From now until the end of the school year, Carl Bosch will be chronicling his final year as a teacher.
That’s right, I’ve been in school for 55 years. Kindergarten at age five, elementary school, high school, college, and three months later, the beginnings of a 38-year stretch in middle school. This is the last year.
I’ve used more tissue in my guidance office than is fair or reasonable. A dollar per tear, and I’d be a millionaire. My students have gone to Harvard and jail. One week, some years back, I had a young, seventh-grade girl’s father die on Wednesday, and, three days later, her mother died. I’ve testified in court for sexual abuse cases. I’ve felt uplifted, inspired, and moved by students singing in chorus—part of something greater than their individual lives. I’ve had parents drowning in lives, shattered and broken, trying to save their children. I’ve been in 10,000-square-foot homes where parents rented an elephant for their child’s 11th birthday. I’ve been in third-floor walk-ups where I was afraid to sit down for the promise of bugs and disease that seemed to crawl on every wall, crevice, and darkened corner.
Once, I handed an angry student a hammer and directed him to smash an old desk to free himself. After a hesitant start, he pummeled the desk into toothpicks. The boy looked at me and said, “I feel really good.” Students have hugged me and screamed at me; parents have done the same. There have been parents with nothing, but they were filled with love for their children. There have been millionaire parents with everything, except for time or care for their children. I’ve had students worry about grades, unemployment, growing up, friends, elderly and ill grandparents, mean teachers, mean friends, mean lives, their own mortality, and more divorces than could fill Madison Square Garden. All the while, I tried to get them to learn. Reading. Writing. Math. Science. Social Studies. The Arts.
And now it’s ending.
I miss it already. I realize, renewed daily, that I’ve always loved school. All of it. The hallways and regimen, the orderly desks. The smell of books and classrooms, and lately, computers. I can actually walk into a classroom and “hear” if a computer is on. Teachers with their quirks and personalities, their energy and enthusiasm, and sometimes, just sometimes, their sublime inspiration. So, as a novice student early on, there must have been something that caught me and trapped me in those brick walled institutions. And, of course, I know what it is. It’s children learning. It’s as simple as that. It’s an honor, a privilege, a sacrament, a chore, a calling, a life.
So the end begins. Thirty-eight years of teaching add up to a little over 7200 days. Fifty-five years in school totals just over 10,000 days. I have about 175 left. They’re sliding away from me fast as all days do, but this slowly closing curtain on the last performance I’m well aware of. I’m still drying tears, meeting with parents, changing schedules, and the occasional dramatic turn. There’s little new, but each child’s personal story is theirs and therefore, unique. And I’ll try to treat them that way. Until the last day.
I’m a teacher. And this is my last year. Let’s see what the weeks ahead bring.