After spending more than a quarter of my life in a classroom, I have joined thousands of young people progressing through one of the hardest times in their lives, already in progress.
I started working in education at age 26, with is a non-traditional age to jump in.The eldest of my students from those early years are now in careers, and some have families. Some are pursuing their dreams, and others are hard at work figuring out what they would like to try next.
Through the years, it has been the evolution of the students that has been most rewarding. I’m not a great teacher, and I have many problems with the System, but I love learning. My best days are completely off-the-cuff and most likely inspired by the most random of thoughts. The pay sucks (see also: ten years of extra jobs), the hours are long, and teaching is a continuous madness of non-stop change and failed initiatives. However, we don’t get anywhere at all unless we try. Oh, and how we try!
At some point, I believe the formula for this era of my life looked something like this:
Stage One of adult life: study/embrace/see something and put everything you have into it.
Stage Two of adult life: find out it’s nothing like you thought it would be.
One of my favorite things is learning what makes students tick, and, by proxy, sometimes sharing in their joys of life, however brief. This last year was full of big moments and transitions, and I left a school in which I was comfortable for a new life, with a lovely wife. Many days we miss our old haunts, and we really miss the larger-than-life personalities and energies of our students. Then, as often happens at the strangest times, unlikely opportunities present themselves, and new paths barely cleared must be followed for a while.
Today I pitched a perfect game in my classroom–the last year I will be in one. And it wasn’t that I was the most skilled player on the field, or that my unwavering dedication to the diamond lifted me above all obstacles. Today, simply, plainly, and sincerely, I and my scholars looked for some truths in our short time together, and we reveled in information and the little details that make each hour so interesting. I may not have a day like this again this year. I could have another one tomorrow. Who knows?
In peaceful reflection on the drive home, I encountered the foundation for the success of the day: you, dear students. Through the years, your energy lifted me during times of great duress and sadness and struggle, and I hope I beamed for you just enough in dark times that you understood what I really wanted for you: everything.
To the creators and the dreamers, to the wanderers and schemers, may you see the colors of each leaf in autumn, and I hope the changes you need start small–just enough that you can see them–and then I hope they radiate outward in successive supernovas until you can barely remember the times you thought you’d never pass.
This is a tip of the hat and a hand over my heart for our thousands of days together, stomping and splashing through the gutters of this wondrous life. I’m happy to have traveled next to you for a little while.