“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning…”

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I have put up a diaphanous net in my room. It is sheer, and sways slightly in whatever breeze comes our way, and I am certain the fire department will make me take it down when they come to inspect the school in October. Maybe I’ll just nod my head politely and ignore the directives, as I am prone to do at this stage of my career.

I am facing my last year of teaching, and it makes me happy-sad. Mostly, right now, it is making me sad.

My colleagues exclaim in wonder how it is possible that I am able to retire at the end of the year; my husband told me to say, “I know! These past thirty-five years went by so quickly!” Which they did.

I was offered a job with the Department of Defense Dependents Schools in West Germany fresh out of college. The principal said, “Let me see you teach,” and sat in the back of a fifth grade classroom where I was subbing all afternoon. When she called me into her office at 4:00 she told me I was hired, and I haven’t stopped teaching since.

Not when my son was born in 1991, nor when his father died in 1997. Not when I had surgeries on my feet or surgeries in my mouth. Fortunately, the areas in between have held up much better.

Teaching is what I know; teaching has been my life. Now I am looking at the end of this beautiful career spent with beautiful children. It is so strange to know that this coming class is the last new class I’ll ever greet.

In 1984, I was handed a set of manuals, the academic standards, and an empty classroom. Now, we have Smartboards and document cameras and Chromebooks and Google classroom, and I am the only one who still teaches cursive along with all the technology.

I teach origami, too, and the love of literature, and the joy of laughter.

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I think that the diaphanous net is symbolic of so many things: the years fluttering by; the old ways of pedagogy; time. What can I hold in my hand? Like Wilbur who watched Charlotte’s children fly away on their gossamer strings, I am watching what I have done, whom I have taught, all the things that I have been, sway in the breeze. It is the way of the world.

It is time for me to learn new things.

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” Ecclesiastes 7:8 ESV

 

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30 thoughts on ““Better is the end of a thing than its beginning…””

  1. My current post is a poem I wrote. it’s title is “Breeze.” I surely wasn’t thinking of you, or your coming year, when I wrote it, but the last two lines seem somehow appropriate:

    Had this breeze not risen, there might have
    been no falling, nor memories at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I sometimes think that as we age, as things pass us by, the memories become all the dearer. How fortunate we are to have them.

      Isn’t it interesting how your posts and mine are often on parallels? xo

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your post, which gave me goosebumps (and a lump in my throat) as I read your tender words. Your students, each and every one over the past 35 years, must surely look back on their educations and say to themselves (or to their spouses and children), “Mrs. Smith was the best teacher I ever had! I learned so much from her and was so lucky to have her in my life.” I have enjoyed peeking into your classroom over the years and I will miss the stories about your children. I only worked at Barnes & Noble for ten years and it was my dream job and I was sad to leave it last May. However, I LOVE retirement and I believe you will, too. Especially if you come out to Oregon for a visit. 🙂

    I also want to remark on Shoreacres’ comment and her beautiful poem. Perfect timing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lesley, you have “walled” almost a third of my career with me, if you consider I’ve taught for around 30, and you’ve known me for 10. I feel sad I hadn’t posted more about school and teaching for quite awhile, just these endless posts about translated books, and I’m glad you remember the teaching ones. I’m glad you know me in that capacity. Your comment encourages me. As I see the joy you and Rod are having on the West Coast, my horizons are broadened as well. I would love to get out there; I’ve never been.

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    1. Thanks, Laura. (Although, it looks better in real life, almost touching the floor, and the origami stars aren’t gathered to one side as they appear to be in the photo.) 😌

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  3. Love the net, really beautiful. I always have this idea of thin curtains moving with the breeze. I am sure it is a sad thing leaving something you love. I am also sure your pupils will miss you. You will find a lot of other projekts on which you can work in your own pace. Plus mire time for family anf friends. Enjoy!

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    1. I’m glad the thin net appeals to you, too. There’s something almost as soothing about it as the sound of a waterfall, to me. I have to focus on the new opportunities ahead of me, not what has been behind. We can’t have something new without letting go of something old, I suppose. Thanks for your happy wishes.

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  4. What a remarkable career. Few people can make such a claim anymore. Grade school teachers are heroes.

    Having said that congratulations on taking the next step. It will be full of rich experiences, whatever it is.

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    1. Charlotte’s Web ALWAYS has the ability to make me cry, no matter how many times (and I would venture to say it’s in the high forties) I read it. Who can write like E. B. White? His observations are timeless. Thank you for reading my story, Deepika.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. I’m semi-retiring this year, just doing perhaps one final year on limited hours. So I completely understand your mixed feelings. And your consternation at the rapid passage of time. It accelerates, surely, as we get older. Lovely post, and what lucky children to have you as their teacher!

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    1. How fortunate that you can “ease” out slowly, although leaving is never easy, I suspect. As for time, my goodness. There’s an ad for Viking River Cruises on PBS, where the founder says the most valuable thing we have is time. Using that wisely will be the goal! (Thank you for your kind words.)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful photo and words. Although this will be your last year as a teacher, your influence will be unending in the lives of your students.

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  7. You influence life around you, you always have. This passage will not be different just a new frame of reference and a new body of people to affect. Getting on with it is what you have done every Monday for 35 years. Getting on with it is what is done even if it is random. I believe the process will have excitement that will be brand new and carry you to a new place. Open your eyes wide and stay in the present. mjh

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  8. M, your words touched my heart. I am happy for you and know the future will bring wonderful experiences your way. I also understand the sadness you are feeling – how could you not feel that way after 35 years? Just know that you have influenced so many children over the years and that they will always remember you as their favorite teacher who taught them so much, especially their love of literature. You are the best. xoxo

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  9. I WONDER WHY
    Sometimes I wonder
    why it is not so.

    For ages and ages, for billions of years
    we have been living in the sunlight
    that is so clear
    We have been breathing air
    that is so clear
    We have been drinking water
    that is so clear

    Why then
    haven’t we and
    what we do come
    to some clarity?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A beautiful choice. A new page in your life opens beyond a sheer net, your first new day. The stars will guide you dearest Meredith, my friend.
    Sending you much love ❤
    Sylvie Madeleine

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  11. My dad is just about to retire from teaching, and while he is glad (except for the HUGE changes and issues retired Texas teachers are facing, he’s also nostalgic. Various student groups/teacher groups have had gatherings to celebrate him, and it’s been wonderful to see how loved he is. I hope you feel that as well. Gorgeous post, and I’ll be thinking about you in your last year of teaching.

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  12. This is a beautiful post. I love the image of Charlotte’s children being scattered in the wind. It seems just right for a teacher who has touched so many lives.

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