“I have two questions for you. What have you learned from this school? What has this school learned from you?” These words from Herr Direktor were not what I expected. You mean I can’t list my long tirade of grievances? (I did have quite a long list in my pocket.) I can’t scream about the injustices done to my colleagues and I? Actually, his questions were exactly what I should expect from him. And I appreciate that he framed the exit interview in a way that allowed for both positive and negative critique.
Last time I left a school, I didn’t say goodbye. I didn’t have any exit interviews. I snuck in during summer break, emptied my files, drawers, desk into boxes, and got on a plane to Germany. I had no tearful goodbyes, no series of meetings to get things in order, and no moving boxes. I just packed some suitcases, and got on a plane. I figured “What could I possibly need? I’m not moving to somewhere remote….like…Guam.” My husband reassured me that if we needed anything, we could just buy it. I like the way that man thinks. So 5 suitcases, a car seat, and a laptop, and off we went.
This time it is much different. I have to pack while I’m still teaching in my classroom. It is sad to take down posters and student work. It leaves the walls looking tired, as tired as I feel right now. I have to keep my apartment clean so future occupants can tour the premises. And worst of all, I have to say goodbye to friends, colleagues, and children I will deeply miss.
I will try to leave gracefully, but some how I think I will probably trip over myself. There is that temptation to fly off the handle, make waves, and tell the Dementors what you really think of them. There is that temptation to break the rules, not go to meetings, or not follow through on my responsibilities. “What are they gonna do…fire me? Ha!” But it is not my style to burn bridges, and I don’t want to be labeled as one of “those” people. I don’t want them to say “Damn! That bitch couldn’t leave this place fast enough!”
People keep asking “Aren’t you excited for the big move?” Honestly…no. Well…yes. Maybe. I am excited for a new adventure. I am excited for new sights and sounds. I’m excited to have a teaching load that is manageable and a teaching load that allows me to have time to be innovative. I’m excited for all new challenges and all the new triumphs I will encounter.
I am not excited about leaving my friends, my students, my sense of being at home in this foreign land. I know the new school will be a better place for me, but I will still miss what I have now.
I will no longer have dance parties with my office mates when things get too overwhelming. I will no longer breakfast with the Breakfast Club on Friday mornings. I will no longer sit on the edge of the couches, chatting with my students about their weekend. I will no longer walk the halls of a place that felt like home from the first minute I walked in.
I think it is ok to feel this way, you know? It is ok to want to stay, yet know its your time to go. I can leave at a time when my heart still says “maybe someday I’ll come back.”
That is my exit strategy, to say goodbye to a place I can still love in spite of its flaws. I leave knowing I grew as a teacher and I leave knowing I learned so many valuable lessons from my colleagues. And I hope, that when I leave, people will say that they learned something from me too.