Packing up several years’ worth of supplies purchased with my own money, I heave a deep exhale. The room looks so bare now. It’s less colorful and joyful. It’s lost its magic.
I kind of feel the same way about myself. After months of contemplation and decision-making, I won’t be unpacking these boxes when school returns in August. I won’t be returning to the classroom at all. Somewhere along the way, I seem to have lost some of that teacher magic that once sparkled so brilliantly.
But if I’ve spent so much time making this choice, why am I overcome with this many different emotions?
Sad, because I’ll deeply miss my students, their families, and my co-workers. They’ve always been worth the energy and work. The relationships I’ve been lucky to build won’t be the same, even if I keep in touch. They’ll be dismantled, shifted. I feel the truth of that realization in a very real sense.
Angry, because (selfishly) I couldn’t believe how quickly I was replaced. And of course, that’s a good thing, to know that students will be in good hands. But I’ve become aware that I’m no longer included in as many meetings and conversations. It stings. It’s almost like everyone has moved on . . . but me.
Happy, because I’ll be dedicating thousands of more hours to my family. That was my primary reason for resigning. It’s funny, growing up I always thought teaching was the best career for moms. And maybe it still is, but I can’t be the mom and teacher I want to be concurrently. I know many women who do this beautifully, but I don’t seem to be able to manage it like they can. And that’s okay. For now, my priorities have shifted and the anticipation of being more available for my kids is what gets me out of bed in the morning. In this sense, I’m counting down the days.
Relieved, because no longer will I be juggling a million different balls that at times, let’s be honest, seem to be on fire. Meetings, emails, grading, accommodations, collaboration, professional development . . . all on top of the actual lesson planning and teaching taking place all day. The mental and social exhaustion sucks all my energy, leaving little left by the time I get home. I look forward to closing out the million tabs that seem to be perpetually open in my mind.
Lost, because, who am I if not a teacher? It’s what I played as a little kid, gently correcting the grammar of my stuffed animals. It’s what I went into student loan debt for. It’s what I prayed and persevered and cried over until that first full-time job was offered. I haven’t left school since I started as a student. What will I do now? And when I return to work, will I return to the same field? Sometimes I’m not so sure.
These feelings wax and wane like the moon, gripping my thoughts while I teach my lessons and begin the process of communicating this change. I find myself justifying my decision to resign a hundred times over, and still not quite convincing myself that this was irrevocably the right call to make.
My days are numbered at school, and it weighs on me more than I could have anticipated. It feels like a heavy goodbye, a weighted vest that adds a pound each time someone wishes me luck or asks me if I’m counting down the days.
But I find peace in knowing why this has been so emotional. It’s because all these years have mattered. The work teachers do, it matters every day. And so the goodbye is painful, but the love is never lost. I will gladly wear this heavy goodbye until summer starts the year anew.