And they were right.
They told me it was going to be the best year of my life. That I would never feel so fulfilled. That I would find so much joy in what I was doing.
And they were right.
Thursday, the dreaded stream of "Why do you have to leave?" began, and I walked home holding down tears, wondering how I was going to handle the next day. It's not that I have no experience in saying goodbye to children. But those were all preschoolers, who had no idea what was happening, and who didn't cry when I left. This time it was different.
At the first of the year, I felt so eager to face the year. I was ready for it. I dreaded the stress, but the children gave me so much hope and I knew they were going somewhere. After so many instances of missing the mark, just barely... and the stress piled up... I began to wonder. Was I really making a difference? Were these kids even learning anything? Would it just have been better for them to stay at home that day?
In the weeks before I left, something amazing happened. We began to put together the class's writing samples through the year, and I held in front of me the progress of each student. The change had been so gradual, but to hold it in front of me was a shock to my system. They had LEARNED. They had really learned! Some students who could barely piece together a sentence were writing amazing works, with such creativity that it made me want to punch the air every time I read something they did. Because they did it. Because something I did somewhere along the way made a difference.
And later that week we took a math test. I like to take these tests along with them so that if one of them runs up and says "I'M DONE!" I know they're not done, because I'M not done. And I'm a math wizard, much like a pinball wizard, but with math.
One boy receives accommodations. I read him the math test. If he can't read, it's not fair to test his math skills through reading. So I read him the test. I watched him solve the problems using the most rudimentary skills. He counted on his fingers to solve "twelve times four". But he solved it. He got the problem right. And who am I to tell him that how he did it was wrong? It got him the results he needed. This was a boy who wouldn't look at me at the first of the year. He wouldn't say a word to me. And as time went on, slowly I became the first adult in the classroom he asked for help. Then I became the first person he asked for help, before even asking some friend what answer they got. I was his teacher, and he was my student.
There were a lot who were my hardest students. Students that made me pull my hair out and wish I could pass them on to another teacher. Students who pushed every button and when I was at a tipping point, they boldly pushed me over the edge. And these students were also my favorite. They were the ones I poured the most of me into. The ones who I gave so much attention to get them where they needed to be. They're always going to be my favorite.
I drove to work on Friday, for a few reasons. I knew that coming home, I'd have a lot to take home. There were so many generous and amazing teachers who donated so much to my future classroom. I also knew that I was going to be a mess that day, and I didn't want to blubber on the train (though I've done it before, unabashedly!)
And I did cry, when I left. I cried about the students who asked me why I had to go. I cried about the amazing friends I made this year in those little 8 and 9 year olds. I cried and missed every memory I made as I drove away.
And I cried because I did it. After five years of tests and essays and more tests and stress and late nights and nightmares and exhaustion and laughter and new friends and new adventures... after five years I made it. I accomplished my dream. I became a teacher in those five years. And the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment was well, overwhelming.
I started this blog the month I began college. And this is the month that I finished. This blog is going to keep going, but to look back at that wee Freshman 5 years ago... that's something else.
I'd tell her that she'd go through a lot.
I'd tell her that sometimes it was going to seem impossible.
I'd tell her that she'd be tempted to give up and take an easy route in life.
I'd tell her that some day she'd make it though.
And I'd tell her that through every single bit of it, it was worth it, and it will be worth it, if she can just power through.
Keep going, Lara-on-the-day-she-moved-into-her-freshman-home. You'll be there before you know it.