The End of Learning

chris field
4 min readJul 19, 2021
A photograph of en empty school hallway
Photo by kyo azuma / Unsplash

I had to drive around the block to see them, my children, as they carried themselves towards the old stone steps and into their school for the last time. It’s a historic landmark, that school. I aimed to pull over and watch them from the curb behind a loaded dumpster on the street — yet another housing flip. The houses in this neighborhood are neglected but have good bones, so they say. I can’t help but wonder if anyone will talk about me like that in another few years? “He was neglected but had good bones.”

I shouted goodbye to Rita, the crossing guard. I waved at teachers who probably wondered why the distant random guy in the minivan was swerving and yelling indiscriminately. Then there they went. Past the PTA President who was handing out golden Mylar balloons to the graduating fifth graders. Past the two teachers who stood as proxy for guards outside in the mornings, a human filter for who got in or got kept out. My kids went past the old limp dogwood tree, half its roots and limbs long broken off by snowplows and school children, but God bless it if it didn’t still find the strength to bloom each spring. Up the stairs and through the shadow of the metal-framed doorway. They didn’t even look back to see if I was watching.

As all parents do, I remember the first day of dropping my kids off at this school. Their ironed, white shirts tucked in, each with hair braided and combed…