Today was the last day, for awhile, forever maybe, I taught high school English. Except today I didn’t really teach much: I watched them as they slaved over a 7 page final exam with an essay. I honestly didn’t think I’d miss teaching much when I knew God was leading me elsewhere. No more unit plans. No more late night paper grading. No more crosswalk duty in the pouring rain. No more head to desk moments when a student *still* doesn’t cite something correctly. No more lapses of unfathomable immaturity. No more students flicking other students. No more “desk car.” No more disrespectful comments. No more attempting to analyze Emily Dickinson with students who would rather analyze their baseball stats. No more rubber bands that somehow ended up on the ceiling. No more defamation of character because you give a hard test or you give an easy test or you give too many tests or you give not enough tests. No more complaining about how boring poetry is. No more choruses of “We have to read that?” Or “Why do we have to do that?” Or “We have another paper?” Or “Are we actually doing something fun today?” No more complaints of poor writing skills across the curriculum. It was over. I was done.
But my third-to-last-day of teaching high school, I realized how wrong I was. One student whom I would not expect gave me a hug and told me he would miss me next year. One student– not the student I would expect, either– the student who wrote “I hate English” with a scraggly sad-face across his binder. Another student, one whom I know for certain doesn’t like me much, wrote on the back of his exam: “PS: Thank-you for pushing me to be a better writer.” I can’t remember what else he wrote– but it is tucked away in my memory for safekeeping, helping me remember a theme I taught in Macbeth, in The Scarlett Letter: appearances don’t always match reality.
It’s true that I am turning a new leaf. Beginning a new chapter. Going somewhere different, for now.
What I did learn this week is that while I will miss Tartuffe and Hamlet and Gawain and Gertrude and the Wife of Bath and Ophelia and Hester and Scout and Jem and the Lady of Shalott dearly, but I’ll probably miss my nonfiction characters, my students, the most.