Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Today, I turned in my letter of resignation from a job I have loved for almost twelve years. I've gotten misty-eyed, burst into unexpected tears, and full-on ugly cried several times in the last few weeks thinking that soon, the place I've called home won't be "my school" anymore. I'll be an outsider. I'll be leaving students I've watched grow up since kindergarten. I'll be leaving some of my closest friends. My two oldest boys will be leaving theirs.
We sort of always planned for my stay at my current school to be a temporary one. When I took a job there, I was an early childhood major, dead set on teaching kindergarten, but heading into a year of gangly fifth graders. It was one of the lower paying school districts in the area, so I figured I'd just use the opportunity to get my foot in the door of education, tough out the preteens, then find something "better" the next year. Except I fell in love. With the gangly kids, the school, and the community. It felt like a family, not a job. On my first day on the job, I found creatively-wrapped gift bags from total strangers on my new desk. Later, when I asked for advice on a particular student I heard insights into their lives that told me these kids were really known and cared for by their teachers. And in no time I felt known and cared for, too.
A few years ago, Ryan and I started discussing me looking for a different job. The district where he works made sense for our family in a lot of ways. But every time it came down to making a move, I just couldn't bring myself to go for it. A strong sense of loyalty to my home coupled with fear of the unknown pulled me back. We discussed it every year, and it never felt right. I whined that this was all I knew. I loved it. My friends were there. I felt like I made a difference here. Ryan waited patiently, telling me if I never wanted to leave that was ok. I took comfort in that, but something in the back of my head told me a move was inevitable, just not right for now.
Then something changed this year. On a long car ride with my soon-to-graduate sister, we discussed her own fears about finding a teaching job. She could only see herself at the school of her student teaching, same grade, please. It was all she knew. She loved it. She did a great job there. I told her that she would soon feel just the same about whatever classroom she entered, probably within a short period of time. God would put her where He wanted her and she could be happy anywhere. She might even like it better than what she wanted so badly. She turned my advice around on me. Hadn't I felt a nudge in a different direction for several years and used the same excuses to resist it? Couldn't this new place be just as good? In fact, I already had my foot in this community. I taught Sunday school there. Our kids played baseball there. We stalked their library every summer. I cheered on a batch of 30-some teenagers every Cross Country season.
So, I stepped out in faith, and I went to an interview in the same suit a wore 12 years ago (Let's just pretend it fit the same and I didn't have to fold under the totally unbuttoned pants and pray the zipper didn't slip), more qualified, yet somehow less sure of myself than when I was a fresh-faced idealist. I entered the halls of foreign turf, terrified. I arrived early (brownie points?) and got to witness the 3:00 rush. I got smiles and waves from Sunday school kids, summer reading program kids, T-ball moms, friends of Ryan's, Cross Country runners, and acquaintances I couldn't quite put my finger on. The turf wasn't quite so foreign. Several people chatted me up in the office, easing a little of my tension. Then, I faced a panel of six. Of course I felt intimidated, but I also felt like I got to interact with some really great people. People who wouldn't seem so scary if I got the chance to share the halls with them. And soon, I found out I would. I was thrilled! Excited! And also a little sad.
A few weeks ago, I worked the concession stand at homecoming. I wrapped hot dogs and squeezed cheese and made change alongside former students, teased them about where they learned their math skills, admired them for being so diligent or good with customers or able to figure out the popcorn machine. Then I watched them and other former students march in the homecoming guard - lined up in their uniforms, suits, and prom dresses. All those gangly fifth graders had grown up and turned into fine young men and women. I'm so proud that I was a small part of that. I left misty-eyed, fully expecting an ugly cry on the way home. But then I thought about the kids just a few miles down the road. Kids I'll meet next August. Buck-toothed third-graders who will grow up to be fine young men and women someday. I'll watch them march someday too, their uniforms a different color, but I'll still get misty-eyed thinking that I got to be a small part of their "raising."
So, to my old home; thanks for welcoming a clueless college girl and taking her under your wing. You are where I really grew up, where I really learned to teach. I'm glad I have a few more months to call your school home, your kids, "mine." It's been a privilege and a joy.
And to my new one; I'm not sure all of the reasons God has led me to you, but I can't wait to see what He has in store for this next chapter of my life.