School's out: Clock says 'It's time to go'

End-of-day song, hugs mark end of career for retiring Fircrest Elementary School teacher

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

Published:

 

The kindergartners and first-graders in Nancy Lindsley's classroom were a tad antsy Friday morning, the last day of school before summer break.

Usually on the last day, Lindsley reads a certain picture book about memories.

But Friday was not just the last day of the school year for Evergreen Public Schools. It also was Lindsley's last day on the job. At 65, she's retiring after 21 years at Fircrest Elementary.

To keep her emotions in check, she chose to read a different book.

"I knew I would cry if I read my usual last-day book," she said.

Sitting on a chair, with her kindergarten and first-grade students sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the floor in front of her, Lindsley prepared to read her last story of her teaching career.

Some students dawdled at the classroom drinking fountain. An alphabet border danced across the walls. Other posters taught numbers, American Sign Language and vowels.

"When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking," read one poster. "Be kind and respectful" and "Keep your body to yourself" read another.

"Let's count to 10 and see if everybody can get down here for the story," she said.

Teacher and students counted, and the thirsty students sat down.

"If you could sit criss-cross in your spot, that would help Aaron be a better listener too," she gently told a wiggly student.

Lindsley began reading: "Gilbert is getting ready for the last day of school, just like you did this morning."

Some Fircrest students are hearing impaired. Rita Lewis, Lindsley's interpreter, sat next to her, translating the story to American Sign Language.

Lindsley's voice broke once or twice. When she finished reading, Lindsley handed each student their own book of stories they had written in class.

"I'm going to show my mom," a boy said, flipping through his book.

"I'm going to miss this class," said another.

Students emptied their mailboxes into their backpacks and prepared to go home. Wearing a pink Hello Kitty backpack, a girl hugged her teacher, then headed toward the door to line up with her classmates.

Lindsley began singing the end-of-day song and the kids joined in: "Goodbye now, goodbye now, the clock says we're done. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye."

She led the students into the main hallway for a Fircrest Falcons last-day tradition. The entire school gathered to say goodbye to the fifth-graders, who won't return to Fircrest next fall but will start middle school. Receiving high-fives and cheers, fifth-graders walked through the throng, smiling.

Then students moved through a classroom where a teacher sang: "The clock on the wall says it's time to go. Have a nice summer!"

Finally, the kids spilled outside onto to the sidewalk where families waited and yellow buses lined the curb. Teachers and staff sent students into their summer with waves of bubbles.

Lindsley has seen many changes since she started teaching in 1971 — 43 years ago. She took 17 years off to raise her own children before returning to the classroom.

In 1971, elementary teachers taught PE and music and did their own playground duty. She made copies of classroom handouts on a mimeograph machine.

Students have changed too, she said.

"They're much more aware of what's going on in the world," Lindsley said. "They're much more technologically astute than I am."

"Their realm of knowledge revolves around TV and video games," she added.

In the crowd of students, parents and staff on the sidewalk, a girl took a photo with her electronic tablet and then tucked it into her backpack. In 1971, the student might have taken a photo with a Polaroid camera.

Since returning to teaching 21 years ago, Lindsley has had three principals and taught hundreds of students.

"I've kept in touch with a lot of former students," she said. "I've gone to graduations, weddings."

As the last bus pulled away, Lindsley and the other staff continued sending bubbles into the blue sky. Then the sidewalk began to empty. Lindsley gave her bubble maker to a student. She turned to walk back into her school for the last time.

"Well, there it is," she said.

Her two granddaughters ran up and shouted, "Nana!" Hugging their grandma, they entered the school. Lindsley's husband and her father also had come.

"Hi, sweetie!" her father greeted her. "How are you?"

Lindsley and her family headed into her retirement party with the staff.

Outside the school, it was silent. On the vacant playground, the only sound was the tetherball chains clanking against the pole.

The school's readerboard said: "Keep learning. And read all summer."

The only Clark County students still in school are in Washougal School District. Their last day of school is Monday.