Goodbye Ms. Duffy
By Kalen Marquis
Dedicated, with love,
to teachers far and wide.
Ms. Duffy was a teacher,
Teaching school her whole life.
Her career was like a marriage
And she made a loving wife.
She taught many children,
Many now far away.
She cared for every one. . .
Then sent them on their way.
The years had seemed to fly by,
Since her first class way back when.
The years she could count them,
By 2’s and 5’s and 10’s.
She recalled each class for something,
Though her memory began to wear.
That was what they left her,
Precious stories she could share.
She had treasured every moment,
Whether good or bad.
She had savoured every second . . .
Knowing time is all we have.
So, where was she this moment?
The only moment that she had
She was in her classroom
Strong emotions iron-clad.
The classroom walls were barren,
Bulletin boards stripped bare.
The chalkboards had all been wiped
Along with every desk and chair.
Insides of desks were empty
Pencil shavings curled here and there.
Students had all packed their books
And now sat there with that stare.
That stare was a special one
That only year-end may bring.
It yearned for something better—
To hear that school bell ring!
Summer would soon be here!
The last day had finally come!
June had gone in whizzing spurts!
A walk, a jog, a romp, a run!
But now, of course, it slowed,
Slowed almost to a stop.
It teetered like a two-wheel bike--
Ready to topple—FLOP!
Then Ms. Duffy saved them,
On this, their final day.
It wasn’t with more work
And it wasn’t with more play.
It was then that Ms. Duffy
Did what she always did.
Slipped pages from her briefcase
Where from others they were hid.
Those pages were old and wrinkled,
Tattered here and there.
But in ink she had written,
With the greatest heartfelt care.
Ms. Duffy took a deep breath
And then she seemed to wait.
This speech was like a will
A parceled-out estate.
Her lips began to tremble.
She could not keep them still.
Her throat began to choke up
And her eyes began to fill.
Although usually quite cool and crisp,
With a teacher’s calm control,
She cared for them all deeply. . .
These words they had to know.
Every word called out to her,
Each aching to be read,
And though tears began to fall
This is what she said:
My lips have begun to tremble,
On this, our final day.
I’ll hand out your report card
And send you on your way.
I’m thinking of the year that’s passed,
The ten months we’ve been through.
I’m thinking of all we know now
And the many ways we grew.
I’m thinking how I tried to guide you
For five full hours each day.
And then so exhausted. . .
We’d end another day.
I’m thinking of those hours
That you came on loan to me.
Once that classroom door would close
A family we would be.
I’m thinking how we shared each day
The “present” we called it then.
Each time I guided you to the past
The future called to us again.
Yes, we whizzed around the globe,
Sought knowledge here and there.
How we went like lookey-loos
To poke and prod and stare.
I loved book travel, carpet rides,
And the challenges we would face.
It seems they were a vision quest
To help you find your place.
Sometimes you’d go on journeys
But I couldn’t go along.
Off you’d go a-wandering
As you’d sing your special song.
Some days were dark and cloudy.
We choked on dust and chalk.
Some days were bright and sunny.
How we’d talk and talk and talk!
Some days we felt like prisoners.
We’d do anything to get out
Some days we’d laugh and cry
While others we’d scream and shout!
We all had times of interest.
At times we got the ‘bores’!
Sometimes we got the “Ah-hahs!”
While at times we got the snores.
Oh, we had all kinds of days,
We had great ups and downs.
We shared great smiles and tears
When I played the circus clowns.
There were times when I felt happy
And some times when I felt sad.
But I will always, always remember
The many adventures that we had.
Not every subject was my strong suit
But I tried to do my part
You were always so encouraging
You had such a big, big heart.
You helped me to learn new things.
Your excitement led the way.
And when we’d start to read and write
That, of course, was play.
We’d gobble up great stories from books
And write even better ones in our head.
Those stories were like a colourful quilt
All patched and sewn with thread.
Those patches were soft and colourful,
Though the needle could be sharp.
Those stories were sweet-sweet music
Floating gently from a harp.
Some stories were short and snappy
Made up from words that rhyme.
Some were long and rhythmic,
Extremely elegant and fine.
Those stories made school a game,
A game we played for fun.
To learn with joy is everything.
It made us number one!
Yes, there were those around us
Who didn’t like our ways.
They didn’t understand our jokes
And they’d forgotten how to play.
They said we couldn’t share our stories
There was no time for that.
They made learning into a flowchart
First this, then this, then that.
This flowchart was a serious game.
One with many rules.
It declared a winner “brilliant”
While branding others “fools.”
The game had tools for measuring,
To help us keep up our pace.
It tried hard to convince us
That learning was . . . a race?!
With it came long meetings
And plans for every day.
Learning could not unfold
There was no time for play!
This game was not so easy
With all its changing rules
But I stayed focused on the prize—
That’s YOU my precious jewels.
I listened to the refs and coaches
For they knew well the game.
I’d let them blow their whistle
Yet we’d go on again the same.
We were always kept so busy
So many “new” things to do.
But the only thing that mattered
Was the time I spent with you.
Obstacles were set before us.
We loved to race the race.
Ones we couldn’t go around, we hurdled,
And seldom lost our place.
Yes, I made you write the tests.
I gave you letter grades
But unlike those bits of paper,
Real learning never fades.
