I almost wrote “at the end of a beautiful day.”
But I didn’t. I deliberately wrote “the.” Because today has been the beautiful day, a day of incredible triumphs and encouragement and inspiration.
This has been National Teacher Appreciation Week, and I have always enjoyed this week. I usually get a free meal, a nice trinket, some candy, and notes of appreciation. But this week? The smores kit. The movie-night kit. Two breakfasts. Two lunches. And special deals from local restaurants.
And notes and gift cards.
I have never felt so thankful for my parents and students. Because they gave me….not so much tokens of appreciation and a sense that my work is respected. I guess what I’m seeing is that I was given a sense of self-worth. And given that my self-confidence has been riding on a violent roller coaster, this has been a lovely week.
Today, though, has been the pinnacle of this week.
I have known since Christmas that I was going to resign from being senior class sponsor, but I waited and waited and waited. I told my colleagues and then waited. I wanted to make sure that I was certain about my decision, that I wasn’t just doing this because I was tired or unmotivated.
With each social, I found myself dreading the upcoming event. What hurt me was that my emotions weren’t linked to the students or my colleagues but just to my sense of having worked past what I loved. My emotional contract had expired somewhere in the fall and I ached because I wasn’t giving everything that I loved to the students whom I loved.
I knew I needed to tell my principal about my decision, but I kept on stalling. Because I really love my principal as well and I didn’t want to let her down. She has always supported me, always encouraged me to chase whatever crazy idea or dream that I might have (so long as no one is hurt). She wants me to seek out every creative method that will encourage the students to think. And the idea that I would disappoint her was upsetting me.
This morning, while I was doing door duty (sorry for the alliteration) with Emily, another colleague, approached us and we started chatting. This was our colleague’s first year in education, and she has been working powerfully hard with an exceptionally challenging group of students. But, as opposed to giving up, she bows her head against the overwhelming tide and just keeps on pushing forward, doing everything she can to engage the students on a truly deeper level.
She doesn’t want to communicate information to these students. She wants to teach them. She wants them to learn. She wants to engage them.
And as we chatted, the subject of prom approached, and this colleague’s eyes softened as she grinned and said, “I just love prom and graduation.”
My stupor lifted. My anxiety cracked. I know my head lifted and I could feel Emily glancing at me.
I didn’t want to ask. This colleague is a first-year teacher. I had no business asking her. But I did. I broke through the glass-barrier of my anxiety and cut my hands on my words and asked her if she might want to take over senior class.
I have loved working with the seniors, but I’m done. And I know I’m done and I need to walk away before it affects my work anymore. And, at first, my colleague wrapped her hand over her heart and laughed nervously and said that she didn’t know. She asked me about the workload and I did my best to give her an honest description. I didn’t want her to say that I lied to her or had mis-represented the reality of being a senior class sponsor.
I described Homecoming and Homecoming hall decorations. We talked about senior class trips, the senior-takeover-day. We talked and talked and she asked for the weekend to think and I encouraged her to do so.
And then, she kind of flapped her hands.
“You know what,” she said. “Let’s do it.”
Giddiness. Absolute terror and giddiness. Because I knew I was going to be able to release this obligation that had used to be a first-love. We went into the office and approached our principal and my anxiety destroyed my resolve. I had been practicing this speech for months, had everything lined up. And any sense of courage just fell away and I literally trembled with sadness, with frustration with myself. But, God bless her, my principal allowed me to talk through the anxiety and I explained that I was going to resign my work as senior class sponsor.
She heard my reasons. She smiled at me gently and then her face seemed to relax when I explained that my colleague was willing to take on the challenge and that I was not going to “dump her” or abandon her.
At one point, my principal interrupted me.
“Promise me one thing,” she said softly.
“I promise to read the names at graduation,” I said, proud that I had predicted what she was going to ask.
“No, not that. Just promise me one thing,” she repeated, her voice quiet.
“Promise me that you will get published.”
I broke. In the space of a few seconds, everything within me just shattered and I was fragments of emotions and responses and words and memories and bits of nothing and everything. And I came around her desk and asked her to give me a hug because I had lost the ability to say anything meaningful.
This is what I love about my principal. She can take a moment that quakes with tension and turn it into a precious gift. She gave me back my dignity and did so with love and compassion.
Thank you. I might not have said that to her earlier. But I am saying it now.
I don’t know how I left her office except that I placed one foot in front of the other and walked, shakily, back to my duty station where Emily patiently waited. And I fell into the chair and stared at the mannequins with their prom-posal signs. I stared at Emily who was grinning at me and my colleague who was looking happily shocked and I stared at the world as it fell around me and realized that change had just happened.
But this is not where the day ended. During this beautiful day, I have received compassionate notes from Big Daddy Dave who sent me an encouraging message through Facebook today, reminding me of my promise to myself that I can and will be published..one way or another.
During this beautiful day, my supervisor and play-director and theater mentor read my blog and wrote a gorgeous email to me, quoting to me my father, “You are going to publish something big someday.”
A parent who was helping serve lunch had received a copy of the thank-you email I had sent to the parent group, an email in which I narrated the family time I spent with Pat and the kids while we made smores or played volleyball. And she asked to share this email because it touched her and I was touched. I was touched. I was touched.
But the day didn’t end there. I went to Starbucks where I spent an hour with Nurse Mary who healed some more of the hairline fractures that like to ache every now and then.
And then I went to my brother-in-law’s, Joe’s, house to celebrate his fortieth birthday and I spent wonderful time with my in-laws whom I love with no comma buts. No qualifications. No need to explain. I just love them.
This has been a beautiful day. A day of thick, heavy rain. A day filled with encouragement as I allowed a part of my life to close. When I was on my way to Joe’s house, Pat called and I told him about my decision to resign. And his voice lifted with joy. He knew I loved the seniors and he was happy for me while I worked with them, but he has also seen the weariness and fatigue become just a little more debilitating.
The rain is still falling, just not as hard, not as heavy. It’s just a misty drizzle that blankets my home, muffles the outside world. Before me, Loki (my dog) is asleep on his pillow, feeling achy due to the cold, perhaps from chasing the cat.
But within, the world is warm, quiet, soothing….in a word….beautiful.