Last year, one of the teachers on our team was a novice. Like all new teachers, she began the year with a little trepidation and a lot of excitement. When the year ended and students were walking off the eighth-grade hallway for the last time, she got a little teary.
“You going to get all sentimental this year,” I asked a few days ago.
“No,” she replied quickly.
It’s a common enough reaction: that first year, watching the kids leave and knowing you won’t see them again, you feel a little sinking feeling. They’re your kids, your first kids. The ones that taught you more about teaching than any class in college ever did. You fall in love with them in a way: they’re special, even the ones who drive you crazy. And when they leave, you’re not quite sure you’ll ever have kids that you feel so warmly about, kids quite like this. After a year or two, though, you see that the next batch of kids comes in and replaces the old batch. You can’t even recall many names from the last year without stopping to concentrate on the task. And you feel just the same way about this group as you did last year’s.
It’s then that you stop being quite so sentimental about it all–and all teachers, no matter how cynical or burned out they are now, were sentimental about teaching at one point–and realize, yes, you will have kids just like this next year.
There will be another Susan, whose loud and constant talking drives you nuts but who seems to have a potential about her that she herself doesn’t even fully realize.
You will have another Albert, who sometimes can’t foresee the consequences of his actions or the implications of his body language and so comes across sometimes as being quite a disrespectful child.
Another Amelia will sit among your students, seeming always to be enveloped in a happiness that spreads to all around her.
There will be another Chester, who has poor physical and social coordination and tries to make it up by showing off intellectually.
Another Davonte will dance through our door and then proceed to do nothing. Ever.
Every student you have this year will come back next year–and the next, and the next, and the next–with a different name, a different face, but the same basic personality. Or with a similar face and different name and radically different personality. Or any and all combinations of those three, hardly exhaustive possibilities.
For a teacher, it’s not the end. It never is, until you quit teaching.