Such were our daily chit-chats
When hearts and minds would meet.
We celebrated small successes
And learned from sad defeat.
So, on and on we went
Continuing to learn and play.
I trusted you each to learn!
Gasp! It was natural you’d say.
There were times I’d see your smile
Shining patiently up at me.
Too “busy” to return them . . .
Uggh! I’d feel so guilty.
There were times I’d see your face,
Extremely sad and blue.
How I wished I could have fixed it,
Made everything alright for you.
But no, I couldn’t do it.
I could never do enough.
My job was never finished
That, at times, was tough.
I developed a thick skin
To protect my tender self.
I wanted to give you everything
Like Santa Claus’s elf.
Instead, each day we would talk
We’d listen and we’d cry.
We’d read and write and conjugate
And pass the seasons by.
So, the weeks moved steadily on
And soon the school year too.
At times I’d get so tired
I’d wonder what to do.
I wasn’t the greatest teacher.
There were better ones around.
Should I just keep on going?
Or have a new one found?
But then I’d think of you
And how very hard you’d try.
I’d think of all we’d accomplished
And give it one more try.
Yes, we would go on together.
I knew the reasons why.
The time we spent together
I could never afford to buy.
I’d still feel a little tired.
Perhaps I was getting old.
But I’d think of all we’d learned—
A chest of sparkling gold!
At times I seemed too crusty,
Rather mean and strict.
Teaching life’s lessons was my job.
For some those really clicked.
You came from different families.
You came with more or less.
But to me you were all equals
My classroom you did bless.
I did not care about your clothes
Or cars your parents would drive
I only cared about. . . YOU
And if you chose to strive.
You each had your learning needs
Which I tried so hard to fill.
But you could only hold so much
Before you’d start to spill.
I know school was not perfect,
No more perfect than you or me
But I will always believe in learning
And how it sets you free.
Each teacher has strong points
And they have weak points too.
They each have something to offer,
You’ll be better when they’re through.
I’d sometimes read in the paper
That teachers just don’t care.
I knew it wasn’t possible.
I knew their hushed despair.
I know they felt the weight
Of all there was to teach.
I know they felt the pressure
So many hearts and minds to reach.
They had to please the principal
And all the parents too.
But that really was not their job.
Their job, of course, was YOU!
I’d talk to all those teachers.
Remind them to take care.
I wanted them there for you.
Not hurt beyond repair.
I know humans are not perfect.
We all do the best we can.
It’s easier to judge or complain
Than to lend a helping hand.
For my many errors I apologize.
For achievements I want no thanks.
There are times the school bell chimes
And times it clinks and clanks.
I'd often sigh and grimace
When you’d fight about your play,
Let peace spread from playgrounds
Throughout the world one day.
But now the time is coming
I must send you on your way.
I will only be one teacher
Of so many along the way.
Every day we said, 'Good morning!”'
Every afternoon, “Goodbye!”
But now the school year’s ending.
It’s time for you to fly!
The school year is all but over.
You’ll soon be on your own.
It’s only ten months later. . .
And your teacher’s all alone.
I may see you in the future.
We may wave across the mall.
I may not even recognize you.
“Oh my, you’ve grown so tall!”
So, if you should ever see me,
See me standing on my own.
Do take time to introduce yourself.
Please come say “hello.”
“So, what’s that? You’re married?
You have a family of your own?
It only feels like yesterday.
Oh, how the time has flown.”
I hope that our paths may cross,
But it’s possible they will not.
But I will always remember you
In my old “forever” spot.
But alas, here we are.
We will say our last “goodbye.”
Our hearts are filled with laughter
And we’re trying not to cry.
A wink I will give you
As I send you on your way.
My love and hope go with you,
With you on this day.
Goodbye my dear students.
Goodbye my dear sweet class.
You’re moving on in life. . .
To the next grade you must pass.
Life has lessons to teach you.
There're new ones for each day.
Just take time to listen. . .
And learn and laugh and play!
Go bravely into the future.
You’ve got nothing to dread.
Just smile those sunny smiles
And remember all we’ve said.
Like you, I’m just a dreamer.
That’s why we got along.
Now it’s time for report cards.
It’s time to run along.
Teachers, you know, are talkers.
They should pay us by the word!
But today I will be listening!
Your story must be heard.
So please share a story.
Perhaps a memory or two.
Today’s our last day together.
It belongs to me and you.
* * *
So, they formed a Sharing Circle
They all sat knee to knee.
And their minds wandered back
Through all those memories.
Most shared a story,
A memory or two,
Except, of course, the shy ones
But that was okay too.
She handed them their reports
And sent them on their way.
Wondering what their future held
Would they meet again one day?
She gave them each a wink
And they returned a great big smile.
They walked smartly into the future
In Ms. Duffy’s grown-up style.
They took with them her love,
The heart that she had bared.
She took with her their stories,
The memories they had shared.
She picked up her worn briefcase,
Clutched a flower pot in her palm,
Flicked the rows of lights off,
And walked out cool and calm.
Her heels clicked down the hallway,
Through those front doors at last.
She clicked across the schoolyard,
So calm and cool and fast.
She took one last look behind her,
A tiny teardrop in her eye.
Her heart welled up inside her.
She had said her last goodbye.
© 1991 Kalen Marquis