Well – it’s a done deal. Two weeks before the school year began I turned in my resignation to my school district after agonizing all summer awaiting news on how or what our protocols would be in reopening the schools this Fall. I heard the news; I presented my letter. In my head, I had a list of specific things I thought would be important to somewhat ensure my safety: masks, hand sanitizer, desk shields, remote classes in hybrid mode to reduce class size. So far my former district has the masks and sanitizer part in place. However, I would have had my normal 30 some odd class sizes as well as my other coworkers, and it was a no-deal for me. Especially since the school district literally up the road from me is delaying the start of school purchased shields for every student desk and teacher desk.
So for the weeks in between, I’ve been unofficially resigned until my replacement was hired in a two for one deal – I would be released and they would be hired with one stroke of the pen. The days that followed, I meticulously packed up my room – my Chewbacca and Doctor Who posters, photos of my family, books I’ve used for countless read aloud to engage the writing process. Sixteen years of memories – shoot my other life – sit silently in the storage shed.
The entire time I was packing up things, the good old song from the 80s guaranteed to make you cry kept playing on repeat in my brain – Friends by Michael W. Smith. Especially the line –
Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
Can’t believe the hopes He’s granted
Means a chapter in your life is through
I tried replacing it by playing songs from my playlist on the phone, and it’s like my phone knew my heart or something because the first song to hit my ears was It’s “Quiet Uptown” from Hamilton – they are going through the unimaginable. Yes, yes I certainly was. For 9 months out of the year, this tiny classroom room with terracotta-colored cabinets, and peeling blue wallpaper, became my 2nd home. I dutifully taught my content well, but more importantly, made lasting memories with some amazing students over the years. This was my happy place.
Even if I had returned to my classroom, I could not bring myself to not hug former students as they came to my room to say “hi”. I am a hugger. It would kill me inside bit by bit saying “no” and destroy the reason I loved it so. It came down to one simple choice – the health of my loved ones or my career. I am, by the various comments by random people in the media, a coward in their opinion. Listen, I am the mom who would go through hell to protect her family and have. Teachers make thousands of decisions in a day, but this one was the toughest one I’ve ever had to make. So don’t you dare call any of us who’ve made this choice a coward.
Released –two things come to my mind with that word. I picture the scene from one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies here Calypso is “released” from her bonds as she morphs into creepy little sea crabs that skitter into the ocean. Or how the word is used in The Giver – which is pretty nefarious as most dystopian books go. No spoilers – let’s just say that kind of release is a long way off for me I hope. So here I sit, newly released, waiting very impatiently for the next step in my journey. Part of me is still angry this had to be part of my story.
I want a rewrite, but I am literally the author of this chooses your adventure story of my life. Neither option held much promise in reality. The only thing that has kept me somewhat sane is helping my husband redo our covered patio the past few weeks. I’ve scraped, then painted, and hammered boards into place. I really enjoyed the hammering part; it’s very therapeutic. Sadly, this project is almost over. I’ve been really struggling with feeling unappreciated now that it’s final. I started throwing myself a pity party because I didn’t get any other kind. I know we are in a bloody pandemic, but not even a zoom happy hour? I mean come on. In reality, I’m such an introvert, even though my daughters vehemently disagree with me on this, I’d feel very awkward in this situation. Then I start to silently scold myself for feeling selfish. So many graduating students never had the official graduation ceremony, or have the magical experience of prom. Even weddings are held via Zoom for the most part now. So I decided to get over myself and move past this as best I can.
So I’m beginning my new normal. For example, this morning while I puttered around getting my coffee, reading the news, playing my JWA game, my calendar reminded me that today would have been my first day back on campus with my teaching crew where we sat listening to our leader layout the plans for the coming year. So much for trying not to think about it. However, I heard this year would be different in that you could attend via video conference instead of face to face. I thought about sending my former colleagues a photo of me still attired in pj’s, but changed my mind. Instead, I sent a quick text to my best friend telling her I miss her and that I’m praying for her. I began building my dashboard for my next chapter of online tutoring and try not to keep glancing to see if there are any hopeful students I can help. It’s too soon, I keep telling myself. I only began searching for the next step the day I turned in my resignation letter because I am not one to stay idle for long. I know myself enough to know I’d go bat crap crazy without something meaningful to do.
Finding potential jobs was the easy part. Interviewing – now that was hard because I am not that person who constantly brags on my accomplishments. I mean there are good qualities I have no doubt. I’m the type who would rather someone else toot my horn than me doing the tooting. The last time I had to seriously interview was for the job I just resigned from. I wonder if I should launch a Facebook group for former teachers who’ve also walked away from their job in this daunting time period so we don’t feel alone. Right now I do feel alone because, in my part of Texas, the majority of people believe this pandemic will miraculously disappear come November 3rd as they stare at you in the grocery store like you have 3 heads for wearing a mask.
There is actually another form of release that comes to mind now that I think about it. When you are released from the imprisonment of some kind. This universal crisis does feel like a sentence and for some, it is a death sentence. I, along with millions of others, will try to hold on and pray for a miraculous rescue – a release from this bondage we are in. In the meantime, I will try not to question whether or not this decision sealed my fate. However, as COVID case numbers begin to rise again in my area, just a few weeks after school started, maybe this is the sign of confirmation that I did make the right decision, which releases a bit of guilt in my pained heart.
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