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
i made it in your blog! you know, i do owe all my academic success to my first teacher 🙂
by the way, what happened to those apple frogs? 😉
North Philly, and those students, were blessed to have you. God used you in the lives of many young hearts and minds over those seven years. Not just to learn lessons about the Constitution and take trips to DC…but lessons on how to be better people, and to love one another, and to believe in themselves. They learned lessons they will never forget…and so did you. 🙂 God bless you with peace and wisdom as you begin this new leg of your life’s journey Julie!
I’ve had so many similar feelings about teaching! 🙂