I just spent a wonderful two hours visiting my old stomping grounds. An errand brought me to one of elementary schools I worked in last year, giving me the opportunity to see not only the person who inspired the errand, but other staff as well - so of course I timed it to coincide with lunch. Had I planned better (and had memory served), I'd have gotten there even earlier to take advantage of the second grade teachers' planning periods. Then again, they wouldn't have gotten much planning done if I'd barged in.
There are many things I do not miss about working in public education. State testing. Bus duty. Faculty meetings. Training in skills I hope never to have to use. Fire drills.
But I do miss the people. In twenty-seven years as an educator, I was blessed to work with hundreds of wonderful people in three different districts. Not just fantastic teachers, but good-hearted people whose dedication to their chosen profession extended far beyond imparting curriculum and ventured into compassion for the families they served and the people they worked with.
Though it's probably politically incorrect to say so, I miss these grown-ups even more than I miss the kids. After nearly three decades in education, I'd grown accustomed to saying good-bye to a group of my students each year and welcoming their younger counterparts. It was always bittersweet, but it was part of the drill. And since I live in the community where I worked, our paths often crossed again after they'd left - sometimes in person or, once they graduated, on Facebook.
But the teachers and staff in these schools morphed from being merely colleagues to being my friends. We shared each other's lives and helped raise each other's children, both directly and indirectly. We served as mentors to one another on health, nutrition, high school course selection, college planning, house-hunting, dating, divorce, financial planning and a host of other life lessons. We laughed together, cried together and stood together when the winds of change threatened to become a hurricane.
And so when I had the opportunity to go home again, I leapt at it. And I'm happy to say it was all I'd hoped it would be. I managed to touch base (albeit too briefly) with nearly everyone I wanted to see, and to even have real conversations with a few people. I would have liked to have talked longer (as was often the case when I was working), but duty called. My friends had kids to teach and I had work to do as well.
I left the building in wonderful spirits. The sun was shining and I'd spent my time in the pursuit of conversation and friendship. I was headed to Starbucks to write, something I love nearly as much as spending time with friends. Could life get any better?
Well, maybe just a little. I had just arrived at my car when the fire alarm went off, sending a building full of teachers and their charges out into the March sunshine.
I got in my car and drove away, still smiling.