Ten years ago today was my last day as a classroom teacher. After eleven years teaching 4th and 5th graders at Glen Cove Elementary in Vallejo, California, I administered the final set of state tests to my 5th grade class, wished them all the best, and
walked waddled (I was 9 months pregnant) out of the classroom.
I thought I would be back. I was going to take a year off to be with my baby, then return to a job share. I didn't. I couldn't stand the thought of not being the one to spend all day with my child. It's a decision I've never regretted, not once. I loved teaching and am so glad for the chance I had to make a difference in my students' lives. There isn't a single one of them who didn't help shape the teacher, the mother, and the person I am.
The same can be said about my coworkers and administrators. They helped me grow and supported me every step of the way. There are no words for how much they've meant to me. I will be seeing many of them this weekend as we celebrate the retirement of Greg Allison, my principal for all 11 years I taught.
I've been going through my files of school stuff. I didn't save much, which I deeply regret. In 11 years, I took almost no photos of my students or classroom. The few that I have are not dated or labeled. I only have a portion of the stories, drawings, and other special items students gave me. If only I'd known how much they would have meant to me just 10 years later. We're so blessed now to have digital cameras, scanners, and so many ways to record memories; how differently I would have behaved if those had been available to me when I was teaching.
While I didn't save a lot, much of what I did save are real treasures. I can't/won't share some publicly for privacy reasons, but here are a few things that made me smile:
- This is the letter my principal sent to the parents of my first class. I started in October. The class had started the year at the beginning of August (year-round school) with an experienced teacher who took an open position on a different schedule. While the kids were out for their September break, I was hired. It was my first teaching job and I was 23. I'd heard much later that parents were frustrated that the other teacher had left and that she was being replaced by a young, totally-inexperienced teacher. Greg did an amazing job protecting me from that and making me feel 100% welcomed by all. His support and that of my coworkers was crucial in surviving that very difficult first year.
- And speaking of that first year, here's my job offer with a starting salary of $25,412. While teachers are still grossly underpaid for all they're expected to do and the level of education and continued professional development required of them, I'm glad that there has been so much progress in this area.
- On the second-to-last day of school, I would ask my students to clean out their desks, then write a letter of advice to the person who would be sitting in that desk as part of my next class. I had to read the letters, of course, in case someone had written something inappropriate (no one ever did, thankfully). Most of the letters were predictable: do your homework, listen, don't mess around, etc. and you'll have a good year. But every once in a while, I found a real gem. I photocopied this one. It's only one I ever copied. I love it.
- From October 1995 to May 2004, I taught as Miss Jones. Steve and I got married on Sunday, May 30, 2004. I returned to school that Thursday as Mrs. deRosier. Since there were only about 2 weeks of school left and I hadn't legally changed my name yet, I finished out the year as Miss Jones. When the 2004-2005 school year started, I was legally Mrs. deRosier and that's what the students would be calling me. Yet...
(Bonus points if you noticed deRosier
misspelled twice in two different ways.)
- Teaching (done correctly) is hard, hard work. It's exhausting and draining and consuming. It can be wonderful and awful, all in the same day. Greg had a policy that when we entered a classroom for an observation or other reason, we would leave a "love note" for the teacher. About half of the things I've saved from my teaching time were love notes from other staff members. This one is from our office manager. She was mentoring a particularly challenging student of mine and would pop in occasionally to check on him.
So many wonderful memories. I just wish I'd put them in a scrapbook.