Today I finished packing up book boxes and moved out of my university office. With four more days until the students flood in, I’m going back to public school teaching. Yes I am.
I left high school teaching five years ago for this academic adventure, and now it’s time to go back. I miss the students who aren’t there because they want to be. I miss the feeling that every day I might say or do the very thing that sets a young person on course. I miss gut-wrenching teen angst poetry. I even miss the frustration of staying up late at night to find one more way to make the magic happen for students who don’t believe it matters.
So last Monday when I discovered a last minute opening/chance to go back, I applied and was hired in a day. That was that. My Ivory Tower career didn’t turn out to be a career anyway, just a job. There are important things I’ll miss there as well. My heart hurts when I think about the literary magazine staff I’m leaving behind. These students are grown-ups, though, seniors in college standing at the edge of the jumping-off place, capable and in control. I’m going to miss their triumphs.
To be honest, there wasn’t a day during those five university years that I didn’t look around and wonder which students weren’t there. The students who didn’t make it to the show always haunted me.
Because I know I made the right decision, it was surprising to find I was more than a little jangled as I loaded the last box in my car this afternoon. Resignation and keys turned in, I let the front door of Thompson Hall close behind me and the world spun a bit. Maybe all this moving was too fast, maybe it was simply too damn hot out to be lugging heavy boxes across fiery asphalt.
Maybe it was that I’d spent most of my life on that campus, sneaking cigarettes and listening in on medieval lit night classes when I was supposed to be in the library. My mom was a dorm mother and my daddy coached football there on that campus. It was my home and the school where I later earned two degrees. I remember the odd vacancy of the whole campus leaving for Christmas or summer break, the ghost-town silence the university left behind at such times. It was like someone had sucked all of air out of my walking-around world and left me dangling there alone. Can you hear me Major Tom?
It felt like that again today. A Sunday afternoon between terms, empty parking lots and still buildings. Maybe it was that this time, I left too. That’s a lot of history to walk away from.
Tomorrow morning I’ll be in workshops and dragging furniture around my classroom. On Thursday, the halls will be filled with nervous and swaggering teenagers. It makes me smile to imagine them, all possibility and emotion, filing into rooms unaware that these rooms are too small to hold them long.
I can’t wait to begin.