Friday, December 13, 2013

Final Drafts

The smell of fresh donuts wafts across the desk -- Boston creams, glazed, cake, strawberry, holiday spangles. They look good, but they are for students, not me.

It's our last meeting of the semester and I am collecting their final portfolios. Our room is an amphitheater with projectors for ELMO, laptops, DVDs, PCs and more. I can control the lights, the screens, the volume. And the place is unoccupied by anyone except me and my thoughts.

In this unexpected pause in the noisy distraction of my days, I see my life's simple trajectory: A young man dreamed of being a writer. Afraid that he would fail, he opted for love, companionship, and householding. He became a teacher, as close as he could get to the dream. His heart gave up reminding him what it was he dreamed of doing. Days, years passed. Now he is old and barely remembers. But there is a flicker and some time now. Is there any picking up where he left off? Who knows? And what about the work he has done, about the students?

My story is a common one. Too common. A bit tragic. A bit pathetic. But there it is, undeniable, in black and white. I feel stricken, but clear and liberated by the simple truth. 

The moment is poignant for me, but a chore for my students. They can't wait to get-outta-Dodge and head home for California or Chicago or the suburbs of Tucson. They are various and wonderful: K, the soccer star who is as kind off the pitch as she is ruthless on, T. the Viet Namese refugee on her way to becoming a physician, R. the son of mechanics who wants to study literature. My students have come from Eastern Europe, Asia, South America, Mexico, and all over the States. Some of them hate writing. All have been gracious and generous with their time and advice as we have worked through assignments of the semester. They have been strong and open and now will disperse.

I will stay here in Tucson, will relish time alone to think and write. Plus it is cold and dark. Strange, perhaps, but I like this and hope to spend a few nights camping in the mountains before the holiday rush and bustle. I want to be cold and listen to nothing but wind.

I am wondering how many more times I will play my role in this education ritual. I know that my days as a teacher are numbered, that I am about "done." By done I mean that I need to move on, find something else to do for a living.

I cannot blame anyone or anything or "the system," though I am more and more baffled by technology and the differences between me, my students, and the changes to teaching. All of that is another essay.

It's time to thank my students, my principals, my teachers, my opportunities and my luck before beginning to re-imagine myself in the next chapter of this crazy life.

Thank you for what you have given me, what you have taught me, for your knowledge and kindness and occasional wake-up call kick in the butt.

The door has opened and the students have begun to trickle in. I wait for them, for their words, and I look for signs that they have benefited from our time together this past semester. I hope I did not damage them too much before getting them to think, a little, for themselves, to find that quiet voice that can lead them to person they were born to be. 

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