Unto Each, His Proposed Last.

We long for moments of exquisite clarity, where vertical forests separate and reveal their lost horizontal path and fog lifts long enough for you to arrive safely to where you are headed. It is in these moments that we find our true selves, the person we have dreamt of becoming–the leader, the visionary, the one who others look to when they don’t know the way. All of our systems are in flow, our shots are falling, our decisions ring with confidence, we know which way we are going.

This is how we would like to feel when we decide to change our lives. The odd part is, life doesn’t care how you want to feel. When external factors force your hand, the decision-making process rarely looks like the description above. Rather, it looks bedraggled, chaotic, forlorn.

And the looks of the process pale in comparison to how it affects the human heart.

I’ve spent the last 6 years of my professional life in a town called Sparta. My kids haven’t known me with any other job; it was in my first year there that I was called out of 5th period to be with my wife as my first was born.

In more ways than not, I’ve grown up here. I didn’t start here, but I arrived here with the full mindset that I’d work here forever. That’s what I felt you did as a teacher. You got a job in a district, got a classroom, and stayed there until you retired 25 years or so hence. Within the six years I have called Sparta my home, I’ve managed to completely reconfigure that mentality within myself.

I’ve worked hard at creating change over the last few years. I’ve moved cheese, I’ve “made the switch,” worked within a construct of rough-ready, and lived in a state of constant beta. “Change” and me, we are down. I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded, I’ve pushed more than I’ve conceded, and I’ve agreed with decisions not because they were decisions I would have made if given the choice, but because either consensus ruled, or because those that had deeper understanding won out.

Now I am leaving, and so much of me tells me that I am not ready to do so. But, nonetheless, I am leaving. Bittersweet. That’s really all.

There are questions I’ll ask of myself as I move on:

What if I wasn’t ready? What if there were still things to do here? What will happen to all of the things I started?

Yes, I’ve known for a while that I would leave Sparta, and I’ve stated as much here, but when we leave something we’ve dedicated much of energies to, there exists a need within us to have some control over that exit. Finances sometimes dictate to us what we must do, and our options are limited. No one likes being the guy that had an idea and then left others to make it happen. We’d all much rather be the guy that had the idea that changed everything and hung around to make it work. Now I won’t be here to see whether or not that will be true.

There are wonderful people who I will miss. There are things we’ve created that may or may not last after I am gone, and much of the “me” that is moving on to the next segment of my career has been forged by what I’ve learned in my time at Sparta.

Tonight I watched as the last group of students I had the privilege of teaching graduated as seniors. The slender faces I remembered them as five years ago have long been replaced by their matured countenances, confident gazes and hopeful demeanor. They’ve grown and changed. They’re moving to what they’ve chosen as next.

And so am I.

All these things we do in education, they matter. They matter because we put ourselves, our whole selves, into them and they have direct impact on the lives of children.

Louis, one of our graduates tonight, said to me as he as being herded into procession line-up: “Higgins, you’re here,” and turned to smack his constant companion (still to this day) Dave in the chest. “See, Dave, Higgins always got it.”

And that’s how we know.

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10 thoughts on “Unto Each, His Proposed Last.

    1. Hi Susan,

      Thank you for your well-wishes. I know I am moving forward, and it helps to know that I am moving in the right direction.

  1. Please let us know what is next for you. I so benefit from your transparent reflections as an administrator.
    (will you be at BLC?)

    1. Hi Karen; thanks for your kind words. I’ve moved to another public school in New Jersey about 30 miles south of where I left. Great people, great community, and a wonderful opportunity to help move this district forward.

      Once I get a little more situated and get my bearings set, I hope to be writing more regularly.

  2. Best wishes on the next part of your journey. It is hard to leave behind a work still in progress. Thank you for sharing the graduation slice of life. I’m looking forward to hearing about the next leg of the journey.

    1. Ann,

      I agree completely, and I wish I could have stayed on a bit longer to see a few things through. It’s just not going that way for me. So, on to the next leg!

  3. Hey Patrick,
    After starting in Sparta 25 years ago I also never thought I would leave. Part of my heart is still there. It was my home and I changed from a 27 year old who thought she new everything into a 52 year old that realized how much she needed to learn and challenge he status quo. While I left for different reasons and experienced different issues it is a hard to say good-bye. Know that you did make a change and for the better….I know for myself I have grown and learned many things from you as a result of willingness to share. Education is not the same as it has been for many years. Sometimes the “ugly” gets in whether it be money issues, ignorance, or politics. Kids however are the reason we are there and as much as they have changed they are still our greatest blessing as educators. I wish you much luck and happiness. I hope you will keep in touch and share your experiences.

  4. Fran,

    Thank you for sharing your experience with me over the last few years, and thank you for taking the time to respond here. It’s funny, the deeper I get into the new experience and the further the time gap widens, I am sure any negativity will fade and I’ll hang onto the great experiences I had there.

    Best of luck in your new situation–I have a cousin that is entering your high school this fall, so I am sure I’ll be hearing great things!

  5. Patrick,
    Well, I can no longer say, “I have not seen your blog yet!” Curiosity finally got the best of me. I will tell you that I am very impressed! Loved your thoughts on Andy Greene. Wish I could have attended his session. Also loved your story about your student on graduation day. Priceless!
    You are an articulate writer who captures his emotions in text. You have a gift. You made me want to read on!
    I am excited to be a part of your future as an educator. I look forward to what we can learn together and what we can learn from each other! I think I am a chalk dust fan. 🙂

    1. Gina,

      That’s great! I’m honored you took a moment to read some of this. I like to use this space as a way of thinking out loud and making sense of the work we do.

      Greene’s session was great, full of those moments where you say to yourself “why don’t we do that?” There were some things I heard that I would love to ask him some further questions about. I think we will take a look at his packet next week and come up with some questions.

      Thank you for your complimentary words about my writing. As you know, getting any type of feedback on writing is difficult, both for adults and for students. I have found that just putting it out there for anyone who chooses to read it has really helped me get over any fear of failure I have with it. This is one of the elements I’d love to bring to some of our English and Social Studies classrooms over the next few years.

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