In 1999, my senior year of college, the band Semisonic recorded a song entitled “Closing Time”. There is a line in the song that says Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. This is, of course, quite true. I have one new beginning that is ending this week and another new one which will start in January.
In early August of 2013, two weeks removed from my final day on the job after my injury, I was offered the opportunity to teach dual credit college courses at an early college high school that was just about to open its doors to students for the first time. (To explain, I’m a college professor. The only difference between this class and one on the college campus is that I’d be teaching a class full of 16 year olds.) I agreed to do it, though not without some trepidation. I’d taught dual credit courses before in the past, as I’ve been teaching part time since 2004. But in the past, the kids always came to the college campus. Now I’d be going onto their turf. I know full well I’m not cut out to be a high school teacher, so facing a class full of high school kids in a high school campus on the first day of school made me as nervous as a fully involved multi alarm apartment fire.
My trepidation vanished as the first class began, and it’s never come back. I feel like I’ve found a home there. Each semester I teach two or three courses and the nice thing is, I generally get to have the same students all year which is different than it would be in an “adult” class on the college campus. I’ve had the time of my life at this school. Seeing students walk across the stage and accept their Associate’s Degree and then later, their high school diploma is a feeling I cannot describe.
I have stacks of cards, photographs, and even a signed poster board that I’ve been given by students over the years. Every professor or teacher struggles with self doubt, at least if they are a good one or want to be a good one. On those days, I need only look at what I’ve been given and know that at least for someone out there, I made a difference. Since I deal with chronic pain from my injuries along with an incurable autoimmune disease, my weeks are filled with some really rough days. But when I walk through those doors on Monday and Wednesday mornings, all the pain vanishes to the deep recesses of my brain as I look forward to spending the day with my kids. Sure, I enjoy my regular college classes too, but there is something special, perhaps even magical, about this place.
Over the past five school years, I’ve shared a ton of laughs with my students, sometimes at my own expense, and even shared a tear or two. I’ve spent a good chunk of my life on one hallway it seems, and the thought of leaving for a full time position, while obviously a no brainer financially, still tears me up inside to think about it. Wednesday will be an emotional day for me. I’m not going to lie and say it won’t be. My students mean the world to me and no words I can say or type can fully express that to them. I see my students as my own children. I care about them. I worry about them. And I try to look out for them, just as I do my own son who is around their age.
So when I walk out those doors for the last time on Wednesday, it will be with a heavy heart. I’m excited for my new beginning, but I mourn the beginning that is now coming to an end. I’ll take away a lot of good memories, like coaching the junior girls in the powder puff game this year. I can only hope and pray that I did enough for my students so that they know that no matter where they (or I) end up, they’ll always have me in their corner.