A Change of Course

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Last Friday was my last day teaching…maybe not forever, but for a time. I’m not sure what really comes next, but I know this is the first step to finding out. For the past 8 years, my professional identity has been that of a teacher. I was hoping by now I would have a baby in my arms to help dampen my feelings of uncertainty about this chapter of my life ending, but as I wait, I grow nostalgic. It’s always been a mental hurdle to spend my day teaching other people’s children while someone else gets to teach mine, but it’s those other people’s children who make it hard to leave. It’s those other people’s children whose thoughts I will carry with me on slips of paper collected in a jar, whose drawings and letters I have stashed in folders and notebooks around the house, and whose faces will forever bring me to a smile in the thousands of pictures that I have taken of moments both special and mundane, challenging and celebratory. Yet, reading through the notes my fellow teachers collected from students I have taught over the last 5 years, I felt validated in my decision to leave. The memories that filled the jar were of learning to knit, planting seeds in the garden, making paper, books, and food. They were the feelings and the moments. The things that I found harder to fight for in our current test-driven, standards-based, corporate-minded education system. These are the experiences I hope to continue to provide, as a teacher without a classroom, in summer camps and quiet moments of observing babies as they study their new world. As I change course, I will still claim the identity of a teacher, but one without the constraints of a scope and sequence or the pressure of raising test scores. I will get to be a teacher to my own child. I told Charlotte that I would no longer be going to school, so she would no longer be going to her school either. When she asked, “Why,” I told her that I wanted to spend more time with her and the baby. She beamed, gave me a huge hug, and told me she loved me. That was the first time ever she spontaneously told me she loved me. I think it’s going to be okay.

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