Welcome back to school.
Yesterday was the first day of the 2019-2020 school year, and it was also, really, the first official day of my retirement. As we all know, summer has always been our time, we educators, even those of us who have to work. And now it’s over, and I’m feeling a little like I’m playing hooky.
Tomorrow, the students enter, and the hard, hard work begins all over again. I am thinking of you.
So what do I wish for you?
I wish you colleagues who support you as you support them:
who share gripes but do not only gripe; who revel in each other’s successes and sympathize when those successes seem far away; who understand the importance of some gentle words in passing, or just a smile;
who appreciate and accept you, even if your teaching style isn’t theirs, or if they leave as soon as the school day is over, or you do, or come in at dawn or stay until dark, or both, or you do,
Colleagues who – if you’re lucky – show you kindness.
I wish you administrators who accept you as individuals, moving to your own beat:
who understand that you know your students better than they, who only enter a few times a year;
who support you when parents come calling, and believe in the chain of command, and stop by to get the whole story, and work out the best deal they can,
who visit for observations that are more than required checklists and formulas, who understand that the day they enter might not have been your best day, or week, or unit;
Administrators who – if you’re lucky – show you kindness.
I wish you parents and guardians who see you as professionals:
understanding that what they’ve heard from their child may not be the whole story, or even the same book, grateful that you are teaching not only course content, but how to get by in life, and that the grade is sometimes the least important part of that;
but who also see you, at least occasionally, as individuals,
human beings like themselves: understanding that your own children, parents, siblings, friends, and neighbors may need your help at times, or that you may need to finish that stack of essays that doesn’t quit, or create a cohesive unit around content you’ve never taught before, or that you yourself may just need to hide out for a little bit, but that the e-mails and calls will get answered,
and appreciate that you stayed late, or left early, or found time on the soccer field, or while waiting in line at your own child’s school, or in a doctor’s office, or while you were preparing dinner, because you knew that one couldn’t wait.
Parents and guardians who – if you’re lucky – show you kindness.
I wish you joyous students – yes, yes, and yes – because it’s all about them, after all:
students who are hoping they’ll get you, even if they don’t know it, students who are preparing to enter your classrooms, as you finish preparing those very spaces to welcome them in;
students who are a little scared, or cautious, or boastful, or all of these, or none of these, or who have more on their minds than school, really, with backstories that can knock you over with the power of their losses, and maybe, maybe, will let you in;
students who are generally honest in their dealings with each other and with you, or who are honest, at least, when you approach them with obvious deceit, and maybe, maybe, learn not to deceive;
students you help to find a passion they didn’t know they had, or just help to struggle through your subject matter with everything you’ve got; students who meet you halfway, or at least partway, if the distance between you is maybe, maybe, just too great;
students you are able to stop from taking over the class, students who find new friends, and create new paths, and let others in, and those who are hiding in plain sight in your classroom, who let themselves, finally, finally, be seen;
students who desperately want to help you – handing out papers, or straightening out your books, or sharpening your pencils, or letting you know what the sub said when you were gone – and those who want nothing at all to do with you at first, until one day they do;
students who are listening carefully to you, even if you don’t always know it, and may never know it (though when we do find out, sometimes by accident, isn’t it a blessing?);
and those glorious students, at least one or two in every class, who follow you around the classroom with their eyes, and shake their heads up and down, up and down, and smile at you, seeming to agree with every word, and – even more amazing – seem to actually understand what you’re saying, even if no one else does, giving you the strength to go on and on and on in this crazy, difficult world;
Students who – if you’re oh so lucky – show you kindness.
Right now, I am thinking back on the colleagues, and administrators, and parents and guardians, and students who changed my life.
Right now, I am thinking of you.
Fondly, Carol Ewig
This is the quote I used on my door last year, when we were asked to come up with a personal quote that summed up our teacher viewpoint, as well as another I love. They work, don’t they?