My first day of teaching ever I had to go home and change my pants before the day started because on my way into school I spilled an entire vase of flowers, that my at-the-time-fiance Chris had brought to my apartment early in the morning, all down my legs and the flower food in the water left a white powdery trail all down the front of me. I only lived about a mile from school so it was fine and I was way early (maybe for the first and last time) so I didn't even panic. And I wasn't even nervous in general really because I was just so ready to teach--so excited, inspired, motivated, full of world changing antics, and creative lesson ideas, and relationship building skills, and everything you'd hope a new, and old too, teacher would have. That was 18 year ago....almost to the day.
And now, all these years later, I will still contend that standing in front of a bunch of 8th graders teaching history, crouching down with them to look at maps, scheming with them during the Civil War simulation that we always did every spring, "shouting" at them during my assembly line simulation to work faster, letting them climb over deep crevices, a la, desks as they summited Mt. Everest, making everything a game to make it faster and more fun, hanging out with them in the hall during passing time--and probably a little bit of "ummm--what did I just hear you say?", riding roller coasters with them--front car of course--at our end of the year trip, and watching them walk across the stage all teary-eyed at 8th grade graduation, was hands down one of the most rewarding parts of my life....next to my marriage and kids......ever.....and for always. And on top of all of that I had amazing teaching partners and an incredible boss who made going to work feel like going to hang out with my friends.
I taught for nine years, moved into an instructional coach position for four years, and the last five years I spent as a Dean--which is a fancy way to say assistant principal. 18 years in education.
18 years of:
Watching classrooms get set up in eager anticipation.
Kids coming to school to meet their teachers--some excited, some with a little chip on their shoulder.
Back to School professional development and parties.
Attendance procedures for the first day of school.
Recess and curb duty schedules.
Bulletin board decorating.
Class party planning.
Wondering why in the world I assigned that essay--because now I have to grade it.
Parent teacher conferences.
Behavior plans that worked.
Behavior plans that didn't work.
Students telling me deep, deep secrets about what scared them, what made them happy, why they liked me, and why they hated me.
Presentations at staff trainings.
Fire drills, lock-down drills, tornado drills.
Staff Christmas parties.
Broken copy machines.
Directing traffic in the pouring rain.
Interviewing new staff.
Girl (and absolutely boy) drama.
Sledding at recess.
First & last days of school.
Students who I still consider friends.
Students who have babysat for my own kids.
Lifelong friendships. Life. Long.
So many memories stuffed and pushed into each and every part of who I am as an adult. Teaching and being in schools without any doubt has defined almost every part of who I am today. From friendships, to opportunities, to how I view the world, my faith, what's important in education, what's not, what's wrong with America, and what's amazing about it.
For the first time in 18 years I won't be returning to school today. I spent a lot of time making this decision; almost two years. It started slow. And sometimes I wouldn't think about that as a possibility for weeks, and sometimes it's all I'd think about for weeks at a time. And finally last year at the beginning of April I knew it was really what I wanted; what I was ready to do.
That doesn't mean I didn't cry, hard, when I told my boss; someone that I've had the privilege to work with for 18 years and who has never done anything less than his best for me, the school I worked at, and the parents and kids he served there. And it doesn't mean I didn't cry, hard again, when I told the teachers that worked for me; some of the most dedicated professionals there are who pour out their hearts every day for their kids in spite of the odds. And it doesn't mean that I didn't cry, some more, last week when I was out for dinner with some co-workers while we talked about how great our school was, and how lucky we all were to have been able to work there together for a time.
18 years is a long time. A good long time.
For all the teachers I know....and the ones I don't know....first days are so exciting and so full of promise. 18 years of them don't lie. My thoughts and well wishes (for snow days and no indoor recess, of course) are with you and I feel incredibly lucky that I got to share the ranks of one of the noblest professions with so many people for so long.
Make 2018-2019 a great one!