It’s the Beginning of the End

Brookline Tab, May 2000

The school year is coming to an end and I don’t know if I’m ready. There are so many school events to keep track of and so much planning to do, not to mention the mix of emotions that come with this time of year. People don’t always realize it, but end-of-school is just as much work as back-to-school — except there are no store sales to guide you. Thank goodness this town knows how to wrap up a school year in style. The moment those Flag Day flags appear on School Street, I know that school is almost over and that summer is here (despite the 58-degree weather). But even with all that Brookline does to bring the year to a close, or perhaps because of it, this time of year spells chaos, emotion, and an action-packed calendar for most parents.

The details we parents have to keep track of this time of year are staggering: there’s the end-of-school breakfasts, picnics, and concerts to remember. There’s also the proms and awards banquets for the older students. In my family, for the last week of school, I have an event to think about or attend almost every day or evening — and that is for only one of my children, my Lincoln second-grader. Like the other elementaries here in Brookline, Lincoln does an outstanding job preparing its children for the end of the year, but that means a lot of events to attend. Things wind down, but not slowly, and not in a free-for-all kind of way. The parent breakfasts are social opportunities, as well as learning experiences. They are often designed around presentations by the students. My son’s class will be hosting a “Rainforest Breakfast” and will demonstrate the breadth and depth of their Amazon Rainforest unit, in which they learned about the different geography, animal life, cultures, and literature of that part of the world, using music, stories, art, and scientific experiments to do so.

But the breakfast is only one of many thoughtful ways that the schools finish strong here. There are also the field trips our students take to Castle Island, Georges Island, the Public Garden, Larz Anderson Park, and seemingly every other green space within a ten-mile radius. These allow children and teachers to enjoy each other less formally than they have been, to expose kids to the local culture and the sunshine that’s luring them anyway. They also perform the valuable function of providing a way for the end of the year to fully sink in. And in the evenings, there are the awards dinners at the high school, the Brookline Foundation teacher celebration, and the family concerts. All of these are designed to foster pride in our children or their teachers’ accomplishments, to recapitulate valuable lessons learned, and to say a proper good-bye.

Perhaps that is what is the most unsettling to me about this time of year: saying good-bye. It is bittersweet to finish a school year; you are moving on to the next thing, or to summer fun, yet you are leaving behind something that occupied you fully for the year. I find myself getting teary-eyed when I drop my son off these days, when I think that next year it will be a different teacher and a different grouping of kids to get used to. No more Ms. Olson. No more Shamrock the Guinea Pig. I am going to miss them almost as much as my son will.

I’m thankful that the schools here are so mindful of the high emotional pitch of this time of year and that there are so many ways to end on a good note. It’s every bit as important to the families as it is to the students and the school staff to acknowledge the end of things, to celebrate what has been achieved, and to clear the way for what’s to come. I guess I’m ready. I just have to figure out how to bake Rainforest Muffins. Maybe I’ll just bring paper napkins to the breakfast. I’ve got enough to think about!