After nine and a half years, Friday was my last day as a teacher. I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but there’s a likelihood that I will never return to a junior high or high school classroom as a teacher again. Although I’m excited about my new job as a support educator, there’s a real sense of sadness for me. I have loved being a teacher and I have loved my students. Oh, not every student, not every day, but overall I have found teaching students with special needs to be a fulfilling profession.
The kids threw me a party on Friday as only junior high students can. They came and ate a lot of cake. Some of them ate so much cake, they got sick. My fabulous teaching partner, Stacey, bought this Charlie Brown tree for me and each of my students wrote me a message on a tag and tied it to the tree. Several of the other students also “secretly” circulated cards for me. The terms of endearment were general junior high yearbook fodder “I will miss you”, “Hope to see you next year,” and “Don’t forgit us.” (Hey, I didn’t say I was a GOOD teacher. I can’t stand teaching spelling.) Although the cards were filled with stock phrases I knew they really meant it when throughout the day, kids came to me one by one and pressed little gifts into my hand or gave me hugs.
One of my “tough” boys made me a card. Then later at break he bought me a pack of chewing gum. Still later he came by and handed me a paper. It was his personal brochure, a project he’d written about himself for my class at the beginning of the school year. I told him he should keep it and put it in his portfolio because it was one of the best pieces of writing he had ever completed. He grinned shyly and said, “My mom and dad liked it so much, they made me print a bunch of extra copies of it. I want you to have one.”
A scrawny 7th grade boy refused to get in the group picture at the party, so Stacey had to bribe him to stand with the group. Later I sat him down and asked him what was wrong. He told me he was mad at me for abandoning him in the middle of the year. He’s a kid who’s had a lot of loss in his life and he felt like I was letting him down. I had to talk him through it and let him know that I wasn’t happy about leaving him in the middle of the year either but that I have a very good substitute and that I will be checking in on him frequently. It touched me that he cared enough about me to be angry about me leaving.
This weekend I’m just soaking in the love of my students and friends and trying to ready myself for Monday morning. I know the new position will be challenging and have a steep learning curve. I hope that I will find my new job as fulfilling as teaching, but I’m gonna miss those kids!