Recently a friend of mine explained her daughter who is a toddler’s aversion to new clothes. She said that at first when attempting to slide into new clothes she cries at the top of her lungs and does this the entire time her mom, my friend, is clothing her in new outfit. After she’s done crying, she comes around and shows off her new outfit which is always received with positive acclaim and then she loves her new outfit and wants to wear it for days.
Simple interpretation of her tantrum: change is hard even at her age. One would think that as we get older we would be more inclined to roll with the punches so to speak– wear a new outfit for each stage of life. And yet, every time I have to slide into a new phase, crying and frustration and tantrums ensue.
As a teacher, one would think that I would be accustomed to wearing different hats. Each year I meet, build relationships with and say goodbye to hundreds of students. Each year there are several new initiatives that challenge me to do my job with same effectiveness while being pulled into the new. And yet, each time I end a school year, I feel exactly like little A–as if someone is trying to force me out of my favorite outfit and into a brand new one.
Last day of school at the end of my day, I walk down the oddly silent hallway usually over-filled with 7th graders running like squirrels up and down the hallways. I suppress the urge to say: “Stay to your right.” All the locker doors dressed in blue, stand open, bare. Emptiness fills me.
The day I’ve been counting down to for the past two months has finally arrived in the most anti-climatic way. No proper goodbyes to my classes as a whole, no waving vehemently as the buses drive out one last time escorted by our officer of law, just bare silence. I stand at my doorway looking at the overwhelming task of cleaning out, packing up, and moving out. I remember all the laughter worn by this empty room. This was the room that helped me realize that teaching is the right fit for me.
I started this year different. I chose to let go of my label as rebel, risk-taking teacher and conformed just a little. What I didn’t realize is in the end it’s not the curriculum that makes this job worth it. It’s not the content. I could teach anything I want and yes as an artist it would make me just a little happier to wear experiential learning on my arm. It’s actually about the relationships that I get to build with hundreds of little 7th graders. They push me to be positive everyday; They imitate me everyday; They make me laugh daily. I open myself up so that they feel safe, so that we can build trust and learn together.
Endings are tough and emotional and clean and messy.
Friday afternoon, I strolled into summer break wearing a bright orange sari. The tight blouse fit each arm firmly holding my sadness. The light breeze picked up the bottom pleats of the sari forcing them to balloon. I looked down at my new outfit that got me a lot of positive attention that day and smiled. I wish I could wear a sari everyday, but the reality and practicality of life forces me to choose a different outfit each day. The truth is although I love my past outfits, the new ones make me happy too.