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.