After my entire career of 15 years, Friday was my final day at Keith Elementary.
I walked into the building with the BIGGEST smile on my face, confident that I had made the right decision, one that was best for my career, but also for my mental health and sense of worth. I felt so happy and so relieved and so ready, and then I did something I never expected.
I cried. A lot.
I cried with the students that told me how much they love me and how much they’ll miss me, even after I was hard on them so many times. Then I thought of all the students I’ve ever had and how I won’t be there when they come by to visit. And how I might not ever have another class to watch grow up and attend their sporting events and music concerts and prom pictures and graduations. “My kids” would forever be part of someone else.
I cried with the parents that made me feel like the greatest teacher on earth, even after the hardest days when I felt like I failed their kids. Then I thought of all the parents throughout the years that have gone above and beyond to make our school spectacular. And how I won’t be the one they’re helping with KC3 and the talent show and PTA projects and endless events. But I’m so fortunate that those parents became friends and that friendships are not bound to a place.
I cried with my teammates that always stood by me and listened, even when I complained and got frustrated and felt like giving up. Then I thought of all the teachers that I’ve been lucky to work with and learn from and laugh with and go to dinners with. And how they’ve been with me through having three children and losing one and risking everything to stand up and speak out against a broken system. But I know how blessed I am that my colleagues are much more like sisters and that family ties are stronger than any job.
I cried because I thought about all of the lasts. The last team lunch where we would have to inhale our food and catch up on life while grading papers or planning a field trip. The last time I would share my favorite read alouds and know exactly how the kids will respond. The last dancing break. The last Smiley Store. The last dab. The last time I would silly string the kids to end the year.
Mostly, I cried because I love teaching kids and shouldn’t want to move on from the classroom. But SCHOOL CLIMATE MATTERS. And I need to be somewhere that I will be included and valued and respected. Then I thought of all the teachers that are leaving the profession because they can’t make ends meet and their resources have been stripped away and they don’t have enough support and they want better pathways for our profession. And it reminds me that things need to change.
So, today, I smile again, because all of those students and parents and teachers I’ve cried for are the ones I will be working hardest for next year. Stay tuned.