Back to School . . . For Teachers

I woke up feeling sad this morning. This is the first time in 25 years that I did not wake up with mixed feelings about returning to school. I did not have that feeling of loss as I looked back on the summer we had together as a family and think about all the fun and and amazing things we did. My morning cup of coffee was not mixed with wondering what the day would hold, the endless meetings I'd sit through, and the new faces I'd meet, encourage, and reassure that all will be well. My nearly debilitating anxiety would not get the better of me and, although I would hug and kiss my wife goodbye, I would not drop our daughter off at daycare. I would not pull into a packed parking lot, scan the crowd of talkative adults, and look for at least one familiar face. I would not find myself lost in thought over the lazy days spent fishing with Olive or going on an adventure to a potato chip factory. Nope, none of that.

Yet, I'm still in tears, confused by this new chapter in my life and trying to make sense out of what is still yet to come. The possibilities are endless, the excitement real, and the feelings of joy and happiness overwhelming at times. It's a journey unlike any I've gone on so far and very different from anything I've ever experienced. Life's perspective has broadened, but at the same time it's focus is as clear as day. There's so much I want to do and now there's time to do it.

I'm crying because I miss the people I worked with over the course of my career. I miss our laughter at the jokes we made with and at one another. I miss the tears we shared over stressful days full of mistakes and words said. I miss the knowing looks we exchanged across the table of yet another presentation about the same topic or the stifled moans when tasked with another duty or assignment. I miss the comradely associated with teachers. Of teachers who are made to wear a multitude of hats and are assigned a multitude of duties. Teaching is unlike any profession I know.

When I was stationed aboard an aircraft carrier the first thing taught is the flight deck is the most dangerous place in the world. While that may be so, I have concluded that teaching is the hardest job in the world. My hat goes off to you teachers, everywhere. Be strong, don't give up, and maintain a healthy sense of humor. Be passionate in all that you do, but not at the expense of your own health. Right the wrongs, fight for justice, and never allow injustice to go unchecked. It doesn't mater if it's kindergarten or high school, teach students what it it to be a good citizen, a responsible human, and a member of a greater good, a better cause, a collective society. Fight for the underdogs in your classroom, teach with compassion, and listen to your students with empathy. Teach with a sense of urgency, but do so by explaining to students the importance of what they are learning. Never believe for once that the students are not watching your every movement, listening to your every word, because they are watching and they are listening. Who you are and what you believe in are the real lessons the students will learn, regardless of the subject taught.

I miss the students I taught throughout my career as a teacher. More importantly, I miss what my students taught me over the years. They taught me the importance of patience, empathy, how to listen carefully, and many other life skills that I don't believe I would have learned otherwise.

As one colleague put it early on in my career, "We do what we do because it is for the students who come to school every day. We do it for them and not for us."