“…beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s the middle that counts the most.” – Hope Floats
My lovely friend reminded me of this quote yesterday in between sharing hilarious clips of her life with children and our shared internal dialogue that surely it’s not too early to start drinking. She saved me from yet another round of catch-your-breath kind of sobbing that has taken over my life this week. (Side note: Sandra Bullock has really come a long way, hasn’t she?)
It was my last week at Briarmeadow – my home away from home for the past nine years filled with coworkers that turned into friends and then into a work family. I delayed packing up my office as long as I possibly could. I even organized facilitating a workshop the day before I left. When asked why I would do that to myself I replied with several altruistic answers but deep down I know that I did it on purpose. If I was focused on this workshop then I could pour my time into preparing, to thinking about what would be most beneficial to the attendees, to becoming better versed on the content, to making copies, collaborating on powerpoints, in short, the work I love – not the reality that it would be my last workshop and I would be taking the last of my things from my office. I can’t remember crying this much since the week after Brooks was born and post-pregnancy hormones made me inconsolable.
Reflecting back, as I’ve done often since getting confirmation of our departure for Scotland, it could have easily not have been. I attended an HISD job fair wherein the same person that reminded me of the starting quote, pointed me to towards the shortest line. It just happened to be Briarmeadow.
Briarmeadow might hire teachers but teachers typically don’t stay. Teachers are either turned into educators or leave for less demanding intellectual positions. I think being a teacher is a job. Being an educator is more than that. It is an outlook on life. It’s committing yourself to being a life-long learner alongside students, peers and superiors, constantly questioning and reflecting, searching not for cutesy Pinterest lessons but for various perspectives on complex issues, for honoring childhood with intellectual rigor, balanced with knowledge on the importance of play. It’s operating at a higher level of intellectual demand that leaves you exhausted until you become accustomed to it. It’s leaving the comfort of your favorite pool side chair to attend an unpaid workshop with only a week’s notice and arousing your brain from summer mode to participate in deep ethical conversations about the nature of assessment.
The University of Texas trained me on how to be a teacher. Briarmeadow trained me to become an educator.
I sat on the steps of Briarmeadow with the principal yesterday in our last mentor session. His hands were dirty from spreading mulch in the front flower beds. It reminded me of the manager at Red Lobster, where I worked the summer after my freshman year of college. I cannot remember his name but I remember him saying that there wasn’t a duty in the restaurant that we were too good for. If he washed dishes then the rest of us shouldn’t say anything but “yessir” when we were asked to wash dishes too. I often saw him with his sleeves rolled up and forearms soapy as he worked to help the team. I’ve always appreciated that in a manager/principal. I was also glad that his hands were dirty because it meant he wouldn’t try to hug me and I wouldn’t have to cry onto his shoulder in an embarrassing display of emotion. He didn’t try to hug me – after 9 years of working together he knew what that would do to me; however, it didn’t stop fat, wet tears from rolling down my face as he expressed how proud he was of me for how much I’d grown in the years we’d worked together. In the end, we ended up purchasing the same book for each other as parting gifts.
In the privacy of my office I really let it all out. Maybe Scotland wasn’t worth this? Maybe I was doing the wrong thing? How could I leave the people who had shaped who I was as an educator and as a person? In the end, I decided that the only way I could honor the brilliance of the people that I’d spent the last 9 years learning from, is to continue to share what I’ve learned from them. I’m not sure what that looks like yet but I am determined to help create places like Briarmeadow for students and for teachers because both deserve it.