Today is officially my last day of work. After 7 years of teaching I am hanging up my bag as Ms. D and moving on to the next chapter of my life.
(Bag from Thirty-One Gifts)
I remember my first day teaching in North Philly as if it was yesterday. I walked through the door of my classroom blissfully unaware of how unprepared I was for the task in front of me. My dad had spent hours the weekend before sharpening pencils for my new students. My mom and I worked tirelessly in the kitchen creating Roald Dahl inspired frogs out of apples to welcome my students on my first day. I was ready to embark on a journey I had dreamed about since I was five.
I was born and raised in Southern California in a community nestled between Los Angeles and Orange counties. From the time I can remember my parents had instilled in me that my educational path included elementary, middle school, high school, and then college. To help make that happen my parents sacrificed while I was growing up to put me and my siblings through private school. The same private school my mom attended. The same private school my grandfather attended. I had a legacy of education as my guide.
A couple of weeks before I began kindergarten I received a circus ticket in the mail. My job was to color that ticket and use it as admission to my kindergarten classroom. And it didn’t take long after I entered that classroom to know that I wanted to be a teacher. And so I did the only logical thing I could think of at that time. I started practicing right away.
Every day when I came home from school I would turn around and teach my sister everything I had learned in school that day. And by the time she was four, she could read, and I had fallen in love with teaching.
Every year I was excited to start school and couldn’t wait to experience and learn all that my teachers offered. I soaked up lessons about penguins, the postal system, space exploration, westward expansion, ancient civilizations, similes, the Constitution, and more. My teachers inspired me daily and with each passing year I became more and more sure of my decision to be a teacher when I grew up.
So when I entered my classroom that October day, it was an event more than 15 years in the making. I had dreamt about it, planned it, imagined it, and pictured it.
And then I walked through the door and all of my carefully constructed fantasies came crashing down around me.
I had an elementary certification. It was an 8th grade classroom.
I had minored in math. It was an English/Social Studies position.
I had always pictured the first day of school in September. It was Halloween.
I went home almost every day for the first three months and cried myself to sleep. In 22 years I had never faced something so challenging, exhausting, painful, or emotionally taxing. I can’t even begin to count the number of days where I wanted to throw in the towel. It seemed that no matter how many hours I worked it wasn’t getting any easier.
And yet now looking back I can say that I have never come through something so rewarding, fulfilling, or character building. I wish my students from my first year had the teacher I am today. After seven years in a North Philly classroom I can honestly say that I will miss my time there. And I will forever cherish the lessons my students taught me in that North Philly classroom