Last Day of School: Saying 'Bye for the Summer
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
For 61 million schoolchildren, it is one of the biggest days of the year. Watching that big, round clock creep toward 3:00 and then -
(Soundbite of Alice Cooper's School's Out for Summer)
NORRIS: Waking up late the next morning and feeling the long, slow weeks of summer stretching out ahead. And of course those famous 11 words, no more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks.
SIEGEL: For a snapshot of what it was like this year, we asked reporters around the country to bring us the sounds of the last day of school. We begin in Wichita, Kansas, with reporter Carla Eckels.
(Soundbite of children at swimming pool)
CARLA ECKELS reporting:
It's a hot, sunny day and about 35 elementary students and teachers at New Zion Christian Academy are celebrating the year's end at a backyard swim party.
Unidentified Student: I'm glad because it's the last day of school because we get to go to places like Chuck E. Cheese, or YMCA.
Unidentified Student #2: I'm going swimming and skating.
Unidentified Student #3: The best part of summer is being out of school.
Unidentified Student #4: Because I get to run track and I hope I make it to nationals this year like I did last year.
Ms. MARY MAGEE(ph) (Teacher, New Zion Christian Academy): Mary Magee. I'm a teacher. Science and chemistry.And I look forward to going to Kenya for the summer. Forget about the books and the deal for a little while. And look forward to the next time of year.
ECKELS: This is a Christian school and to end the year the students launch into one of their favorite gospel songs.
(Soundbite of children singing and laughing)
GLORIA HILLARD reporting:
This is Gloria Hillard at Miller Elementary in Burbank, California, where the last day of school for the fifth graders headed for middle school next year means saying have a nice summer, again and again in writing.
Unidentified Child #5: You didn't sign it.
Unidentified Child #6: I signed yours already.
HILLARD: 168 very energetic fifth graders, all looking for a flat surface to write on.
Unidentified Child #7: Did I sign yours?
Unidentified Child #8: Yeah. You did.
Unidentified Child #9: I'll miss you.
HILLARD: Danielle Monica was wearing a men's extra-large T-shirt, covered with black Sharpie.
Ms. DANIELLE MONICA (Student, Miller Elementary, Burbank, California): I'm just going around getting names from everybody so that I can remember in the future that everybody signed my shirt and that I have good memories of fifth grade and what happened to me.
HILLARD: There was a long line of autograph seekers for Judy Hession, the school principal.
Unidentified Child #10: Well, pretty much not going to see her next year unless we visit. I'm going to miss her. We want her autograph to remember her.
HILLARD: For fifth grade teacher Craig Bugbee, this was a last opportunity to tell his students that they were special.
Mr. CRAIG BUGBEE (Teacher, Miller Elementary, Burbank, California): Okay, without crying. Victoria, I'm going to miss you. You'll always be my fifth grade angel. Oh, see. I know I'll see you later. You touched my heart. Here. You read it.
VICTORIA: You touched my heart. You - what's that word?
Mr. BUGBEE: You make me proud.
VICTORIA: You'll, you'll -
Mr. BUGBEE: Be.
VICTORIA: Be a success -
Mr. BUGBEE: A success in middle school and in life.
DAVID SCHAPER reporting:
I'm David Schaper in Chicago at a place called the Fireside Restaurant and Lounge. It's a place where on the last day of school after the kids have gone home, many Chicago public school teachers gather to reflect upon the year.
Ms. RAMONA TEGALDES(ph) (Third Grade Teacher, Kilmer Elementary, Chicago, Illinois): I'm Ramona Tegaldes at Kilmer Elementary. I teach third grade and we're here, sharing a glass of wine, commiserating about the year and feeling a bit happy and toasting and saluting each other and the year that has just gone by.
SCHAPER: This is a tradition here at Fireside for Kilmer's teachers and teachers from other nearby Chicago schools and not just on the last day of school but on many Fridays throughout the school year.
Ms. TEGALDES: Truthfully, without these people sitting at the table, it would be very difficult to do my job. I think it is very difficult to teach in this society and if you don't have support from your fellow colleagues, it's an impossible job to do if you're really wanting to do it well, because it is so draining and consuming.
SCHAPER: But the job of Chicago public school teacher, which can be so frustrating at times, also has its rewards. For Tegaldes, three children from Somalia and Liberia stand out.
Ms. TEGALDES: I have had three refugee students come to my classroom who absolutely spoke not a word of English, were petrified and when you see them at the end of the year and they have blossomed, they're communicating, it says it all. And that's what education is all about.
(Soundbite of graduation march)
CLAUDIO SANCHEZ reporting:
This is Claudio Sanchez.
High school graduation in Lafayette, Louisiana, was different this year. Thousands of evacuees who fled Katrina settled in this city northwest of New Orleans. At Lafayette High, students for the most part befriended and embraced those who had lost so much. For graduating seniors standing in line waiting to get their diploma, Katrina offered lessons for just about everybody to ponder. Like 18-year-old Mark Tosa(ph).
Mr. MARK TOSA (Graduating Senior, Lafayette High School): I made friends with some kids who came fresh from New Orleans and I think that they might have changed me a little. Other people's problems seem to matter more now.
Ms. ASHLEY CULPEPPER (Graduating Senior, High School): My name is Ashley Culpepper. I go to Lafayette High School and I'm 18 years old. I think personally this is something that was almost God-sent to show us that there's still love down here, you know? Like we're still here for each other and it's great.
Mr. ALEX HILLARD(ph) (Graduating Senior, High School): My name is Alex Hillard. I'm 18. It was a great school year. We're really excited to take in all these different types of people, wherever they're from. I think we all feel like we helped out in some sort of way, small or big.
DEIRDRE KENNEDY reporting:
I'm Deirdre Kennedy in San Francisco.
(Soundbite of children playing ball)
It sounds like fireworks, but it was basketball that kicked off the celebration at Alice Fong Yu Elementary School. Fourth-graders shooting hoops at this Chinese immersion school had these parting words for their teachers.
Unidentified Child #11: (Speaking foreign language)
Which means, we'll never see you again.
Unidentified Child #12: We might not see you again. Until next year.
KENNEDY: All the classes here are taught in Cantonese or Mandarin and English. Despite the tough program, even second-graders like Anya Chang(ph) had mixed feelings about leaving.
Ms. ANYA CHANG (Second Grade Student, Alice Fong Yu Elementary School): I'm really happy. We had a really big party and I had lots of my favorite thing, but I'm sad because my friends are going to leave me and they're going to be in a different class.
KENNEDY: The high point of the day, for the kindergarteners at least, ice cream sandwiches. A teacher tells them in Cantonese to say thank you.
Unidentified Woman: (Speaking foreign language)
KENNEDY: As the afternoon went on, it was pretty much chaos until that final 3:30 bell.
(Soundbite of ringing bell)
Unidentified Child #13: School's out!
Unidentified Child #14: School's out!
Unidentified Child #15: School's out! Summer time.
Unidentified Child #16: Freedom! Freedom! We're free from school!
SIEGEL: You can see photos and hear more sounds from the last day of school at our web site, NPR.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.