Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Off Into The World

Two things always happen this time of year. The first is that I'm afflicted by my allergic reaction to cedar pollen. The second is that I begin to mentally prepare for loss.

Loss is in the nature of being a teacher. We're rocks in a stream, shaping and being shaped by the children who flow past on the way to the rest of their lives. I'll stay in touch with some of them for awhile via their younger siblings. And when their parents share their personal highlights on social media I'll get a glimpse at what they're up to, but the time during which we build our relationships day-after-day is coming to an end.

I don't get lost in my melancholy because I'm happy for them; proud to know they are ready for their next step. In just a few months they'll say goodbye with a hug and the next time I see them, I'll say, "Hey, I used to know a kid who looked just like you . . . Except smaller," and they'll say, "It's me, Teacher Tom!" And then they'll get older, they'll be polite, they'll say, "How are you?" like thirteen-year-old Misa did on Monday night, remembering me, I think, fuzzily, but no longer connected to me through the intimacy of the friendship we once had.

Children moving on is part of the game, but as a teacher in a cooperative, I find myself dwelling just as much upon the parents who will be leaving my life at the end of May. Many of these women and men have become more than parents of my students. They are trusted colleagues, people I've come to count on for their skills, commitment, and wisdom. I've had the privilege of getting to know these people through our shoulder-to-shoulder relationships, working side-by-side, creating our school anew each day. Many have become friends who I will continue to see after their time here, but experience tells me that most of them are moving on as well, some after coming here for close to a decade and I'll miss them.

When I first started teaching at Woodland Park, it was only as the teacher of our 3-5's class. A couple years in, I took over the Pre-3's. Four years ago we started our 5's class, which has this year transitioned into a 4-5's program. And next year our new kindergarten will launch, a class I won't be able to teach due to the reality of there being so many hours in a day, but they'll be right down to hallway, where I can poke my head in whenever I want. There have been many other good reasons for expanding like this, but I'd be lying if I didn't confess that I'm motivated in part to keep being day-to-day friends with the children and their parents, hopefully fending off for one more year the inevitable day when their lives take them off into the world.

Any sniffing you hear is just the allergies.

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NZ Teacher said...

Beautiful - so true!

Lyssa said...

You spoke exactly the words I feel in my heart. From one teacher to another: thank you.

Kerry said...

So very, very true. I couldn't agree more.

Rafer Nelsen said...

I gave Larissa a check for April yesterday, and she said "and May is already paid for, so that is it for the year." And I thought, what, that is it for the year? Tell me it ain't so! I don't want it to end! Luckily there is still summer sessions, and a younger sibling to come. I don't have allergies, but damn if those cedars aren't getting to me lately too...

Unknown said...

HI Tom,

I'm Johanna Logan a student at the University of South Alabama studying to become a Elementary teacher. As a preschool teacher myself I can second the fact that it is hard to see them leave after spending so much time in your care. But oh the joy you feel when you know they are prepared to move on to bigger things!
Thank you for sharing, I enjoyed reading!
If you ever get a chance take a look at my blog.
Johanna's Blog