Friday, June 12, 2015

36 Years

When I was 21 years old and accepting my first professional job with the Chehalis School District, I didn't really think I would be holding court in the classroom in year 36. I am in good company with my colleague across the hall who also wrapped up year 36. We looked at one another today and said, "moving on to year 37? Kind of hard to believe." 

This year we think of my colleagues wife  and our friend exiting the classroom stage for new opportunities. The next chapter of their lives is no doubt going to be filled to the brim with new experiences and sharing time with those they love and new friends too. We are excited for them. Three decades in the classroom for these ladies in addition to time spent raising their own children is really something to applaud. We all lose sight of that. We all have our own agenda, and we aren't very good as educators or society of thanking a teacher for what they have contributed to a child, a teenager, a school culture, a community, to the future. These ladies wrapped up their careers with a quick barbecue and some made general remarks. Those remarks, and yes.....the void left by the ungracious who could not summon an appreciation, had many of us feeling a bit disappointed in one another as professionals and as people. It was a weird passage, at a time these women deserved a band, tiaras and cheering crowds.

I know though, that just like today, when my social studies colleagues and I closed our doors "officially" marking the end of the school year, that the recognition, the tiara, the appreciation are really a gesture of good manners, but they are not what count. Good manners go a long way. As teachers though we are kicked to the curb by parents in pursuit of that 4.0 for their child, the colleague who wants to take the quick road to self-gratification rather than put in the hard work these veteran teachers have put in who completely overlook what has been done for them by teacher leaders, and a society that expects 21st century miracles from educators who are not actually raising the children. 

I don't know the author, but a couple of years ago NPR had a story about him. He set out to find out what made an effective teacher. He had ideas. In the end he realized that good teachers come in many shapes, sizes, styles and personalities. What matters is the Facebook messages I've seen on these teachers' walls and the comments students made as they left their classes, or later after college or in adulthood...."You were my favorite teacher", "You helped me through a very challenging time of my life", " I am majoring in French because of you", "I feel like I can be anything I want to be, because you were a strong role model for me", and "I am going to miss you". Then, there are the comments never shared that play out in productive and healthy adult lives.

That is the band, the tiara and the fanfare. We don't need anything else. When I unlock my classroom for the first day of school for year 37 I will think of these women, and just like them, I will arrive early, stay late, and do the right thing for young people. When I close the door for the last time, which is still a way down the road, I will look forward to the next chapter.  I will also be at peace. It's that intrinsic reward my two colleagues now feel, job well done. Okay, I will add the British addage and say and "Sod the rest". 

Thanks Janet and Dennina for giving so much and asking for so little. Thank you Allison Geeslin for two years in the classroom and good luck for your next chapter too. God bless you. You've made a difference in my life. Now, let's all put our feet up and let summer soak in.

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