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When do we know when it’s time to close a chapter? This question has been circling in my head for the last year or so. In March of 2020, the world shut down and I, like many other teachers, did not get a chance to say a proper goodbye to that group of students.

For me, I had the same students for sixth and half of seventh grade, and that bond between us was undeniable. I knew their stories, their families, how they learned best, and what made them smile, and in a spare moment, it was all taken away from mefrom thembecause of the pandemic.

At the end of the 2020 school year, I sent them all postcards and wrote a special memory I had of them.

One hundred twenty-five handwritten postcards to be exact.

I opted not to return to that school, and after 10 years moved on.  

There is a tradition at that former schoolat the end of eighth grade, all the students write letters to their favorite teachers before they head off to high school. I assumed that since I was gone, I would not get any letters, but then my former colleague called me and asked if she could stop by. In a manilla envelope was a set of letters my students had written to me.

I had every intention of reading those letters that night. But I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. They sat on my counter from May of 2020 until just a couple of weeks ago.

Opening those letters means that I potentially close a chapter in my life.

As a mentor, as a teacher, as their teacher. You see in the last three years, something in me has changed. I love being an educator, creating lessons, and building relationships, but my flame for education is slowly burning due to the offset of work and life balance. 

COVID showed me that I thrive as a mom when I get some free time of my own. But having three in sports and a toddler has also become harder. I want to have some flexibility in my schedule, to be able to work from home sometimes, and to be able to give my all to my own kids. Yes, summers off are great, but lately, they haven’t been enough to reset after a couple of hard years. And trust me when I say I have all of the self-care routines in place. 

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And if I’m being truly honest, I have physically lost count of the number of times a student’s situation has broken my heart. I’ve lost track of the number of times at 2:30 p.m., I’m so emotionally exhausted that I cannot even begin to prepare for the next day.

Sometimes, I’m awake at all hours of the night thinking about if I did or said the right things to save a life. I wish I had lost track of how many former students have passed away in my 12 years, but that number is nine. And that’s nine within the last five years.

I, like most educators right now, am experiencing such compassion fatigue.

As educators, we have heard stories that would bring most people to tears, and we are supposed to take all of that in, and then turn around and teach a lesson that is engaging. To raise test scores, to collect data, to move them to the next level, and all the while we know their stories, their pain, and their heartaches.

We have to push aside the times students have told us they are hungry, their parents are in jail, that they have been cutting themselves or thinking about suicide. But see, if you are a good educator who loves children, you don’t push it aside. No, as someone who went into this profession to change lives and impact students, we take it all in. We think of solutions, we find resources, we give them all we physically can during school hours to the point that there is none left to give.

And my friends, that is where I am today. And we could handle that for a while because the stories were here or there, but in 2022 after coming out of a pandemic when families and students are still struggling, the stories are not a few. They are told every single day. 

You know why it’s hard to be in education right now?

Because we are literally fighting with students to find something inside themselves that will push them through the pandemic, to close the gap in their education from the last couple of years, to get them enough credits to pass, and to help them through the loss their families may have experienced whether that be financial or family members. As someone who is sitting in this role, I know these kids are struggling. I have never in my 12 years, experienced so many mental health issues with so few resources. 

I could stay. I could. I love building relationships and watching them grow. I have one of the best administration teams and buildings to work in. I could stay, but in the words of T Swizzle, “ I might be OK, but I’m not fine at all.”

I’m not fine when I’m so emotionally drained that I cannot be a wife or a mom. I’m not fine when I lie awake and wonder if there was more I could do.  I’m not fine with the fact that we continue to turn a blind eye to a broken system.

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I could stay, and I might, if I could find some relief throughout the week, but today I’m exhausted, and I am experiencing Scary Sundays like none other. 

So I ask again, when is it time to close a chapter?

For me, I have to be honest with myself, I have to be true to who I am and my feelings. For me, that answer is this year.

In May, I will potentially resign from education to explore other options for me, for my family, for my mental health. But if you’ve been called to this career like I feel like I have, it’s hard to leave. I actually love my building and my job, but in the end, I’m so emotionally exhausted that I cannot be myself for my family.

If you are an educator like me, first put those self-care routines in place, be true to yourself, sit in peace and look for your answer, and know the end of the year is almost here.

We’ve got this!

Dana Brady

I'm Dana or Dana Sue when my parents used to get fired up about something. I run a tiny blog called Live Simply Blessed which was created on a whim! Through my writing, I hope to encourage others to be strong and courageous. I'm a wife, a mother to four little people and a full-time middle grades educator who runs on caffeine and exercise. I'm passionate about my family, my faith, and adoption. Follow me on Instagram at live_simply_blessed for some crazy photos of me, the ringmaster, and the circus I run here in Kentucky. 

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