This July, after nine years of educational service, I made the decision to leave my school. My first school. My only school. And I’m not feeling what I think I’m supposed to be feeling. I’m up; I’m down. I’m frightened; I’m ready. It’s everything wonderful and terrible about the prospect of something new. It’s basically emotional whiplash, and the only thing I can equate it to is losing your first love. Because let’s be honest, if you remain a teacher for more than five years, some part of you loves it. And if you stick it out at one school for almost a decade, some part of you must love the school too. So, yeah, that’s the best metaphor I can think of. And it makes sense. It was in that building I learned how much I loved being an educator. Heck, it’s in that building I learned HOW to be an educator. So, yeah, a lot like leaving your first love.
Like the end of most first loves, it has proven to be both overwhelmingly, soul-crushingly sad and jitterbug inducing exciting. Like the demise of any other relationship, I’ve lost sleep over it. I’ve cried over it. I’ve tried to talk myself out of walking away….like a million times. But sometimes the end just has to be the end. And that has to be alright, educators. Like a good friend said to me: you can’t just stay cause you’re afraid to leave.
I had plenty of reasons to stay: I had the MOST amazing work family. And there’s no guarantee, I will ever meet another work family like them. Heck, I know I won’t. I was with these people for the most formative years of my life. These people were there to wish me so much joy for my marriage and offered no judgement during my divorce. Were with me for the birth of my nephew (who is more son than nephew in most ways…never growing tired of the stories I told or the billion pictures I flashed in their faces). Helped me when I struggled to get him the services and therapies he needed. Helped me break down his IEP and prep me for multiple special education meetings. They were there to encourage my scribbling, becoming my biggest cheerleaders as I signed my first publishing deal. They were there to make me laugh every single day, even when I was struggling with depression that I didn’t speak of. They were there to let me know it was okay to cry; it didn’t mean you were weak. They are the wives and mothers I want to be one day, and the teachers I strive to emulate. They helped me become me, and until you discover who you are, you don’t realize how long you’ve gone pretending to be someone else. They helped me with this, helped me to know what I want from life and love and my career.
Amazing, right? Why leave? Because it was time. Some people stay with their first loves forever,and there is nothing wrong with that. But I’m not done as an educator. I need new experiences. I crave the thrills and challenges of walking into something I’m not immediately comfortable with. I need to see what I can do. I need to learn from new people. If my time at my first school taught me who I was as a woman, these new experiences will teach me who I can be as an educator. I’ll be the new kid with something to prove. And that’s what makes it so exciting.
Some will see my leaving as commentary of the place I left, but I like to think it says more about me. I’m not done. I’m not done molding and re-molding my instructional practices. I’m not done sharing my knowledge and learning from others.
I will always love my first school. Cause a part of you always loves your first love. Because they help make you. But it doesn’t mean you should stay with them. Stay at the same school forever or don’t, that’s your choice, educators. But don’t stay because you’re afraid.
But fear is no reason to do anything.
Leaving your first school…something they don’t teach you about in your educational classes. Now, if only John Hughes made a movie about that.