I wrote this a few weeks ago… it took me a while to finish writing it and get it up. Things have been crazy in my world… both good and bad, often emotional… so here we go. I expect some of the next few posts to be a bit emotional so be warned!
Before I tell this tale there are two things you should know about me:
1. I do not take change well. I get attached. I’m emotional. I was the child who couldn’t bear to part with my stuffed animals, for fear their feelings would be hurt. And this was long before Toy Story 3 told us that this was true. Heck, my mom can tell you I was sad when we got a new couch or a car! Even things that are joyful or that I want desperately can fill me full of angst. Big changes, especially those that come with big decisions make me very apprehensive.
2. I fell into teaching. It was serendipity, God and Fate got together and arranged things. It was meant to me because I also feel like I took to it. You don’t make it as a teacher for 10 years if you aren’t at least pretty good at it. And I like to think I did a good job. I won teacher of the year at one school… I’ve had students tell me I made a difference, parents tell me I helped and I’ve felt good about myself at the end of every year.
With that in mind every year I’ve taught has been bittersweet. There is the relief of another year finished. Being the advisor for the yearbook and the newspaper leaves me feeling like I finished running a marathon (or two), not to mention the general exhaustion that comes from teaching “regular” classes… last year at the end of the year I wasn’t just finishing up yearbook, newspaper, the literary magazine but finishing up teaching Journalism, Humanities, English IV, and Creative Writing II (3 of which were new classes I had to write curriculum for… all while pregnant!)
But it is always hard for me to let go of my seniors. I’m so proud of them and also so sad to see them go. Because I taught publications these were often not students I had for one year but two or three or even four. I miss them. While they are “mine” I consider them like my own. My husband jokes that he never realized that when he started dating a teacher that he was dating a woman who had over a hundred kids.
I care about them. Besides being their teacher I try to be there for them to listen to their hopes and dreams, their woes and griefs. I try to encourage them to be their best- academically and personally. I love watching their triumphs and I quietly weep with them when they fall.
I love that many of them choose to keep in contact with me. Through the magic of facebook I can keep in touch and see what they are doing. After ten years of teaching I now have students playing College Football, having babies, getting married, graduating college, taking amazing jobs, traveling the world, serving in the military and doing all sorts of amazing things that I’m immensely proud of. I laugh every year because they are not allowed to friend request me until they graduate and I love seeing the requests roll in after graduation. I joke about the student I tease the most for being the first to friend request their old teacher, now it’s a game who can be first. I currently have students already with their friend requests in… some have had them waiting a year to be “first.”
I love that they have taken the time to send me cards or bring gifts by when my daughter was born. That when I gave an open invitation to come by and meet her that so many of them did, often bringing gifts for LA. It truely touched me.
And I watch them return year after year to visit their old classmates and me. I watch them stand in the classroom that once felt like home and see how it doesn’t quite fit anymore. I remember the sensation from when I was a college student visiting my friends and former teachers in high school.
The place used to fit, you were king or queen there. There was always at least one room that you felt comfortable in. A classroom that you were relieved to go to when you were having a rough day. Kind of like the bar in Cheers… a place where everybody knows your name.
But when you graduate and move on the pieces change and reassemble and you never quite fit the way you did before. It’s normal and it’s good but I can see it on their faces when they leave after that first visit that it is a bit of a shock.
That was how I felt tonight.
I have been on maternity leave for the last year. I left my students in the hands of another teacher. A woman I have known since we were children who has graciously allowed me to help and to be involved in what was going on. But I was not there. This year they were not mine. Not as much.
I went to their end of the year banquet tonight.
It was beautiful. I was so proud of them. So proud of my friend who has done such an amazing job with them. They honored me and I was so flattered.
But I didn’t fit. They had their inside jokes and their triumphs and I was not a part of them. It was not their fault. I was touched that they did include me every chance they could. Both LA and I were in the end of the year slideshow. They were bouncing around happy to see me arrive. The new editors were excited to show me their new positions. Everyone wanted me to see what they did…. so nothing was wrong. Everything was, actually, good.
But I was still sad. Sad because while I have treasured this year with LA. Treasured not getting up at 6 am every day. Enjoyed the distance from the drama and stress of working in a high school. I missed them. I missed deadlines. Inside jokes. Olive Garden parties. Hearing about their day. Seeing the pictures of prom dresses and new cars.
I knew when I left I would miss them. It was so hard to not be there with them… but it was even harder than I though to let go of the teaching.
And I was also so happy… there is comfort in knowing they can go on without you. That they can still have a good year full of inside jokes and goofy pictures taken on a Mac (when they were supposed to be working!!!! lol) I was happy and proud…. they were well trained and even if I wasn’t there for their last year I had some part in that…
For a career that I did not plan to have I found that I mourned my time away more than I would have expected. And it is because of my students. It is such a blessing and a gift to be allowed to be a part of their lives, even for a short time. I was so proud of them. So sad that I missed their year and so impressed with them that they were so happy for me and so encouraging.