Falling Short

from airpix’s flickr

Yesterday was the last day of school. So it’s been maybe 30 hours since I said goodbye to my students. This past week was as normal as possible. We finished our final read aloud (The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg) just yesterday. We kept up our independent reading and writing until Thursday. We were playing math games up through Wednesday. We were working on a social studies project based assessment through Thursday. It was a fun, fabulous week.

Now, 30 hours later, after a retirement party for a friend and former colleague (that was much of a family reunion in many ways) and several hours spent in our classroom I am feeling haunted. Several faces are haunting me. Constantly in my head, reminding me of the ways I didn’t do what they needed me to do.

One student who has been emotionally quite fragile for a few weeks. Easily upset, prone to tears. I couldn’t figure out why. But I didn’t work hard enough to do so.

Another one felt bullied for much of the year (not while in our classroom or from classmates, thank goodness) and seemed to be questioning their sexuality. I felt wholly unequipped to support this child and didn’t do enough.

Another faced housing instabilities for months. This one asked me every week, during our visit to the library, what books my girls liked. This one would try any book I recommended. This one needed more from me.

Another is moving to a new school next year. The years at our school have been a challenge, but good ones. The family has worked closely with us to ensure this student has been as successful as possible. Change is hard for this precious, awesome child. I should have done more to support them and their family as they transition away from us.

Two others faced extreme trauma in their young lives. They are such fantastic kids whom I adore. They struggle with many things as a result of the trauma they lived through. They needed more from me.

I had one who moved away. Moved to a district that hasn’t provided even the bare minimum of support this child needs. I should have done more.

That’s a third of my class. But there are more faces that haunt me. Faces that float through my mind. Beautiful, brilliant, amazing children. Children with so much potential. Children who are already giving so much to our world. Children who deserve so much better.

They’ll get postcards and letters from me this summer. Messages meant to encourage and support them. Messages that mostly, probably, will only serve to make me feel a smidge better.

Every summer, for the past nineteen summers, I’ve spent at least some time beating myself up for what I didn’t do. This summer, though, my twentieth in the classroom, is the worst so far. In the past my self-flagellation has been more general. Not specific to individual children. Or, at least, not to so many individual children.

It could be a long summer.

3 replies on “Falling Short”

  1. mthayer_nj says:

    Jen –

    Sometimes we forget that we’re human beings first, teachers second, and that we have limitations. I hope you can get to a place where you remember: you quite likely did everything you could in the moments you had with your kids. Knowing you, I’m entirely sure you did.

    If it is to be a long summer, I wish it to be a peaceful one for you & your family.


    • jenorr says:


      Thank you. We had a wonderful year and I know there is much to celebrate. I’m trying to figure out the balance between celebrating the good and reflecting on the rest in order to do better next year. I believe both are important but I don’t want one to drown out the other.

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