At the time, I didn't think that would be my last day teaching. My plan was to take a year off, then return to work in a 2-day-per-week job share. The year came and went, and along with it came a note from HR saying I had to declare my intention to return to work or resign. It didn't take me more than 2 seconds to decide- I was resigning. Being home with Trevor was the best thing ever, and there was no way I wanted to miss a single day.
Despite the fact that Steve has been laid off from three jobs in the five years since I quit my job, I have not been tempted even once to return to work as a classroom teacher. I love being a stay-at-home mom more than anything. Five years later, I still don't want to miss a single day of Trevor's life.
It's not that I didn't like teaching. In fact, I loved my job. People ask me all the time if I miss teaching. It's a difficult question to answer. There are so many things about it I miss, but plenty of things I don't. Here's some of what I miss the most:
Cooking in the classroom:
Every Friday, my students and I would tackle a new recipe. It was so much fun! And, of course, I packed tons of learning into each activity. We doubled or tripled recipes with fractional parts and calculated costs per serving. We learned about the historical or cultural background the foods we prepared. We studied nutrition in depth. The kids kept folders with sketches of every kitchen tool we used, journal entries about our successes (or rare failures), and of course, the recipes for everything we made, carefully copied down by hand.
The Annual Scrabble Tournament:
Each year I taught my students how to play Scrabble, which culminated in an annual classroom tournament. Working in teams of two, the students would play every other team in the room. They took their games extremely seriously. It never occurred to them how much they were learning because it was so much fun. It always cracked me up when someone would ask me if it was against the rules to study the dictionary at home. Um, no... feel free to develop your vocabulary in your spare time! Oh yeah, and it's ok to work on anagrams, study word lists, and have practice games too.
Cool Science Experiments:
I am a huge fan of hands-on science. (Actually, I'm a huge fan of hands-on anything.) I loved teaching anything from Lawrence Hall of Science's excellent FOSS and GEMS materials. I also loved creating supplemental science units, like the one I made about Chemistry.
Teaching US History:
I loved teaching US History. And once again, I liked making it as hands-on as possible. It is great fun to make history come alive for students. When we studied Colonial America, the students wouldn't just read the chapter in the textbook, answer some questions and memorize dates. We sewed samplers, played games and sports from the era, made Colonial toys, cooked foods from the era, and used quills to learn calligraphy.
Super Cool Field Trips:
I love field trips. Most years we took three minor field trips and one major trip. One of my favorite minor trips took place each February. As soon as the students mastered percents and dividing with decimals, I would hand them the menu from a local Chinese restaurant. They would work together to gather each student's votes for top 5 entrees, graph the results, select the top vote getters, calculate the total cost with tax and tip, and then divide by the number of students to get a cost per student. They would collect the money and place the order. We walked the 1 mile to the restaurant and enjoyed a delicious lunch. There was always a tense moment when the bill came and the students waited to be sure that their math had been correct and we would have enough money. Of course we always did!
I taught for 11 years. For the first four, our major trip was a camping trip in the Sierra foothills. In 2000, we did something even more special. My coworker Linda and I planned a weeklong trip to Washington DC and New York for our students. The preparation, especially the fundraising, was intense. But it was so worth it. The trip was absolutely amazing.
Perhaps my favorite major field trip of all was the one that was the shortest, the cheapest and the closest. Angel Island offers a Civil War Living History Program. For 24 hours, students live the life of a Civil War soldier. They dress in uniform, hike to camp carrying all their supplies, cook all their meals on authentic wood stoves, use semaphore to send messages, and learn how to clean and fire muskets. They live without electricity, relying on gas lanterns for light and a wood stove for heat. The program is amazing. Teachers have to apply for this program and are chosen by lottery, then must go through a training weekend. I was very fortunate to be selected three times.
What do these all have in common? Everything I loved about teaching allowed me to use my creativity to share with my students the joy of learning. (Notice that I do not miss worksheets, standardized testing, or pacing guides. Oh, and yard duty. I do NOT miss that.) I miss the people too- my coworkers and my students.
It's hard to believe five years has passed since my last day teaching, yet it seems like a lifetime ago. I've kept my credential current to keep my options open, but as of today, I do not plan to return to paid teaching. Instead, I am working full-time as a teacher to one. And I'm loving every minute.