Unbelievably, I just completed my twenty -fifth year of teaching. The years have been filled with smiles and grimaces, mistakes and victories, tears and great, GREAT joy. Though some days seemed to go on forever, the years have passed in the blink of an eye. I don’t feel any older on the inside, yet I’m aware that time has surely passed when I look in the mirror. I know that my days as a teacher are numbered and that retirement will surely come to pass in just another “blink of an eye.” I have been incredibly blessed to be able to do something that I truly love for a living. There is a saying that goes, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” It is so true! I wish that for each of you!
It is so ironic (God has a great sense of humor) that someone who loathed school from first through 12th grades would choose to make a living by going back into a classroom. I guess that my own experience was so negative, that I wanted somehow to change that for others. In many ways, I think that I have done that. For some children, I feel as though I let them down.
As I lay here reviewing the times, students and events that stand out for me most, I realized I have so much to be grateful for. I invite you to come along for a ride on my ramble of memories – a hodgepodge from 1989 to 2014:
M. having a birthday on the first day of school – poor thing… having children’s artwork hanging from strings on the ceiling… praying that some “little fellow” would not wind up on my class and finding him at the top of my homeroom list in August… Mrs. Gamble’s classical ballet recitals… Charmin San Fransisco… G. bringing me chocolate when I was pregnant and suffering intense morning sickness… “Go get a ticket…” Mr. President… Magic Bon Bons… poetry recitals…”Double, Double, Toil and Trouble…” Happy notes… getting called into the principal’s office for a discussion about not using the word “hell” as part of a simile – “as hot as hell” -Wow… Maniac Magee… reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in my sad British accent… reading Shiloh in my sadder southern, country accent… Number the Stars…, M.’s grandpa passing out brownies behind our sheet curtain during our play on Grandparent’s Day… A. farting out loud in class, then bursting into tears – me trying to make him feel better by having a discussion about how everyone farts… passing the kindergarteners walking to lunch singing, “The Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord…” “The Wall…” visting L. in the hospital, never believing she’d succumb to the cruel disease… worrying about A. who would walk ten blocks home everyday… the dark days when I had to call child protection and the constant worrying about children whose environment I had no control over… C. crocheting a mini blanket for me… L. inviting me to her theatre performances… A. making me a beautiful scrapbook of our year together in 4th grade… accidentally wearing two different shoes to school one day… the first time that I wore a skirt without pantyhose to work – feeling so naked and “unprofessional…” field trips to the Planetarium… losing J and B in the woods on one of those trips… coach B knocking on the door of my classroom to tell me that the world was at war (911), then having to go back into the room and teach as though nothing had happened… singing to the student body “I Hope You Dance…” the day we learned that Sr. A had passed away in her sleep… receiving cards from the kids when I was in the hospital… corny bear jokes on the morning prayer and announcements via closed circuit tv… being able to visit my baby on my off period in the on campus nursery… “Make it a great day…” teaching theology of the body and having a young lady ask, “So you mean that you have to do THAT every time you want to have a baby…When I grow up, I’m going to live in an apartment – just me and my cats!”… D and K gluing a quarter to the floor to see my reaction when I tried to pick it up…silly science songs… bible book songs… having my chalkboard replaced by a dry erase, having my dry erase replaced by a smart board and having my smart board replaced by an 80 inch tv that communicates with an i pad mini – What’s next? …reading the obituaries and finding former students’ names there – requesting masses and praying for all of you past and present daily… wondering about whatever happened to S or B or R or A… seeing O at mass in New Orleans… worrying about J’s blood sugar, worrying about what would happen to B and G when they went home…attending my coworkers funeral… M being scared to death of thunderstorms & trying to distract him…making the move from 4th grade to middle school… the pride I feel when I don the black robe at another group’s 7th grade graduation… the many handmade tokens of appreciation from L… catching up on the latest Y&R moments with Mr. Melvin, saying a certain child’s name at least 20 times a day… visiting a young, (brilliant) man in a body cast, speaking of brilliant – having M tell me that Persephone was Per-sef-phony not Per-sephone (I was so young and ignorant then!), feeling so happy and proud when I see my former students getting married and having beautiful children of their own…
The list goes on and hopefully will continue to grow for at least 10 more years. I should have that left in me! I always pray that God will provide a way for me to quit before I get burned out. I never want to be THAT teacher who ruins lives for a living.
After all these years, my philosophy of education remains the same: (I’m borrowing from Yeats) “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire!” My students have kept the fire lit underneath me for all these years. I love you, and am eternally grateful!