March 1st was a big day for me. It’s the anniversary of the first date I shared with the man who is now my husband. Sixteen years ago, I began a new adventure, drinking a cafe mocha at a local Starbucks, enjoying our conversation, and feeling an initial connection with the man I have now been married to for fourteen years.
This year, March 1st, took on an additional significance. March 1st, I left my teaching career. I didn’t just leave schools, or take a leave of absence; I permanently resigned under my doctor’s advice.
Being a teacher wasn’t my initial dream. Back in the day, I had my hopes set high, literally. I wanted to be an astronaut. Then I took a class in high school called, “World of Education.” Four days a week, I left campus and spent the rest of the day volunteering in a nearby elementary school classroom. I was the teacher’s assistant grading papers. I was the interventionist giving extra help to a child struggling with long division. I was the tutor, reviewing flashcards with a child learning English. And I was the one-on-one assistant for a special boy named Silas. Silas wasn’t easy to work with, for many reasons. But we made it work. I got through to him. And he got through to me. I decided I wanted to teach.
I was fortunate to have spent my entire teaching career in a small, neighborhood, public school. Because it was the only school I had ever taught at, leaving was that much harder. Teaching was never just my job; it was my passion. My school, my classroom was an extension of my home.
And now I was being told I had to leave. That I was no longer able to do something I had chosen to do.
My emotions and conflicted feelings aside, I really didn’t think most of the school would be impacted by my departure. I knew my students would be saddened, and concerned - who would give them “brain food” during tests and tell them they were loved. But, I had erroneously assumed that school would go on. After all, teaching is largely a thankless job. For twelve years, I had worked to provide my students with a safe, nurturing environment for them to learn and grow. Each day, my number one goal was to keep them each healthy and safe. And I did it, day after day, for twelve years, most of which went un-thanked.
I taught with my heart and soul because I believed that was the only way to teach. I was being entrusted with other people’s children, after all; a responsibility I did not take lightly. I taught with 100% dedication because it was the right thing to do. I did it without fanfare or acknowledgement.
Until March 1st. For the first time in my teaching career, I really knew how much I had touched others. School-wide, I was acknowledged and celebrated. Flowers and generous gifts, hugs and tears, kind words and thoughtful thank you’s. I was humbled, and overwhelmed, and truly touched.
Teaching was never easy, and truthfully, seemed to become harder and less pleasurable each year. Yet I never would have left if not for my doctor.
I may not have left the way I would have liked, but I left knowing I had succeeded - I had made a difference.
March 1st is now another new beginning, a new adventure awaiting to start. It was an ending, but also a beginning. Change can be intimidating, my medical condition scares me, but I know, undoubtedly, that I am loved and appreciated and those feelings will support me on this new adventure of mine.