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My classroom cleared of twelve tiny, energetic bodies when the last bell rang. My voice overpowering the noise when I told the children to collect their things and find their parents.
We were well over a month into the start of the school year, and most of the kids had settled into their friendship groups and school routine, but for a certain few, it wasn't so easy.
Taking this into consideration, I kept encouraging them to step out of their comfort zones by mixing with different friendship groups, knowing that in my three years of working here, six-year-olds were always keen to make as many friends as possible.
A few mothers waved at me as they gathered their children who were refusing to leave the room without one last moment with their friends, as it seemed like the end of the world that they had to be without each other for even a moment.
My knees cracked when I got down to the floor to wrap my arm around one of my more confident student's back when she tugged on my trouser leg. "Everything okay, Mabel?"
The gold flecks in her blue eyes sparkled when she handed over a white piece of paper. "I drew this for you, Miss Rose. It's a doggy covered in pink glitter!"
My smile came quickly at the sight of her drawing, my heart squeezing tight in my chest. It was times like these that made me realise why I wanted to be a teacher. No other job would give you this much satisfaction; I was confident about that.
Who else got the privilege of turning the next generation into superstars?
"It's beautiful. Why don't you stick it up on my vision board so everyone can see how talented you are?" I said.
Mabel hugged my side with a long squeeze before she skipped across the room to the board on the wall where she used the Disney magnets to hang it up. "I can show my daddy when he gets here. I stayed up past my bedtime to make you it."
Usually, Mabel's Granny was on carpooling duty as her father worked a couple of hours past the school closing time, but he must be able to pick her up today.
I was looking forward to meeting him. I wanted him to know how special his little girl was, her learning coming on by leaps and bounds, always miles ahead of everyone else in the class. It seemed wrong to have favourites in this job, but with Mabel, I couldn't help it. I adored everything about teaching her.
"I bet he'll be proud to see it up there. Why don't you get your coat on, sweetheart?"
"Okay," she said with a giggle. "We're going to my Uncle Casey's restaurant for dinner because Granny and Gramps are away on holiday." Small hand reaching up to cover her mouth, the words turned into a choppy whisper, "Daddy is a horrible cook. One time he made eggs, but burnt them so bad they had black bits in them."
I walked over to the coat hook to get her jacket with a smile on my face. "Does Granny cook for you then?"
"Yes, I love her cooking," -she stopped talking- "Daddy!"
I turned with the little coat in my hands to find Mabel sprinting over to a tall man who wore a pair of paint-covered overalls that looked as if they needed a good soak in the wash. My eyes couldn't peel away from him as I watched his body crouch down to collect his daughter into a tight embrace. It looked like he never wanted to let go.