Almost four years ago, I sat in a classroom, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed–a new teacher. I felt overwhelmed and flabbergasted at the mere idea that someone would trust me with a classroom of 25 children, unsupervised, all because I had some degree on a piece of paper. It’s funny–you really don’t learn a damn thing until you’re on the job. You think you have everything you need, and you think that it’s going to be as simple as writing a few lesson plans, delivering them, and giving some assessments, but it’s so much more than that.
I remember sifting through materials, wondering how I might use all of them, how I was going to master the content, how I was going to fill an entire day of learning, meanwhile keeping the kids busy and engaged. But what I remember more than that was my first friend. She came into my room, having been the only one at school with me that day, with a half-smile on her face, looking at me like you look at a cute, lost puppy, unaware of what he’s gotten himself into. She gave me a few pointers, and set me on my way.
Just four years later–just the other day–I found myself hugging that same friend, alone in our hallway, holding her tightly, as warm tears of gratitude and sadness rolled down my cheeks. It became as clear as it will probably ever be that teaching in Chicago was way more than just a job to me; it has been a way of life, one where I’ve learned what it truly means to be a teacher, and to be human.
I thought about where we were in our lives when we both started, and about how we’ve grown alongside each other, how we’ve grown together, and maybe even how we’ve grown apart over the years–never severing or weakening our love for each other.
It’s incredible how things come full circle–how in four years time, we ended up back in the same exact place, ending this chapter of our story in the same way that it started, but somehow so much older, wiser, and more full of love than we had when we started.
It reminded me that, even when we turn the lights out, even when the room appears to have been emptied…
We never leave anywhere empty-handed.