The timing was perfect. I was 56 and looking toward retirement but not yet ready, either physically, emotionally, or monetarily. I’d moved to Atlanta for a high-falutin job with the Georgia Department of Education, one that I soon realized I was nowhere near suited for. I’d been toying with the idea of returning to teaching children before I retired but wasn’t sure how to navigate the complicated public-school teacher market in a city as large at Atlanta.
Long story short, I got a job teaching second-grade in a wonderful school in the ritzy Atlanta area known as Buckhead. And it was love as soon as the little gap-toothed wonders walked in the door on that first day of school and that love grew throughout the year. I loved their bed heads, their slurpy pre-brace gap expanders, their need to wear shorts in winter, their burgeoning senses of humor, self, and the rule of law, and their robust bravados.
Those second graders were a perfect balm to my empty nest and solitary lifestyle. I laughed at them and they laughed at me and we laughed at ourselves. I worried about them and became irritated by them, but loved them nonetheless.
AND THEY LOVED ME BACK!!!! They thought I was funny and wise and could move small mountains (or at least the bookcase their pencil had somehow ended up behind ). We had a great year and at the end of it, we were sad and some of us cried because there would never be a year like this one and no teacher could ever love her students like I did and my students were going to be so sad next year away from me. I felt a bit sorry for their new teachers who would certainly pale in comparison to me.
Then came summer break and a whole new class. I loved them too and they loved me back, and my last-year students still loved me and they would stop by my door when they could to tell me how much they missed me and that third grade just wasn't as good as second grade.
That lasted about a month.
True, my new students thought I was great and I thought the same about them, but my last year students weren’t coming by as often and, when they did, they no longer looked quite so sad. In fact, they looked alarmingly happy.
And it got worse. As the years wore on and that first class became older and with bigger feet and straight teeth, the more they seemed to treat me like a somewhat embarrassing aunt. Like they were afraid I might want to pinch them on the cheek and talk about how much they’d grown. They were always polite and sometimes warm but with an air of being late for an important appointment. And when I WAS able to truly engage them they didn't seem to recall our best jokes or our most memorable times.
I've gotten over it. I'm fine. Those students in my first post-menopausal class are now college Freshmen.
I wonder if I should warn their English 101 professors.