Never has a class treated me the way this group of fifth graders reacted on our last Read Aloud day together.
I have a bulletin board full of students' drawings and thank you notes. Students routinely give me hugs and bookmarks and lots of applause. In almost 20 years of reading to fourth- and fifth-graders at Piedmont Elementary School, I've received flowers and books, origami, Christmas ornaments, candy and even a Frosty coupon once. I don't mean to say that previous classes haven't shown appreciation.
But this year, on our last day, I couldn't get out of the room.
We had just finished "The Hound of the Baskervilles" by Arthur Conan Doyle, followed by a few funny short stories to round out the hour and leave them laughing.
They had testing the rest of this week, then a class trip next week and then it's the end of school. So this was it. Next year they are off to middle school. The sense of impending separation grew as the minutes ticked by, just for me, I thought.
Then, it started with one student; let's call him John. I caught just a hint of reproach in his voice when John asked if I remembered saying I might read them "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, as he had asked me to do months ago. Yes, I remembered, but Sherlock Holmes took longer than I expected and we ran out of time.
"It's only five chapters," he said, eying the clock.
This prompted Eva to remind me that I had agreed to bring more Shakespeare, as she had requested weeks ago.
"I know. I intended to," I apologized. "But Sherlock took longer than I expected." Even abridged, it was a challenge, and those students rose to it. They followed clues, asked good questions and formed hypotheses. We could have done another Shakespeare play in the time we had, but I really wanted something comical and easy for them at the very end. She nodded, understandingly.
"But," I promised, "I can give you the name of another excellent Shakespeare play that has been done in the same format as the ones we read. It is fantastic."