"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Saturday, May 14, 2011

the end of an era

I wasn't supposed to be a stay-at-home mom. I mean, I WAS supposed to be at home, but I didn't think I'd be able to be...at least not right away.

I was a teacher. And I was Good. I was good because I received my education at a University staffed by supreme Teachers of the Art of Teaching. I was good because I first practiced teaching under the guidance of true Master Teachers. I was good because I began my teaching career in a classroom flanked on all sides by the classrooms of some of the brightest, most compassionate, and most stunningly creative individuals I have ever met in my entire life. But I was Good because teaching was, at that time in my life, my Everything.

I had already married the love of my life, but it was just us, and it was easy. I poured the rest of me into my career....into "my" kids. I did more than teach my students, I loved them. I loved their families. I worked hard to address all of their needs...to fix all of their academic, social, emotional, financial....even legal problems. Some may argue that I became too involved with some of the families of my students....I helped move one family into a new apartment after they lost their house...I helped another family find an Immigration Attorney when they ran into difficulty with their visas....we invited another family into our home to share meals with us when they were struggling through a rough patch. I helped to create Magical Christmases for kids who would have otherwise gone presentless by helping to run our school's Angel Tree program. I bought diapers for the younger brother of a student whose Mom was out of work. I delivered a complete Thanksgiving dinner to a family who had nothing.

I did all of these things because I could....I didn't have my own little ones to provide diapers or Christmas presents for....but also because I knew that I should. It was the right thing to do. And, above everything else, I did it because I wanted to. I loved my kids. And that's what they were....they were My Kids.

Until they weren't....

Until I had MY kids. Until I first held my first born and knew that the love I had felt for my students, though real, was nothing compared to the love for my Own.

I held my baby and I knew that I wasn't going to go back to Work. I knew that now there was a difference between My Kids and My Baby. And I would never be the same teacher that I was once so proud to be....the Teacher to whom her students were her Everything.

And so I packed up my classroom and headed home. Five years of my life packed into bins and stored in my attic. I held onto My Teaching Stuff because I thought that someday I might go back to teaching. But now I know that, if I do, it will be a lifetime from now...when my little ones are not so little....when I have enough room in my heart to adopt more children than my own to become mine...if only for a school year.

And yet the Stuff remained. I held onto it because I thought that I could use it as a Mom, with my own kids....and some of it (my classroom library, especially) has come in incredibly useful. But this is a home, not a classroom. I'll teach my kids, but it'll happen organically....I don't need pocket charts and Literacy Center games.

But still....the Stuff remained.

Until Today. Today it is gone. Today My Teaching Stuff has a new home....a better home....a home in which it will be, once again, useful. The oldest daughter of my next-door neighbor graduated from college a few weeks ago. She is young. She is energetic. She is bright and creative and willing to work hard. She is idealistic. And she WILL change this world. She joined Teach for America and is awaiting placement in a school in the Mississippi Delta. She interviewed at an elementary school that ranks almost dead last in school performance in the state. Her Kids have nothing....and worse....she had nothing for them. Until today. Today she received a bright and cheery classroom-in-a-box (or 6 boxes) to match her bright and cheery Brand-New-Teacher-Attitude. She is overwhelmed and a little (a lot) nervous about her new adventure, but she has everything to give. And she's willing and able to give it all to a classroom full of students who will deserve nothing less than Everything.

And I can't wait to hear ALL about it.....while I snuggle with my boys in our couch-cushion-and-blanket fort.

Lesson Learned:
Of all of the bright and creative and compassionate teachers who taught me how to become a teacher, nearly every single one was a Mother. Their ability to give their students the love and support and excellence that they deserved from their teacher, while not depriving their Own Children of the love and support and excellence that they deserved from their Mom impresses and humbles me. I don't know how you do it, Teacher Moms, you are the Real Super Heroes.

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