I am a teacher by trade; trained in the art of pedagogy and curriculum I am. Ten years on the front lines I spent, creating Final Tests and Practice Sheets and Activities that would stimulate Learning. I read more than my share of Bad Papers, those pathetic attempts to convince me that said student had read the assigned material and thought (even half-heartedly) about it.
Those halcyon days conjure up memories of early rising, late retiring, unquestionably stupid and long commutes, department and staff meetings dull enough to cause one to begin seeing in gray. Report Cards. Grade sheets. Parent-Teacher Conferences.
I do not miss them.
Health care I miss, as well as intellectual exchange with my students in a classroom, or even less formal, setting. Student creativity and discovery, while not an everyday occurrence, do happen in my new life, but not the way they did while I was a teacher. And I suppose there is something to be said for that discovery: that it would not happen regularly, scheduled-like, but it would happen often enough to serve as a type of elixir, a magic potion allowed to prolong a teacher’s career at least one day more, through one final semester, or one graduating class.
The year I left the classroom I decided I would head to grad school and seek my fortune as a Poet. One month into the decision–resignation letter approved and on its way to the superintendent–I visited the school I hoped to attend and found, to the delight of all, that there was no way on Earth I could stand to live here even one full day. As we pulled into the roundabout at The College, my six-year-old niece, whom I had invited along, as well as her mother, my sister, began sobbing rather hysterically. I quickly jumped out to settle my appointment and, upon returning to the vehicle, experienced a strange and enlightened feeling of escape.
We never returned to keep the appointment I had made for the next day. Instead, that first night we wandered around our hotel area, eating dinner, getting ice cream, swimming in the pool, and watching light-hearted movies on TV. The next morning, on our way to The College, we got lost. Really lost. So lost that we drove into Berkeley instead of…where we meant to go.
It was a fortunate mistake, but it did not come for free. This reward came with so much doubt and, even now, as I recall that tumultuous long week-end, I cringe at having put so many people through the wringer of uncertainty as I did. But to my present life, my family and my husband, I thank you for being so patient. Had I decided to attend That College, I would never have met John, would never have found myself in Alaska, and never would have stayed away from the (formal) classroom as long as I have.
While I long to sip the elixir once more, my greater sensitivities know when to stop me from falling into the nostalgic abyss. Even as I look about and see the fog: another day without mail, another day without groceries, and another day in the semi-frozen North, I am equipped with the hardiness of a ten-year veteran educator and the wry sense of place one can possess even outside of the school-room.