As I Close the Door

Thirty two.  The number of times I have packed up my classroom.

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The teachers at my school have to pack up our classrooms so (over the summer) the custodians can throughly clean the desks, wipe down the book shelves, wax the floors and get everything looking spic and span for the next school year.  This year, however, is different because it is my last time.

It was also different because this is usually a happy and bustling time. Teachers at my school enjoy playing the game of “someone’s trash is another’s treasure” as we set items up for grabs that we no longer think we will use or just don’t have room for any more.  But this year there was a feeling of loss and emptiness. You see only a few teachers were allowed in the building at a time in keeping with the state mandates.  We also had to wear masks and social distance.  The silence was deafening.

Little did I know that March 11th would be my very last full day of teaching in the classroom. I would not get to experience the “this is the last time I will ____” moments.  Little did I know that for the next nine weeks the students would experience total online learning and never walk back into their third grade classroom.  The picture taken above was less than two weeks before the school closed down for the year.

As I unlocked the door, flipped on the lights, and (after being away for seven weeks) stepped into my classroom it was a very surreal moment. It was as if the scene had been frozen in time.  A forgotten jacket was left hanging on a hook, test papers neatly stacked on my desk were waiting to be returned, an abandoned lunch box sat on the shelf, desks were filled with books, pencils, and erasers. There were library books waiting to be read, miscellaneous art work and stories that had been written and proudly displayed ~ all waiting silently for the sweet faces of my students to come back.

It took me two days to pack up my classroom. Each child was supplied with one bag in which I placed the items from their desks to be given to them on a later date. Once that was completed I moved on to the task of getting rid of or finding a new home for teaching material.  I am not a pack rat so it was not as tedious as it could have been.

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When I completely finished I walked out the door and was about to close it when I decided to go back and sit at my desk one final time.  So many thoughts and questions began to go through my head. Did I do enough?  Did the children learn what they were suppose to?  Was I too strict or too lenient? Was I always fair, was I kind, was I patient, did they know how much I cared ~ even though I told them those words every single day, did they really know? When they look back one day remembering their time in my class will it be with a smile or a scowl?

I thought about the teammates I have worked with over the years.  I guesstimate I have worked with about 96 different women on my grade level alone over the course of my career.  Was I a good teammate?  Did I mentor enough?  Was I supportive enough? As time passed, it was eye opening when I realized some of these ladies were not even born when I started teaching.

Will my students and coworkers ever know how much they taught me? Patience, understanding, acceptance, humility.  I truly will miss the life and energy they brought each and every day.

Did I make the right decision to retire? Yes, indeed I did.  It is time – sometimes you just know these things.

I smiled as I got up and silently walked toward the front of the room and out the door. As I quietly closed the door one last time I momentarily paused, closed my eyes and thanked God for this incredible blessing/journey the last 32 years of my life.  I am not “Always a Wildcat”  I am “Forever a Wildcat!”

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”– Fred Rogers

39 thoughts on “As I Close the Door

  1. What a beautiful summary of your teaching career! By what you wrote, I think you were a FANTASTIC teacher. It’s marvelous that you have a photo of the classroom alive with students and the sterile scene after you packed up. Now you have a record of your thoughts on retiring that’s you can refer to any time. I know you have been a wondrous blessing to many, and I’m asking God to bless you in your retirement where you will continue to be an inspiration to all around you. Well done!!

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  2. What a heartfelt post. You took us along your journey. I retired a while back and it was more “joyful.” No viruses so I was able to experience “last” moments. I love that you have the two pictures contrasting the times.

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    • Thanks! The students and staff did a great job (considering the circumstances) in sending us off to retirement (there were 3 of us). So there was definitely some joy and sense of celebration. I did not even think about the photos until I read your comment I actually like the contrast too. 😊

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  3. I’ve had the privilege of sitting in your classroom and watching you teach. You’re so loving and calm, even with difficult students. Not everyone realizes how tough it is to teach third grade, as we expect eight-year-olds to take their first steps into the truly rigorous educational curriculum with much longer writing assignments and much more challenging math. You tackled each challenge in a way that showered every child with positive reinforcement, evidenced by the fact that they always loved you without reservation. The world is a better place for the 600+ students you sent out into the world well-prepared for all of the steps that came after your classroom.

    I will miss seeing you in our hallowed halls, dear friend, but enjoy your retirement. You have definitely earned it!

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  4. Sounds like a bittersweet passage made even more difficult by the virus.Third grade is such a transitional year and a good teacher makes all the difference. No doubt you were where you were supposed to be. So sorry you didn’t get to experience your final year of teaching as you would have liked to, but welcome to retirement.

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  5. A lovely post….good luck on your retirement! It was the best decision I made retiring early, but I was no longer enjoying my job and it was way too stressful. I remember working with an older nurse, who after at age 70 couldn’t handle the goodbyes, so she just booked vacation time, didn’t tell anyone she was retiring and never went back…..it’s good and bad to say goodbye.

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  6. Congrats on your retirement from the classroom. I can relate to the bittersweet quality of it having been a teacher myself. Still, you are right, you can feel when the time is right to go.
    We will never know the students we have touched or in what ways we have influenced them. The phrase “Teachers touch the future” is so true.
    You last few weeks prior to retirement are surely not what you envisioned, but life is full of change and adaptation. You are embarking on a whole new adventure…I’m loving my new life…you will too!

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  7. What a strange year to retire! I have been retired from teaching for 3 years. Welcome to the club! It’s wonderful. I think you are right – you will miss being with the students each day. I did. One thing I do not miss is the grueling schedule.

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  8. Sometimes it is just the tight time to finish and you have told your story beautifully. Congratulations on a great career and all the best for your future!

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