are they prepared enough? Have I done enough? I want to think that I have, but the pudding with the proof will ultimately be the test.

But the anti-climax…

Saying goodbye is never easy. Its one of the things I do worst. And saying goodbye to these kids, kids I’ve spent so much time with over the past two years, who have come to me when they need advice, who have shared their life stories with me, who smile when I pass them by, who feel so flattered when I remember their name or to ask them about something that I know is going on in their lives, just the thought of these goodbyes brings tears to my eyes.

And yes, this is part and parcel of the teaching profession, to which those who are teachers can attest. But with these kids…I don’t know. I feel different? Perhaps it’s the freedom with which they speak with me, how much about themselves, their lives, their communities, that they are willing, wanting to share.

Perhaps it’s because I have become so connected with them not just in a teaching capacity but in the extra-curricular activities I have involved myself in, both in and out of school. Perhaps my open-door policy has something to do with it. Or perhaps it is because I know that for many of these kids – far too many of them have no one to listen to them – I am one of, if not the, only adult figure in their lives with whom they can open up, ask any question, without the fear of rejection or abuse. Who knows? These are of course, all assumptions and hypotheses and can also be way off on all of it.

I don’t know.

The only thing I can speak to with absolute certainty is how I’m feeling right now. And about how much I will miss these kids when they leave.

1 comment:

JB said...

Hi Alex, I'm a friend of Swallows Khume (we worked together on a digital story-telling project in August 2008), and I'm hoping to visit Fazeka when I come back to CT in January. I came across your blog looking for info on the school. I've just read some of your recent posts. As a teacher (albeit in another world, a US prep school), I can relate to the emotional let down of the end of a school year. Also, since I've spent some time in township schools, I've had a taste of the conditions you teach under and the outrage you share at the contrast between well-funded and neglected schools. I'll just say "bon courage" and best wishes for the summer break. Perhaps we'll meet in 2010.