Saying Goodbye | Looking Forward

Yesterday could only be described as similar to watching my own funeral. It was so similar to family and friends coming in and out of a deceased  loved one’s home to pay their last respects. Between emotional hugs, heartfelt words, funny memories, letters from students, videos of my classes of students saying goodbye, and even disagreements put aside, I spent my final day in a district I have been teaching with for 5 years. I was surrounded with students I’ve been responsible for their entire high school career, only a few weeks left themselves before they too will leave the district and head out into the real world. It is an incredibly surreal experience when you realize how much a small community of people can feel more like a life long family. But what is even crazier is how you don’t realize it until you are saying goodbye. That school has been a massive part of my world for my entire professional teaching career. I have so much emotionally invested inside those brick walls, picturing day to day life without entering that building feels like an impossible task. Prior to this district, I worked part time at my local district, but that doesn’t compare to the day in and day out responsibilities, personal connections, and extras, you put forth without even realizing it.

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I think the part that was undeniably mind blowing was the fact that all of these people went above and beyond to describe the impact I had made on them personally or with students they worked with. It was utterly overwhelming. I have a stack of 32 cards sitting beside me with intimate details of friendship, inspiration, and well wishes that I can’t even begin to read yet. The wound is too fresh, my heart still broken. I have learned so much from this family, this community, about sacrifice, looking at the bigger picture, realizing what is truly important, developing life long friendships, realizing when you’ve misjudged and learning from those mistakes, brushing aside the nonsense and staying focused on why we are here, and understanding the difference a relationship built with a student can make.

I have had the privilege to teach around 230 students in my short 5 years teaching with the district. Within those students I have seen the potential, the growth, the failures, the accomplishments, the future, and most importantly, the hope. Each child held the promise for a better future. If we could give each child the skills to prepare them for the struggles in life, the heart aches, the knock-you-down moments, then they would be ok. It wasn’t until my second year though, that I realized most of these students have experienced more “real life” more “struggle” and more “knock-you-down” in the short fifteen years of their lives than I may ever see in my entire life. It was at this turning point that I realized, these kids will teach me as much, if not more, than I could ever teach them.

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I began to empathize with them, to remember that while they might be frustrated or lashing out, it isn’t necessarily at me, but may very well be the only moment they have in their day to release the stress and anxiety of a life dealt to them, that is unfair and at times even down right cruel. I began to stack all of my emotional eggs in these fragile baskets, risking heart break when a student slipped back into old habits, or was taken from me from poor decision making, but every heart ache was worth it, because these kids needed to know they mattered.

So with the tearful goodbyes and life long friendship that I will carry with me, I can look forward to this new adventure, this new role in my life. What does this new career look like? I will find out in a matter of 36 hours. To say I am nervous would be an understatement. I feel this crazy mixture of emotions from lingering heartbreak and loss, to the unsettled nerves of a first year teacher, to the excitement of the potential to be more actively involved in my own children’s lives.

I have a Mom goal in my mind: to be that Mom. The Mom who packs lunches every morning with little notes tucked inside. The Mom who is there and present every morning before school, and anxiously waiting after to hear about her children’s day. The Mom who can assist with PTA events because she wants the best for her children. The Mom other Moms call to pick up their children from school and run them to practices in the evenings, because I am the Mom who is available and ready for anything.

While those events may be down the road a bit, I know that road will come all too quickly. On my last drive to work yesterday, my oldest asked me, “Mommy, after today, can we be home with you more?” I have never had any conversations with her about my job changing, about working from home, or anything even remotely close to this. But here she was, perceptive as ever, picking up on the change, feeding from my emotions. I answered her with a simple, “Absolutely girls, Mommy is going to be home much more after today.” And with that simple little question, I had the energy to pull through what I knew was going to be an incredibly difficult day.

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My work better half, and best friend shared this quote last night, and while it completely broke every barrier I had built up to get through the day, it was so perfect, because it was how I truly felt about her in return.

So here we are, two months after announcing the change and publishing Career Shift in the aftermath of it all, ready to start this new adventure. Today I woke up willing to say goodbye to the past and prepared to only look forward. So thank you, each any every one of you, who have inspired me to be empathetic, to promote achievement, to put my family first, to have the confidence to make a shift when it is necessary, to value my skill set, to leave you even when you didn’t want me to, to strive for greatness even when it’s a completely different path than I started out towards, and to always be myself. Thank you for shaping me into who I am today.

Tomorrow is a new day, a new challenge, and a new adventure.

Cheers!

  • Whitney
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