Last year when I was starting my thirtieth and final year of teaching, this beautiful photograph caught my eye. It made me feel so melancholy and sentimental to even think about starting my last year. I knew my approaching retirement would bring a mixture of emotions for me.
Trace Adkins song, "You're Gonna Miss This" has made me cry more than once this year. Whenever I considered that this was the end of a very good run of a very wonderful career, I was overcome with gratitude. The song made me stop and think. I just love the chorus:
"You're gonna miss this.
You're gonna want this back.
You're gonna wish these days
hadn't gone by so fast.
These are some good times,
so take a good look around.
You may not know it now,
but you're gonna miss this."
My friends would tease me throughout the year, saying, "You're going to miss this." Sometimes it was true; sometimes it was pure sarcasm. When I found sweet notes from students on my desk, it was true. When the announcement for faculty meeting came over the PA system, it was sarcasm. When my kids "got it," when the lights went on, when we were deep in conversation, and real learning was taking place, it was true. When I had to stand outside in the falling snow during recess, it was sarcasm.
Knowing this was the end of my career, I was acutely aware of the precious time I had left to enjoy the best parts of a teacher's life. The camaraderie, the warm work environment, the children, the professional educators who were my very good friends; all of this became even more important to me as I passed each milestone of my last year.
Do I miss "it?" Well, it depends on what "it" is. I will tell you what I don't miss. I don't miss traveling back home on Sunday nights so I can be at work Monday morning. I don't miss counting out worksheets, checking papers, testing, class disruptions, or dealing with bullies. I don't miss inhaling my lunch in 12 minutes so I could manage the masses at lunch recess. I don't miss evaluations, district inservice meetings, or organizing a school day for 35 students.
Now, let me tell you what I miss. I miss those few precious moments just before the first bell, when I had a chance to visit with fifth graders in my classroom, or members of our faculty in the hall. I miss bringing treats to share with my friends and my class. Here's a weird one: I even miss filling up my plan book with great ideas I'd found on Pinterest or in workshops. I miss walking down the hall and getting high-fives and hugs from students. I miss eating lunch with my girlfriends, because that's what my team became; my dear friends. I miss them. I miss them so much, it makes my eyes sting, and my throat tighten.
Many teachers work entire careers without developing close relationships with their co-workers. They come to school, they teach, they go home. I feel so sorry for those teachers. I would not know how to act if I did not have these women as my friends. We were there for each other. Working together is just part of what we did. We helped each other through parents' illnesses, deaths of loved ones, relationship struggles, miscarriages, motherhood, divorce (that would be mine), sickness, and bad days. We knew that if we were at home "hugging the porcelain," someone at school would take care of the poor substitute left in our stead. We always knew that someone had our back.
What do I miss? I miss my people. I miss the kids; I miss my team; I miss the teachers and assistants; I miss our librarian, our secretary, our principal; I simply miss the beautiful people that filled our school. I miss hearing Marilyn's reply to my "Good morning!" with, "IS IT? Get back to me after 11." I miss Kellie's delightful lessons in the media center. I miss just too many things to keep mentioning folks by name!
Work is work. I don't miss having to be there at 7:30, which meant I felt like I had to be there by 7, or I was running behind all day. I don't miss dragging myself to school when I was worn out or getting sick. I don't miss GOING TO WORK. I miss spending the day with so many wonderful people who made me laugh, made me think, and made me feel loved. I don't miss THIS, I simply miss THEM.
You might also enjoy "I Just Can't Stay Away". Work doesn't tug at my heart strings, but the kids and teachers still do!