A boy I once dated told me, “You shouldn’t become a teacher. You get way too attached to people.”
That was 13 years ago, yet I remember his accusation with clarity. His analytical, computer-science brain could not understand why I was distraught over saying goodbye to graduating seniors at church, with whom I worked in our youth group. I don’t remember how I replied to him, and I can’t remember if he even consoled me. But every year near the last day of school, his words invade my psyche, and I wonder if he may have been right.
I’ve said goodbye to too many students to count since then, and it never gets any easier.
Tomorrow is the last day of school. I am giving a test in three classes, and have activities planned in the other two. It will be a pretty normal school day for me, and at least for the 47 minutes they are in my classroom, a pretty normal school day for my students. Some students accuse me of having a “regular school day” on the last day because I am mean and don’t like my job.
It’s actually quite the opposite. If I gave in to the trappings and last-day-of-anything sentimentality, I would be a wreck. Keeping a normal day keeps me from getting hyper-sentimental–that’s something I prefer to do in the company of like-minded teachers, or in the comfort of my own home.
I can’t wait to sleep in later this week–I’m so tired right now that it’s amazing I’m still awake and formulating semi-coherent sentences at 9:30 PM–but every year, it takes me a week or so to not miss my students. To not miss the kids who come in every day and say hello, or the ones who say “Have a nice day” as they walk out the door. To not miss the laughter they evoke. To not miss the occasional surprise when a student thanks me for being a teacher.
That boy, 13 years ago, did not understand the joy and fulfillment that comes from allowing people to become a part of his life. Even if only for a short 180 days, if I let them, my students leave indelible marks. They teach me how I can be better next year. And sure, with joy and fulfillment, comes a little bit of heartache when I send them off to senior English.
But I wouldn’t trade any of it. It’s who I am, it’s what I do. I’m so glad I ignored that boy’s advice and became a teacher.
I can’t imagine my life any other way.