Early Friday morning, I learned that my son’s class teacher will be stepping down at the end of this year. This is devastating news as she is both a brilliant educator and a remarkable lady. Emet loved her from the moment they first met, a few days before third grade began. She has been a bright light in his journey through his Waldorf education, and while we will miss her deeply, we are comforted by the fact that the person whom the faculty has selected to take the class through middle school is another beloved teacher at our school.
Still, there is sadness. Having to send my tender hearted eleven year old off to class knowing the news he was about to receive from his dear teacher was not an easy way to begin the day, that is for sure.
One of the reasons she, his teacher, gave to us parents as to her departure was that she has found it increasingly difficult to strike a harmonious work/life balance. I couldn’t agree more with her sentiment, it is the very reason why I choose to remain in a supporting role at our school as opposed to a full-time faculty member. I have been a lead teacher, and it is consuming. My heart goes out to her, it really does.
There is a great lesson in this for my son, one that I hope he’ll come to with time. You see, we’ve moved around a lot, having been to five different Waldorf schools. Emet has been “the new kid” nearly every year of his academic career. For the first time in his life, he is the one staying, not the one leaving. This is an opportunity for him to gain a tremendous amount of perspective, but it is not for me to tell him that. He must arrive at his own truth, in his own way, whenever it is that he’s ready to do so. In the meantime, I’ll be here to listen to his worries and to remind him how lucky he’s been to have had these last three years with such a wonderful person as his guide. In a way, it will be his first broken heart, for he truly does love her. Which is exactly how it’s supposed to be in a Waldorf school.
In her email to us parents, our lovely class teacher so wisely reminded us that “the children will look to us adults for cues on how to process this. We want them to understand that change is a part of life, not something catastrophic or unmanageable. When we say goodbye to the past, we welcome the future. All will be well.”
And that’s just it, really. Change is simply another word for evolution, and we should all be so lucky as to evolve. Granted, that doesn’t make it any easier, awareness doesn’t soften the lump that lodged itself in my throat the moment I first read her poignant letter. But it does somehow make the pain seem purposeful, that the tears I’m shedding are really just my heart’s way of making room for what is to come.
When I picked the kids up from school later that day, I brought along with me a simple bouquet of tulips for each of the fine teachers that are currently carrying this class, one of them holding their past, the other their future.
As we pulled into the parking lot, I spotted his new teacher, who happens to be someone with whom I already have a friendly personal relationship outside of our colleagueship. I called her over to my car and handed her the flowers, telling her that I love her and I’m grateful to her for being willing to step in to such an important position. Truly, I do think that there couldn’t be a better person for the job. She is magnificent.
I made my way over Emet on the aftercare yard, after being showered with lots of love from many of my precious first graders who were playing in the sandbox and swing set, where he was immersed in a game of Kendama though the solemnity of the day was apparent. I told him I had something for him to give his beloved teacher, and tears welled up in his eyes. We walked to the car, after gathering ourselves and our things, and then headed to his fifth grade classroom, where we found his sweet teacher tidying up the room.
I’m glad we were able to share a few quiet moments together, honoring her and the carefully considered decision she has made to move on from teaching. And while our hearts are heavy with the burden of her imminent departure, we fondly bid her farewell with gratitude for the many gifts she has given all of us – her students and their parents alike – lessons which will serve us in whatever it is the future may bring. I can only hope that she finds whatever it is that she seeks, for she deserves every happiness her golden heart desires.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine,
Under every grief and pine,
Runs a joy of silken twine.
It is right, it must be so,
Man was made for joy and woe.
And if this we rightly know,
Through the world we safely go.