Reflections from the Finish Line
Yesterday was a hard day; it was my last day in the Baltimore County Public Schools. After two very difficult years, I have decided to give up public school teaching (at least for now) in order to pursue a PhD in Education.
As anyone who has been a schoolteacher knows, it requires a lot of energy just to make it to the end of the year; the stings felt on the worst days often seems stronger than the rewards felt on the best days. But once the finish line is crossed, one remembers the rewards a bit more than the lows; one remembers the lives one touched (and those one were touched by) more than the headaches, tears, and anger.
What I can say, now that I’ve had time to reflect, is that teaching irrevocably changed me…I think for the better. I have much more confidence in my ability to deal with difficult situations than I did before. I have much more strength than I did before. And, yes, I have developed a newfound ability to be stern (while remaining a degree of calm) in the face of challenges. In short: being a teacher toughened me, but in a good way.
And what took me most by suprise is the recurring thought I’ve had over the last few days that I will really miss my life as a public educator. On the average and bad days, I assumed that there was no way I could ever miss it at all! How could one actually miss a job where one felt futile more than one felt productive, where one seemingly struggled uphill daily for so little gain, where the emotional costs seemed to outweigh the benefits at every turn?
Maybe hindsight is always rosier than the view from the trenches, but I did not realize how much I actually got used to all of these things, probably because I got used to them so gradually. There was no precise moment where I said, “Now, I am comfortable in my life and persona as a teacher,” but looking back on it, I can say exactly that. It must have happened, but it happened over two years rather than in one instant.
One of the teachers I said goodbye to yesterday said to me something like this: “Now, go off and do bigger and better things.” Once she realized what she said, she corrected herself; “Well, I don’t know about that; what we do is pretty big and pretty remarkable. You know what I mean, though.”
I could only agree with her. While it might not feel like it at the time, my reflection from the finish line is that teaching IS pretty big and wonderful.