“Never doubt a small group of thoughtful, commited citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead.
Well, it’s official, I graduated. Preschoolers are now ready for Kindergarten in the fall. Last night I happened to see one of the littles with his family at a Mexican restaurant. He looked at me, like Teacher Rita what are you doing here?
Maybe it’s because teachers are always teaching, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, too. We are all teachers, whether in the schoolhouse, at home or out and about. There is always a lesson in there somewhere. And we instinctively know how to teach.
With world events swirling around us, seems like focusing on health and life’s simple pleasures makes sense. Savoring a flower petal, river rapids, hearing wind chimes becomes more important than ever.
And love. Best of all, love. Holding dear ones tight in a warm embrace. Nothing more important. Which brings me back to teaching, our blessing, hanging out with children, looking at the world through innocent eyes, feeling pure, unfettered joy. Problems go away, at least in the moment.
I look at my life and know I not only found my purpose for being, for breathing, I’ve lived it. Into my forty-seventh year of teaching, one way, one level or another, it’s time to stop.
I mean the every day going into classroom, teaching. But that’s not easy. That’s just what I do. Spending every spare moment, summers, vacations on teaching stuff didn’t leave a lot of time for my family. And that is one regret I have and still do. I have apologized profusely to my kids and we are solid, but this is a caveat for everyone else. Family must come first.
I never retired. My career stages just kept morphing, to and from in the weirdest ways. I was always taking the biggest risks imaginable and most of the time it worked out. Not always. But because my belief system highlights there is no failure only feedback, I just kept moving forward. I still believe that the lessons of the past, living in the now and preparing imagined life skills needed for the future, which is really now, makes sense.
On Twitter and other social media I see people retiring. Everybody has a reason and most certainly should have time to dream, savor life in company of good friends, loved ones and enjoy self care. Maybe just time to take a class, do yoga, dance, sing, garden, volunteer, read or simply take a nap. Or start another career. Anything, everything is possible.
Career stages have some common trajectories, but sometimes not. In education, business, and other life endeavors, there seems to be a syncopated dance, ebb and flow of newness, excitement, too often boredom, worse, exhaustion, burn-out. Then we have to make choices. The risk-benefit ratio of life.
Those teachers on summer vacation are busy in professional development, reading piles of books, attending classes and conferences. And planning lessons for the next school year. Teachers are busy getting donations to equip classrooms with needed resources, supplies and materials. And spending lots and lots of money getting everything needed to teach and reach every child. I know. I did this, it seems forever.
Sometimes we say good-bye to a particular grade level, due to shifting populations. Or change schools. Sadly, our position may be cut. Or we don’t get hired for that job we aspire to. Or we do get hired and our life alters dramatically. There may be a lot of good-byes, and conversely, a lot of hello’s. Change is the only constant.
Once in awhile we meet teachers, business owners and leaders who spend their entire career in one job, one place. But I think, maybe today this is not the case. People seem to be moving around a lot more than I remember, but maybe just my imagination.
I always said I would teach until my last breath and that nearly happened.
I love teaching preschool, which in itself is pretty darn funny. Although I was a preschool Principal a couple years, too, it was never my forte. I decided I could do it and so I did.I was lucky to be mentored and coached by two extraordinary early childhood gurus. The literacy part I knew how to do, the rest, wah! I learned so much.
And finally I think I was pretty ok, not completely. Never was good with the crafts, never mastered sign language, sang really poorly and trikes running over my feet not exactly thrilling.
I taught left and right constantly. Getting shoes on correct feet. Putting jackets on, nap mats out. Helping children solve minor squabbles. Treating boo boos with bandaids. Preschool is the quickest, most challenging teaching I have ever done, but the most rewarding, life saving and soul worthy.
I still am in awe, some of the lessons I taught and at the time wasn’t sure were sucessful. I spent several hours a day planning my mini-lessons, designed to teach basic emergent reading and writing skills paired with classic books and materials. The simplest things were usually the most effective.
Unexpected, devastating illness ripped me away from the littles. Pink eye, constant colds were problematic, and so as I fought for my life although my heart was at school, my body could not be. My plan to finish this year and then decide whether to retire was decided for me, by the higher power.
That still, small voice inside me raged against the night for months. This could not be the end. I could not leave Khloe crying. I wanted to see how much, in particular, the graduating ten Kindergarten chldren fared, their literacy learning, in particular.
The Literacy Grant was there. I was not. For months, not just the one or two I expected, but nearly all year, except for a couple visits allowed, I was separated from the kids. And then a miracle. I got well enough to end the year, to finish the year strong, as we say.
To anyone doubting whether teaching, even with pitfalls, fits and starts is for you, find beginning and middle ground career stage. Rejuvenate this summer, rest, relax, re-imagine and get ready to go back to school with all the joy in your heart. Surround yourself with positive, upbeat colleagues. Have a Mentor and a Coach. Be one.
If you are teaching now, do it for me. Have a grand time making the difference you know you are capable of. Let nothing deter you. Be bold. Take risks, Be fierce. Hold onto that empathy.
Your kindness impacts every person you meet in this world. We are better together.
It’s tough to say good-bye, easier to say hello, for sure. Books I am writing, blogs to read, my family and friends to spend special time with. My Health.
As for my legacy, legacy is so intertwined with career stages. Hearing from nearly all teachers I was honored to be with, as Principal, former students, colleagues and friends I met along the way, my legacy is intact as far as I am concerned. I never really thought about it until now.
I look back as I clean out my last remaining teaching closets. I see the stacks of love in form of class quilts, cards, yearbooks, posters, notes, etc. Hearing from parents of high school and college graduates, kids who had such labels they were thought impossible to teach. These kids excelled against all odds. And I am proud. Legacy.
But that takes its toll, eventually. The community Boards, the writing, the volunteering, the teaching, the prep, only the love lasts, when all is said and done. Legacy.
It’s not about finding our purpose, it’s about living our purpose with intent and joy. We leave our legacy in every career stage, novice and veteran. By reaching and touching all those we have in our care, schoolhouse, workplace and home, we can do no more. How do you say good-bye? With hearts filled with love.
Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita