Hi my lovelies.

I’m sorry for not saying goodbye to every one of you today; I was tired, bone tired in a way that only substitute teaching for 12 years can do to you, and I dragged myself out at the earliest possible moment, barely registering the faces I passed as I made my way out. As are many momentous moments in life, my departure today was small, and passed unnoticed. One less car in the lot. A casual wave goodbye to the security guards. A hug from a kindergartener passing by. Today was my last day as your substitute teacher.

I want to thank you for the notes, and the drawings, and the cards, your indefatigable Facebook friend requests, your invitations to plays and basketball games and dinner at Denny’s, your advice on love and life, your companionship on the benches when I was forced to supervise you during P.E. because you were acting like a shithead. Without your sage, blistering honesty, never would I have known quite how fugly that jumpsuit really was, or how certifiably insane I looked when I cut those mental patient bangs. Thank you for teaching me how to draw a minion. Thank you for letting me teach you how to make a fortune teller. One million times. You have to cut it into a square first. Never mind, I’ll just do it for you.

It sounds so nice, doesn’t it? It’s been a really special part of my  life. Why then, you ask, would I leave you now, deep in the trenches of your academic careers? Well, it’s true that to you I owe these lovely and priceless gifts, both material and experiential. However, it is also to you that I owe an acute twitch in my left eye, a running total of nine prematurely gray hairs, an exotic array of illnesses, two concussions, and the occasional night terror. My favorite articles of clothing long ago perished in the line of duty, falling victim one by one to leaky pens, to fingerpaints, tomato sauce, glue. My list of names for future children is utterly decimated; potentials lost one by one to those of you with whom I would never want to associate my own offspring. Even my speech has suffered; so accustomed am I to talking to you, that the amount of focus I have to put into talking to adults like an adult is pain-inducing. OMG it literally blows chunks.

It’s not that I haven’t made my fair share of mistakes as well, don’t get me wrong. I apologize for telling you not to tattle on each other because, “no one likes a tattle tale,” and then ratting you out to your teacher. I apologize for every wrong answer I have ever very confidently given you, I’m sorry for all of the left margins I cut off while I was xeroxing your homework, and I’m sorry for that time I was binding those storybooks you worked so hard to write and illustrate, and I bound half of them upside down. I’m sorry for telling you to share, and to be nice. I’m a hypocrite; I rarely do either. I’m sorry for the number of times I wrote the wrong date on the board (I only count the days when I work,) and, lastly, I’m sorry for lying to you and telling you I never got in trouble when I was your age. I got detention once, in 6th grade. And I cried the entire time.

So, in conclusion, I hope I leave you with fond memories, and forgettable resentment. I will miss spirit days a little, and class birthdays a lot. If you continue to try and Facebook me, I will continue to “ignore” you. Much like you will eventually graduate from school, I am graduating from this life of 5:00am work calls, of missing lesson plans, of being asked for my hall pass. Over the years, you will not be for want of subs of whom to take advantage, and I will eventually fade into the ranks of them. Please know, however, that every last one of you has touched my life. And that this job has been the richest, strangest, most hilarious and sweet and thankless and heartwarming and heartbreaking and futile and meaningful I will ever know. I wish you all nothing but success, and infinite joy.

Your substitute teacher,

Miss Park