What a bittersweet morning it was as I woke up, ate breakfast, and walked to school for the last time with the boys. As I walked up to the two first grade classes on the patio, I was bombarded with hugs, handmade cards and stickers. One of my favorite aspects of this culture is their expression of affection and emotion, and I was showered with it all day. Walking to our room with one girl wrapped around my leg and two more holding on to my hands could have been annoying but today I wanted to soak it all up. Miss. Mary warned me that she was going to have me take girls into the hallway individually so they could make a surprise. When I walked inside at the end of the class, they gave me a collection of paper circles, one from each girl, bound together to look like a Christmas ornament. I fawned over the gift and told the girls how all my friends and family would want to know where I got the beautiful ornament. It really was a sweet idea, and I will always think of my time here when I hang it on my tree. We had a few spare minutes before going to our 5th grade class, so we stopped in the staff room and I exchanged gifts with Miss. Mary. I gave her a bottle of honeysuckle scented lotion from a local shop in Bowling Green. She was fascinated by the concept of honeysuckle. I also gave her three children’s books to add to her collection. One from three of my favorite series: Little Critter, the Berenstain Bears, and Amelia Bedelia. She gave me a caca tio, a Catalan Christmas tradition, that I could share with my future class. Also, a beautiful pair of earrings, candy, and a kind note. I have really lucked out with all the cooperating teachers that I have worked with during my undergraduate career. Miss. Mary’s creativity, patience, and kindness made her such a joy to work with, and I will miss her very much!
Next class was with the 5th graders and Miss. Mary surprised me again with cookies for us all to share. She even decorated the box of cookies! Since I only have these girls for one class, I gave them my gifts of a penny and a Kentucky pencil. I think they were excited to receive a present, and I hope the gifts will help them remember me. After working on the five themes of geography, we took a class picture, and I said goodbye. The next class was the other first grade class, so it was a repeat of working with the girls in the hall and exclaiming over the ornament. My last class before lunch was my final session with the first class, so I gave them their presents and reviewed the different textures we can feel. I made sure to get a class photo with them as well.
After an hour break before lunch, Miss. Mary and I headed down to the library for our farewell lunch. The laughter and comfortable conversations among the Spanish and American teachers filled the room. We enjoyed a pizza party Spanish style with eggplant and sausage pizza, Coca Cola and lemon meringue pie for dessert. Next, one of the directors thanked us for our time and recognized us individually with a gift bag including a yearbook, school magazine, and tshirt. We took a few pictures then headed to the patio to collect our students. We had the other first grade class for the rest of the afternoon, so we taught them the science lesson, I read them a book, then gave them their surprises and took a class photo. As we walked out of the school to where the parents pick up the children, I really started to get sentimental. I hugged and kissed as many of the girls as I could and held it together pretty well until I saw Kira! I think it was a little bit more sad saying goodbye here than in the U.S. because we know that we will most likely never see these students again. Kira’s words were so true when she said, “I just love kids. It doesn’t matter what country I’m in.” As sad as it was, it was a lovely reminder that I find a great deal of satisfaction in my future profession. It really hit me when I came home to my host family this afternoon how little time I have left. Tonight, all the WKU students are going ice skating and out to dinner to celebrate our last day of student teaching. Tomorrow I’m visiting a small beach village, Coasta Brava, with my host family. Saturday morning I leave for Rome, return to Barcelona on Monday morning and fly home Tuesday morning! I’ll be home before I know it, but for today, I will just enjoy the moments and be thankful for this life-changing experience.