I just spent an hour packing up what was once my classroom library, removing inspirational posters from walls, finding working markers, and putting crayons into plastic baggies.
After next week, I won’t be a teacher anymore. For now, anyway.
I declined my position as the technology teacher for next year (and was not hired for any of next year’s open positions), knowing that with online standardized testing becoming the norm, continuing would erase my chances for creativity, inspiration, and innovation in that position. It’s not anyone’s fault; the system is broken. There should be money for labs that we need to support the amount of students we have. There should be people (which requires the money to hire them, of course) to run those tests and allow we teachers to do what we came here to do – teach. But the cards do not fall that way, and I’ve chosen for the time being to fold my hand.
I had a fairytale vision of my self-contained classroom: ample time for read-alouds, my students – my children – enchanted as they listened to me share my heart’s favorite stories. They would love to read because they saw how much I loved to read. They would love math because even though I didn’t love math for a long time, I recently learned to love it and it makes me excited and solving a problem is a reward because I did it. We would all love writing (and reading our writing to each other) because I love writing and the only thing I would rather be than a teacher is a writer, and did you know you can do both? And we would love science and social studies and art and music and PE and technology OH TECHNOLOGY because all those things had ties to each other and the threads, these beautiful shimmering, shining threads, they ran through the earth and into us and to the stars and back again and it was all made of wonder.
But I am trapped in a tangle of corporate function and businesses and politics and budgets and standards and reports and tired and angry and too little too late too often. I am spread so thin as to be invisible. And it hurts. It hurts that I can’t fix it. I despise myself because I’m not the maverick I swore I would be, fighting the system from within, winning children over despite the odds being against me. Am I too weak for that, or is it simply not possible? And which is going to hurt more to know?
And I don’t know if my vision was too fairytale to be true. I don’t know what was possible. In the dark hours, I feel like I was fooling myself. In good moments, I think it’s still possible. Maybe next year. Maybe down the road. Maybe 4th grade. Maybe I’ll be invited as an author. Maybe – hopefully – as a parent of my own child, gathering those threads in her hands, and I could wonder right along with her.
So I packed up my paper lanterns. My handmade poster that say “they believed they could, so they did.” My grey-robin’s egg-brown-navy bunting that I made for my wedding and then brought to my classroom, that I always got compliments on. The tiny poster pinned above my computer that said, “you don’t have to know everything right now.”
No, I do not. But what I do know, I will write. And I will carry on.
Those bags of crayons are not going to waste. I’ll take them home. Maybe I’ll color a little bit, for the comfort. Maybe I’ll save them. Maybe I’ll make them into art pieces or new multi-colored crayons, little hand-held rainbows. A little wonder set aside for an unknown future.