"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Last Thirty Days


Thirty days from tomorrow, on June 15, I will walk out of school as a classroom teacher for the last time. It's a day I've longed for, been ready for, dreamed about, for years. I've completed what I set out to do (become respectable and make a difference in the world) and managed to find myself (defined by so much more than respectability) in the process.

When the longing for something else first began to tickle my heart from the inside, I believed it meant I needed to try harder to make teaching work. I changed grade levels. I became an academic coach. I decided to become a principal.

The longing grew stronger.

And in listening to the longing, in listening to my heart, in trusting for the first time the sweet gentle voice of my soul, I find myself six weeks from a new life.

I told my kids a couple of weeks ago that they are my last third grade class. Some knew because the entire adult community of the small town where my school is located knows. Some were blissfully clueless in the way of kids who have much more important things to do than attend to the world of adults.

Once the kids were reassured I wouldn't be leaving them before the end of the year, their curiosity took over. I answered their "why?" with writing a book and getting it published and being a writer full time. They wanted to know if I'm going to be famous, if I'll be on Oprah. I promised to wave to them and to say hi to the best third grade when I am.

When the idea of leaving public education was just a pleasant daydream, I anticipated how excited I would be in my last days. I imagined telling certain people just what I thought of them. I imagined not caring about following rules, and doing only what I felt like doing. I imagined a great sense of relief and release and rejoicing.

The reality - no real surprise here - has turned out to be quite a different event.  There will be no satisfying telling off of anyone. There's no one I really want to set straight. I know that every path is stone-filled and every person is traveling with as much grace and dignity as they can muster. There is no satisfaction in breaking rules (at least overtly).  I still need to teach my kids, and I still respect my principal, and I do care. And the only thing I feel strongly, at least today, is sadness.

I'm getting ready to leave a life that I've loved and hated in pretty equal measure. It has wounded and healed me. I have laughed my deepest belly laughs, and cried my most bitter tears. 

I've been Mrs. Shucka to somewhere around 600 kids, and been proud of my title. I've created 22 families in nine month increments, and wept every single June when I had to release them to their own lives. I am a celebrity: Not a day goes by that I don't hear my name shouted with enthusiasm and wonder down a hallway, the shouting followed usually by a small body barreling in for a hug. Sitting on Oprah's couch, or talking to Terry Gross, or reading my words to groups of women who share similar stories - none of that will ever quite match the feeling of the status I'm getting ready to walk away from.

The kindergarten brother of one of my girls calls me Mrs. Sugar. How can I possibly top that for an accolade?

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to stay. I'm as ready as I can be for the adventure that awaits. But this adventure is not quite over. And it's been a grand one. Well worth the tears of loss that cleanse my remaining days as an elementary school teacher.

image from Flickr

14 comments:

deb said...

Bittersweet. As it should be.

TheWritersPorch said...

Deb....I'm sure you have left lasting imprints on many of these children who when they are adults, will look back on it with fond memories and a big smile! Good job and I wish much success in your new journey!
Carol

Carrie Wilson Link said...

You'll always be Mrs. Sugar. Love the image you chose, fascinating.

Just.

Like.

You.

Jerri said...

You carry all these experiences into your new life, just as your students carry them into theirs. All your lives will be richer for having known one another.

This writing feels like a coiled spring--full of energy and excitement and power.

Blessings for the journey, Deb.

Janna Qualman said...

Bittersweet, exactly. It's become one of my favorite words, because it's such an efficient adjective.

Beautiful post!

Jessica said...

Wow, what a change! I hope everything turns out well for you. :-) You never know, you might get on Oprah after all. LOL

Angie Ledbetter said...

"I have laughed my deepest belly laughs, and cried my most bitter tears." Exactly. When I left my little classroom last May, I felt these things too. It's akin to parenting, those mixed feelings, highs and lows.

I'm going to be praying for you in this new chapter of your life because I've felt the power of your words. You'll still be teaching, just on a bigger scale, when you get your new "lesson plans" down and some lucky agent approves. :)

Besides that, schools will always have an opening for such a grand teacher, should you ever change your mind.

FrecklesandDeb said...

And you have a flock of friends -- your "other" family -- waiting to encourage and support you on your journey.

M said...

I hope you go back and read your blogs from August as you got ready for this school year...and all that you were dreading. It is no surprise to me that the leaving will be hard...I've been there...or that you have impacted so many lives in such a wonderful way.

The third graders in your community will never have another teacher quite like "Mrs. Sugar"!

I love you

Your Bro

The Unbreakable Child said...

Blessing and a hug as you begin another journey!
hugs

Kathryn Magendie said...

OH, here is to New Adventures! and poignant memories of old ones...

Amber said...

Congrats on the courage you have to make such a big change! Nothing is quite as cool as the love of children, but you will always have that in your heart. Lucky woman. I think it is a little like being a mom, right? Where you couldn't love your kids more-- and yet also long for something more to come?

:)

Ask Me Anything said...

Aaaahhh. I hope that felt as good in the writing as it did in the reading. Just. good.
Love.

Suzy said...

Funny. I too dream of, "I anticipated how excited I would be in my last days. I imagined telling certain people just what I thought of them. I imagined not caring about following rules, and doing only what I felt like doing. I imagined a great sense of relief and release and rejoicing."
But I tto, know it won't be that way. You are blazing the trail for so many of us. God Speed!

This next step will be your biggest and best.

Love you

Suzy