Friday was my last day at school before taking leave in order to deal with my health (hoping to have a date for surgery finally scheduled within the next couple of days). The school year was already well under way when I began there and I was shared between two buildings. Wherever I was, I was off in the library generally working alone, except the last few weeks when the librarians who circulated to four schools for a mere nine weeks at each one. Those circumstances made building rapport a challenge.
Ending my year before everyone else made me feel like I was playing hooky. I've been a little concerned how that might be perceived. Fortunately, one of my principals seemed very supportive and the other, though hard to read, was not making things difficult. I worked hard the last couple of weeks to get loose ends tied up and set some things up for next year. And then Friday arrived...
It was strange enough jumping in the deep end five months ago and trying to catch up with everyone else. It was weirder to be ending my year a couple of weeks before everyone else. I felt like I was cheating on a test. I love what I do. I wish I could actually make a living wage at it and not have a ridiculous commute to get there but once I am there I do love what I am doing. In spite of the challenges of the urban setting and an appalling lack of resources I even like where I am doing it. There will always be people clamoring to work in cushy suburban school districts where there are resources and well behaved kids with involved parents. There are fewer folks excited about our setting, understandably so. That doesn't reduce the need for capable, motivated people to work there.
I have been so blessed to work alongside some amazing people. Some have helped me navigate, others have inspired me, still others have made me feel like I am part of the team. I wrote some notes to some of the people who meant the most. It's an urban district where we all are just trying to get through the day. There aren't many pats on the back being passed around. There is a lot of weariness. There is also fear since the district has decided to furlough nearly 150 teachers without a corresponding drop in enrollment. For whatever it's worth I want the people I respect and appreciate to know so.
The most hard-boiled teacher in the building, the one who is cowed by no one and will not suffer fools at all, let alone gladly, came up to me and whispered my name quietly with tears in her eyes. She told me to keep fighting, I'm going to be fine, she's going to call me....and I better stop making her cry.
The two paras who have been there longer than almost anyone else in the building told me I better come back next year. One couldn't stop giving me hugs. She said I kept her calm and the kids better look out because how was she going to find her chill now. The other one who takes the most pride in what she does and who has helped me sort out some administrative complexities beamed when I assured her I like this school. That I prefer it to the other school I am at, that I am anxious to come back next year. Usually she hears that people hate being in this school.
When I spoke to my principal to make sure we had things settled for the end of the year and so I could offer some ideas for next year she listened intently and gave me encouraging feedback. Then she looked me in the eye, smiled warmly, and told me she felt the school was lucky to have me. I was just plain stunned by that. I've never been observed and I am not supervised so I wasn't sure I was even on her radar.
I went to say goodbye to my favorite class, the English as a Second Language group. When their teacher said it was my last day they had looks of horror. When I assured them I would be back next year they cheered. Then they started pulling candy out of their bags from a birthday party for a classmate so they could give me pieces.
Going in to the day my goal was to make sure I had things as organized and as complete as possible with some key things set in motion for next year and to make sure the people who meant something to me knew what I thought of them. I had no expectation of anything in return or even that my absence would register. Part of that is my wiring. Part of it is conditioning from childhood events. Part of it comes from the nasty way I was let go at my last job. I found out that a number of people had things they wanted to say to me as well and that I will be missed even if it's just for the last two weeks of the year. Laughter may be good medicine but feeling the love was quite a nice dose of something to do me good as well.