Only three (and a half) days left.

It’s very difficult for me to believe that my student teaching experience is almost over. After 13 weeks, I find this realization sort of bittersweet: I am ready to relinquish the responsibility and stress that goes with the job, but I am equally regretful about missing out on all the good things – my students, mostly, and all of the little things that have gone along with teaching them.

Case in point: Friday was my last day of teaching the eighth graders (we had finished all the material I was going to cover, but my co-op for that class was gone, so I filled in), and so I decided that I wanted to have them help me put together a book that I could leave the class with, containing all of the things that they wanted to contribute. Initially, I told them that I’d like to have a collection of the things they think are important for other students their age to know, in case I ever teach middle school/junior high again and want to share some thoughts with my future students, but what they gave me were a lot of things that we’d shared as a class: puns, inside jokes, and yes, even some wisdom. More importantly, though, they shared themselves with me; one student who I’d had so many problems with shared a journal entry from very early in the semester about how I was one of three “most hated” (or “disliked,” I can’t remember which) people, but the up side of that was the fact that they all made it clear to me that I didn’t fit into that category any more. I will miss them dearly, even despite having so many struggles with them in the process of trying to help them learn, and this was a good way to end my teaching.

Really, my teaching in many ways is already done: I still technically have the juniors through Wednesday (Thursday is a half day and when all of the classes will have parties to see me off), but I don’t have any more lessons to teach. The juniors are watching a little bit of Our Town tomorrow (the Lincoln Theatre version with Hal Holbrook as the Stage Manager), and then they’ll be giving presentations on Tuesday and Wednesday. Everything is really winding down for me, and it’s both relieving and disconcerting. I mean, it’ll be a nice break to get back to my other responsibilities as a student (the downside of being a student teacher), father, and all-around workaholic. On the other hand, I don’t know how I’ll keep myself from being too restless now that I’ve really done this teaching thing; maybe the job hunt will help. I do have several schools and positions that I’m looking at, so that should help motivate me to find a good district where I can grow as an educator and can try to make the most out of my first year out of the gate.

But the best thing I can say right now: it was worth it. Every minute of it.

I have learned and grown so much as a teacher and as a person, and I do feel so much more prepared to do this thing called teaching for a career. I have had great role models, and I know what worked for me and what very clearly didn’t, and the whole experience gave me a great deal of perspective. I had plenty of frustrating moments, but I know that I’ve done something worthwhile, and that alone makes me so much more satisfied with my experience. (Let’s face it: it would be very easy to think this a waste, given that I lost income and time in the process, if I hadn’t found myself in a better position as a result. Intrinsic benefits are great, and sometimes they really do outweigh those extrinsics which are such a prevalent aspect of life.)

So even though this stage is almost over, with its joys and struggles, more lies ahead. Forward is graduation (and my final classes for middle school certification, but that’s okay) and then on to whatever job is out there for me.

And lots more learning.