Back to School (Kind of)

Some of my wonderful students at South surprised me with lunch after I announced I was leaving.

Some of my wonderful students at South surprised me with lunch after I announced I was leaving.

I have been going “back to school” as a student or as a teacher for over 25 years. Back to school always seemed like a time full of possibility—new friends, new teachers, and new experiences. Like other nerdy kids, I loved shopping for school supplies. I would pore over the list from my teachers in elementary school and lay out my new pencils and folders for weeks before school actually started. Are you surprised that I became a teacher? I’m sure not…and neither are the kids in my neighborhood I forced to play school in our garage. 

I understand why August fills educators with existential dread and/or overwhelming stress; however, I still found the beginning of the school year to be an exciting time once I transitioned from student to teacher. I loved decorating my classroom, back to school nights, planning, and looking over my roster in anticipation. I used this time of year as an excuse to refresh other parts of my life and set intentions that I would, inevitably, not keep: I will NOT work past 4:00pm on Sundays! I will do fun things on the weekdays like other youngish people! I will attend regular exercise classes! I promise, dread and stress hit me later in the year but late August and early September remained a special time when anything was possible. 

This fall marks the first time that I am neither student nor teacher. Erase the Space was just getting started in 2017 when I unexpectedly lost my father on a family vacation.  I was also in the middle of graduate school. I returned to South High for the 2017-2018 school year with a nagging feeling that my time in Columbus was limited—I wanted to be closer to my family. My husband and I ultimately decided to move back home to Washington, D.C. and planned our exit for June 2019. I spent the next year and a half growing Erase the Space with Derek, quietly stepping down from responsibilities at South, and preparing to leave our first house and the Columbus community. After emotionally leaving Columbus in June,  I moved to Vermont (as did Derek) to finish our last semester of graduate school. We finally graduated with our Master’s degrees just a few weeks ago. The idea of starting in a new classroom at a new school in a (kind of) new city just felt like too much for me to handle. So, this year, I am going to hopefully serve as a substitute teacher and tutor and focus on being an Erase the Space co-founder and new D.C. resident. I realize just how fortunate I am to be stepping back and slowing down (kind of) when I definitely need to do so. 

But, I am sure missing being “back to school.” 

Luckily, spending time with our Erase the Space teachers and their students will help fill some of the parts of teaching that I miss so much. I can’t wait to see what they accomplish this year because, together, we are back at it. It’s that time of year. Anything is possible.