I walked down the hall, past the rows of bright orange lockers. Past the U.S. history classroom and the eighth-grade science room.
The next door was mine. Room 208.
As I slipped the key into the lock, I noted the “Bring it on” poster my students fist bump on the way into the room (a fun class routine we started a few years ago). Without thinking, I softly kicked the door open as I turned the knob, knowing the door sticks when it’s hot.
I walked inside, scanning the room, taking in objects that have been a part of my daily life for more than a decade.
The giant trash can we used to play the review game “Grudgeball.”
The giant wreath a student’s mom made for me when my grandfather passed away.
The two file cabinets I hand painted the summer I decided to decorate with a beach theme so the room’s ugly seafoam green cabinets and drawers would look intentional.
The corkboard covered two layers deep with photos students have given me over the years.
My almost covered with whiteboard chalkboard. I used my own money to buy white shower board to cover the chalkboard, and my dad came to school to help me hang it. Unfortunately, the whiteboard was a good inch too short on the top and side. But it was nothing a fancy turquoise border couldn’t cover.
And finally, my desk.
My old, giant, wooden desk my senior students have been signing for more than 10 years now. Some works of art took students upward of 15 minutes to complete. Others were barely legible, hastily signed in black marker. A few signatures belong to students who left this world too early, which makes the desk all the more valuable. I had always said I was going to retire from the school and take the desk with me. But it turns out when you leave decades before retirement, you have to leave the desk for the person who takes over the room after you.
It’s now that I should probably explain why I decided to leave teaching. It’s not the stress of teaching in a post-Covid world—although that’s a thing. It’s not the reduction in student work ethic—although that’s a thing. It’s not the mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that follows you home night after night—although that’s definitely a thing.
I decided to leave for one reason: to stay home with my son.
My beautiful 10-month-old son. After my maternity leave, I returned to work expecting it to be hard to leave him. But I didn’t expect it to be impossible. I didn’t expect to feel torn in two every time I pulled him out of his crib and dropped him off with a babysitter. I didn’t expect to be so exhausted every night that I barely had the energy to take care of him, never mind playing with him, reading to him, and teaching him.
It’s here that I would like to give major kudos to all the working parents out there. This is in no way a dig at you, quite the opposite, actually. My mom and dad were both full-time working parents, and now I have absolutely no idea how they so amazingly juggled both their careers and taking care of us and our home. Tons of you are out there every day, making it work.
But for me, I couldn’t get away from the feeling that I was half-doing every task I put my hand to, including raising my son.
So after lots of prayer and soul-searching, my husband and I decided it was time for me to take the leap. And I can tell you, months out, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Absolutely the right one for me.
But that doesn’t make it any easier to leave teaching.
To leave my school. My room. My kids.
That’s why this last trip to Room 208 was so emotional. It was like moving out of my home away from home.
As I looked around my room for the last time, I not only saw the objects that made Room 208 feel like mine. I also saw a thousand memories.
Doing a parody rap to the tune of “Ice, Ice, Baby” to teach my students the parts of cells.
Kneeling down at student desks to talk them through how to solve genetics problems.
Comforting crying students in the supply room when test anxiety or family problems or just the stress of being a teenager overshadowed everything else.
Delivering one cheesy science joke after another—sometimes to groans and rolled eyes, other times to hysterical giggles.
And especially that million dollar moment: seeing the light bulb come on in a student’s eyes as the content finally sinks in.
Laughter. Tears. Hard work. Free days. Exhaustion. Fun. Grumbles. Teamwork.
The moments all blur together into a mosaic that represents a giant tapestry of my life.
I gathered my few remaining things and headed out the door, closing it one last time behind me. I won’t lie, some tears ran down my face as I retraced my path back up the hall and down the stairs to my car.
Am I excited to make the transition to full-time mom? Absolutely.
Am I looking forward to focusing my efforts and attention on my own son? 100%.
Do I feel like I made the right decision? No doubt about it.
But there is and will forever be a tiny piece of my heart that will miss my home away from home. My room. My kids.
There will always be a piece of my heart that stays in Room 208.