Monday, July 12, 2010

Goodbye for Now

Yesterday, I embraced a heartbroken mother, consoled a grieving father, and hugged a devestated little sister. Today, I will watch as her parents say their final goodbyes and bury their beautiful teenage child. I stand by this loving family grieving during this most devastating time because their vibrant energetic child once shared her smile and educational journey with me-I was blessed to be her 5th grade teacher and she was my student.

These are stories not often shared with eager baby teachers during their college years. They are not lessons taught in a college classroom rather come with experience as they arise. I would tell them that they are entering a profession of distinguished honor and sometimes heartbreak. They are beginning a journey where the fabric of their own life will be tightly woven with that of many families. Along this adventure, they will feed hungry children, worry about their home lives, hear their stories of strife and disappointment, and spend their hard earned salary buying some of them school supplies. This is not a profession that ends at the end of a school day or even school year.

As a teacher, they will shed tears for the children in their care, but more often than that they will reap the plentiful benefits and see the extreme beauty in teaching as children celebrate their successes. A college professor will not tell them that each child will become a special part of who they are. The children they are blessed to have as students will have talents abound and they have a responsibility to make sure each of them shares their gifts. My advice to a teacher just starting their career would be--Get to know them; Get to know their parents; Get to know their siblings. Genuinely listen as they reveal who they are to you. Enjoy each of the 180 days that they call you their teacher. Keep each class photo and display it with honor. Remember their faces and their names. No matter how old they are, or how many years have passed, they will always be your students.

As teenagers and young adults, they will seek you out in a crowd. They will make sure to say hello as they pick up a little sister from school. They will tell you about college as they check you out at Target, wave to you as you pass them holding a sign at a local store, and give you their employee discount as they check you out at your favorite Chinese takeout. They will stop by school hoping that you are still there so they can share their celebrations and sometimes their disappointments. Some of them will conquer extreme obstacles even scaling the steepest wall of cancer as you stand by and cheer them on. You will be amazed at their level of maturity, strength, and perseverance. Your heart will sing for them. On the other hand, some of them will make poor decisions, even end up doing jail time. You will wish you could step back in time and talk to them as a youngster, to try to persuade them to make the right choices. You would help them with the sorrow if you could. In life, some will be victorious and some will be defeated. They are all your students. In your eyes, you will always believe in them, in their ability to reach their fullest potential.

The lovely young woman being laid to eternal rest today was a great success. She was a delightful student- intelligent, energetic, and friendly. As I whispered, “I am so sorry,” to her mom yesterday, she said to me, “She loved you, you know. She always came home talking about you.” For me the feeling is mutual, I loved her, too. I hope that every student I ever teach, no matter their age, will feel the same way. I hope that with each of them I put relationships first and foremost.

Beginning teachers sometimes don’t realize how their heartstrings will tug and their tears will fall, but in time, they will. And, to me, I’m blessed that they do, because it most likely means that not only did they touch my life, but most hopeful I touched theirs, too.

13 comments:

Melanie Holtsman said...

Thank you for sharing what must have been some very difficult words to write. They touched me deeply and I know that they will touch many other educators. So sorry for your student's family.

Anonymous said...

This was beautiful. Thank you

Betsy McCall said...

What a bittersweet, passionate and heartfelt post.

JJ Brown said...

Thank you for sharing this Suzanne. It was heart breaking. I have loved this family for so many years and I am crushed for them. This is not one of the things they teach us as young teachers. You are a gift. To the families, children and other teachers.

Cheryl Oakes said...

This is such a tribute to the family and to teaching. You captured a moment not often shared.

Mrs. Metzger and Mrs. Morris said...

Your words are beautifully written. All teachers should read this. Thank you.
Lori

Sherrie Rabe said...

Thank you Suzanne. Your words mean so much to me.

Mrs. Lehane's ELA Blog spot said...

I think you captured many of the feelings we teachers have everyday. I am sure it meant so much for that mom to see you. As moms, we know who has touched the lives of our children, but do not always get a chance to thank them. As teachers we can only hope we have touched the children, mothers have left in our care.
Thank you for reminding all of us!
Terri

Patricia Wallace said...

Thank you for finding the words for a moment in life that is difficult to find the right words.

- Patricia

Toni Chant said...

Your words are beautiful and so true. Never in a million years did I ever think that I would be privileged to do what I do each day and you're right, they will always have a piece of my heart.

Wanda Lankford said...

Thank you for sharing and reminding us of the importance of relationships. My deepest sympathy.
Love, Wanda Lankford

Kristen O" said...

This was a very heart-felt post. I love following all the great things that are going on in your school. It's easy to see that the school is filled with teachers who care about their students. Thanks for sharing.
Kristen

Kristen O'Brien said...

This was such a heart-felt post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us all. I love to follow your school. It's easy to see that you care deeply about your students and this is why your school has such success. Thanks for sharing.