When I accepted a job in Vietnam a few months ago, I did so with eyes fixed on the future. I am sure that some small part of me realized how much I was giving up, but this first round of goodbyes, to my work family, has really made the reality of leaving hit home. Bereft may be slightly too strong a word, but I certainly feel displaced by my choice to voluntarily leave an extraordinary group of mentors and friends.
I have taught at Bowie High School since 2006, and while 8 years is not long in the scheme of a career, it is my whole infancy and young adulthood of teaching. My new “college” experience – teaching abroad – awaits, and I feel all the same fears, excitement, apprehensions, doubts, and joys that I felt when I timidly approached the gates of Penn State. I really am turning my back on the familiar and embracing the unknown, but not without a very typical adolescent mixture of trepidation and eagerness.
Regardless of how far I go and how long I stay away, Bowie High will always have an important place in my heart. I have truly become more clearly myself through my time with my treasured colleagues. I am not leaving quite as naïve, as unprepared, or as tentative as I was when I arrived. I am no longer the girl who will cry in Nancy’s office during my first week, have a mental breakdown over the broken sewage pipes, or rely on Teri and Kelly for validation of my every instructional choice. Honestly, I sometimes wonder how they ever liked earlier versions of me or ugly occurrences of my negativity, and then I remember that this is what they do so beautifully day in and day out for our students. They are constantly supporting students who are growing into their identities and exploring new roles and challenging their perceptions. They encourage self-discovery, refuse to judge people based on a few actions, and forgive all mistakes. I have admired this about them for years without ever once realizing that they gave me the same gifts of acceptance and amnesty. I could not have dreamed up better carpoolers, collaborators, or counselors if I had tried, and I am so thankful that I lucked into this school at this time with these people.
Good-bye, Bowie High. It starts with you.