Tonight was back-to-school night... my twelfth as a teacher, but the first in which I did not have to welcome parents and attempt to give a twenty minute speech in seven minutes flat. I made the decision to "semi-retire" last spring and have relished the thought of fewer classes, fewer preps, and fewer papers to grade. That is... until I was driving to school this evening and realized that my sole duty was to distribute yearbooks. I had no copies to make - I had no room to set up - I had no syllabi to review. For all intents and purposes, I was going to be a non-entity, without purpose and value... and my eyes filled with tears.
WHAT?! Why the tears? I am thrilled to have long weekends where I can focus on my own hobbies and interests rather than tweaking lesson plans. I love the idea that my husband and I can take off for four day adventures throughout the school year. I have accepted the calling to write (whatever that means....) and gladly devote Mondays and Fridays to develop this new "career" I have burned the candle from both ends for so many years that I crave the solitude and peace that this new teaching schedule will afford. And yet....
I did not realize the fulfillment and satisfaction I derived from teaching a "full load" I was a part of the inner workings of the school. At one point not too many years ago, I was teaching 7th grade - 8th grade - 9th grade - 11th grade - 12th grade English classes PLUS computer apps and yearbook. I knew practically every secondary student in the student body. I was a long-time member of the Academic Committee and my longevity at the school earned me some respect. But now... I teach two upper level classes on the "off" days. I will not interact with other teachers - barely interact with administration - and only be familiar with juniors and seniors. Yes, the subjects I now teach, I am truly passionate about... but my sphere of influence has dramatically decreased.
This evening during the Principal's introduction of teachers... it was quite apparent who are "popular" among students --- and with total reason. Loud claps, hurrahs and cheers were elicited when the Algebra teacher, Biology teacher, and World Views teacher names were called. And at one time - a couple of years ago, I was a recipient of that kind student applause. But this year, there was the token recognition at the name of "Mrs. Totoro" while the principal continued on. I always knew I was replaceable... I suppose I had hoped that I would not be forgettable.
This sounds so narcissistic of me - and I hate that. I am thrilled that other teachers have come to replace me. I am honored that my lesson plans, syllabi and handouts have made it easy to pass on that responsibility to someone else. I am glad that my peers are loved and honored by the students. I am excited to have a some personal time to devote to other interests. I suppose that I am just mourning the fact that this time in my life is coming to a close. And perhaps I am realizing for the first time that ... I really am a teacher, despite the lack of certification. For I do not think I would miss the hustle and bustle of back-to-school if I were not.