I got home from vacation and found a Christmas cards from former students. One who graduated in 1985 and one who graduated in 1978. These cards and these former students are the reasons I keep teaching. I just called my 1978 student. She is now 46 years old and lives in North Carolina with her army retired, now mail carrier husband and her two children, ages 16 and 10. She was just 15 when we met. M was a favorite student. Everyone loved her, mostly because she loved school and loved learning. I got to know her really well and never realized that she was just a few years younger than I was. She had a terrible home life. Her dad tried to rape her and she watched her mom try to commit suicide by jumping out of a window. She had to barricade her room at night to keep the rats out. Her brothers ended up in jail and her sisters all were pregnant. But, there was something about M that kept her going. She cried whenever there was a school vacation. She was always clean and bright, although her apartment was often without hot water. She ended up getting a part time job working for Jim Henson while she was in school. She flourished there. I remember her walking me around the town house he used as an office and picking up some of the Emmies the Muppets had one. She was a poor girl who was making it. Someone in the office befriended her and helped her get into a good college. Unfortunately, she only completed three years there, but that is okay. She ended up joining a church group and being who she was, she immediately became a congregation favorite. She met her husband through the group, and followed him on two tours of army service in Germany. She succeeded where others in similar predicaments failed. I remember going to guidance and trying to get her help. Thirty years ago help was not available to abused children. I remember the guidance counselor telling me "Don't say anything to anybody. You will make her life worse." As a 23 year old inexperienced teacher, I took this counselor's advise and did nothing but stay friends with M and help her as much as possible. Thank goodness things are different today.
I will be old enough to retire next week. I have enough years in to collect a nice pension, but I am not ready to go. I will not let the Principal Suits push me out. I know I can still make a difference in a child's life and I won't stop doing it until I feel ready to go.