I am a teacher. I have been for 42 years in two states. It is coming to an end in a strange way. My intent in writing this blog is to show the dedication of most of the teachers I know or have known of, not to blow my own horn. This could be #everyteacher’sstory.
The beginning of the end began on November 15, 2015. I had a partial-complex seizure while at home. There were indications of it the day before. It was a feeling of paranoia. I asked my fiance’ if there was someone else in the house, among other little things. It hit me Sunday morning, a full-blown-call-911 seizure. It was followed by two days of ICU, heavy drugs, IV’s in various parts of my body, intubation and violent outbursts.
What brought it on was a combination of stress and some minor brain swelling from radiation a few months earlier for my meningioma. It was the stress that kept me home all winter. Doctor’s orders. FMLA. Many sick days in the bank. The swelling was beyond my control. The brain is very sensitive and doesn’t like people messing with it. It was the job that kept me home and restricted my driving.
I am a teacher in an elementary school, fourth grade. It is a school with extended days and under close watch from district and DPI. That and all the scrutiny, extra meetings and expectations that came with it were the major causes of my stress. A contributing factor was also dealing with my students’ behavior.
I am nearing the end of my three months of FMLA and came close to calling the game early. I had checked in with human resources about a transfer and with a friend about long-term disability. “Came close” is the operative phrase. It was three of my students who helped make the decision. The rest of it came after a discussion this morning with that aforementioned fiance’ who has supported me physically and emotionally throughout all of this.
I am returning to my class in ten days. It was as if my three girls somehow knew I was on the fence. Yesterday, I received an email from each of them. I had a flurry of emails from most of my class of 26 in December. These three have been the only ones in 2016. One simply said “One more week” (meaning my return was close.) The other two entreated me to come back soon and that they missed me. They came with many emojis to strengthen their position. A discussion over coffee this morning with my best friend and future bride sealed the deal. The two choices canceled out staying home or transferring schools. She reminded me that if I moved, I would regret it, personally and professionally and that if I stayed, I would be happiest, at least giving it a try. She told me to remain positive with my class and be optimistic, like I was before.
If I left, I knew that for many of my students it would be yet another adult who disappointed them by leaving. Many of them have way too much experience with that situation. Urban schools find that all too common. The three girls reminded me of that. Not in so many words, but, nonetheless, it served as a bit of a wake up call. Get over myself and be a positive in their lives.
I am still keeping a move and long term disability in my back pocket, but I am hoping that pocket has a hole in it. I know I can do this. I’m retiring in June. I don’t want to be one of those fireworks that goes up with a loud whoosh and then makes just a big bang. I want my huge orange flower to have bloomed brightly then just faded away. But with a loud boom at the end. That’s the way most of us educators want it.
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