Friday was the last day of school. It was my last day as a Second Grade teacher in North Carolina, my last day as a teacher in the United States, the last day with my class of eighteen little monkeys here, the last day in my small, used-to-be-something-else classroom. It was also my last day as a classroom teacher – maybe for a few years, maybe forever.
It’s peculiar feeling, knowing that you’re saying goodbye not only to the classroom that has been yours for a year, but also to the classroom in the larger sense. I have been teaching for a little over five years. It’s not that I haven’t ever done other things – I’ve worked in shops, been a writing student, been a volunteer numerous times. And five years is a not a lifetime. But still, saying goodbye to the thing you do day in day out is strange.
People asked me on Friday, ‘How do you feel?’ I’m not even sure I can answer that. Am I sad? A little. Am I relieved? Yep. Am I excited for what comes next? Yes. Am I tired? Definitely.
I know I am a good teacher. This is not arrogance, just self-awareness. I work hard and I am good at what I do. I am confident of that much. I am not leaving teaching because I am failing. I’m not even leaving teacher because of the politics of it (though believe me, they are there and they are an issue); neither am I leaving because of the workload (though that, too, is an issue). As a kid wrote on my board on Friday, it’s been ‘a little challenging’, but awesome too. So why am I leaving?
Maybe I’m tired. Many jobs require long hours and thankless tasks, but teaching is unique. Until you have tried it, it’s hard to explain the difficulties of it. Maybe I’m tired of being tired. Maybe the classroom has changed too much – or maybe not enough. Maybe I’m feeling a little strangled by the standards and objectives and assessments and paperwork and of not being able to be truly creative and make learning fun.
Maybe those are thoughts that have crossed my mind. I know they have crossed the minds of many others – some I know, some I don’t – who have also made the decision to say goodbye to the classroom. But they are not why I am leaving the classroom for something different.
I still love teaching. I believe teaching is a great vocation. I enjoy the different challenges of each day and the moments shared with your students that stay with you long after the dismissal bell. I feel at home in the classroom. I’m still proud and privileged to have been able to support and guide and encourage my students. I still want to be a strong example for those students.
And that is why I am saying goodbye to the classroom.
A dream bruised and dirty is better than no dream at all. – Laini Taylor
Teachers are important. They help shape the future, the next generation who will be world-changers. They encourage; they inspire. And if I am going to be any kind of example to my students, I need to show them what following your dreams really looks like. It does not look timid, it does not look like someone clinging to something that is comfortable just because it is safe, it does not look like someone who dreams and dreams but is too reluctant to make them come true.
I have always told my kiddos that anything is possible, that their dreams are within their grasp. I have taught many lessons but the most important one is not the one that provides the magic formula for acing those numerous test: it is the lesson of capability. I can’t get every kid to pass every test, but what I can do is show them that they are capable of being their best and achieving their goals and dreams – which, despite what others might say, are never too impossible. Now I’m going to show them what that looks like in real life.
So I’m saying goodbye to the classroom. Maybe in a few years time I’ll be saying hello to it again, or maybe I won’t. But the only things we truly regret are the things we were afraid to do. I’m gonna give this writing, editing, publishing thing a go. I might be great at it, I might be truly awful at it. But at least I’ll find out – and since I’ll always be a teacher at heart, I’m confident there’ll be a lesson in it for me either way!