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Goodbye Ms. Duffy


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