One afternoon last week, I sat in the wooden rocking chair in my classroom. It’s rare that I sit down at school. Once the weight is off my feet and I take a few deep breaths, it’s hard to regain momentum.
I could hear the muffled sounds of students on the playground. The shelves were bare. My collection of children’s books created a pillar of boxes near the chalkboard. Only dust bunnies remained in my desk drawers.
Yep. I am a teacher without a job.
I learned mid-summer that the classrooms at my grade level would be combined due to lower enrollment. The school tried to keep me on board, with a nice gig as a reading teacher. However, this job didn’t last after another round of budget cuts.
I’m thankful. I learned so much. They said I did a good job, but I can’t pretend my heart isn’t broken.
Some of those final moments were rough. Instead of good-morning greetings in the hallway, I saw the sad smiles.
I sometimes hid in my room during lunch, feeling awkward.
Yet, overall, the departure was joy-filled.
I was busy and determined to provide a few good lessons with the time I had left. Then came the grand finale.
We arranged a special lunch with the students from my class last year. “My kids” wanted to sing some of our favorite songs, and Sarah discovered the album of photos from our adventures last year. Just like old times, one child spilled his bowl of rice on the carpet.
Normally I helped with fourth-grade reading groups in the afternoon. One day, I was asked to stay away – in a nice way. The lovely teacher asked students to draw going-away pictures, which she arranged as a book.
Dayton’s drawing included a giant wall covered with books and the two of us standing at the bottom of the grand library. Other students drew rocks and feathers (reminiscent of my nature table), and some depicted me in a flowing purple gown. Lyla wrote, “I will never forget you,” on a page covered with hearts. Several children from my reading groups gave me rocks and crystals, to add to my collection.
Yes, I cried when I leafed through the pages in the quiet of my mostly-empty classroom.
It’s sad to leave a place. Heartache comes when you leave a place filled with so much love and kindness.
On my very last day, I was asked to be the substitute teacher for kindergarten. There’s no better way to finish a gig than by playing with 5-year-olds.
What will I do? Most people have asked me this question.
What’s surprising is that I do not feel wackadoodle. I think there’s another teacher desk and more than two dozen children waiting for a bespectacled, book-lover who may or may not occasionally wear purple gowns.
And for now, the big question is how to fit all of those boxes into my house – pillars of boxed books, dry-erase pens, glue and a myriad of other miscellanea.
I’ll just stare at them for a while until they find a new home.
My plan this year was to buy one indoor plant for my classroom each week. I hoped to be known as the “plant lady.” Good thing I did not follow through. Currently, there are 10 houseplants outside on my picnic table.