Running to stand still, to paraphrase the Irish poet. That's how it feels at the end of my twentieth year of teaching school. Now that I have worked under more than half a dozen different superintendents and even more principals, I can barely trace my lineage back to that first eager group that came strolling into the building as new teachers way back when. I am the one who is still here. Many others have left to pursue careers outside education. Several have found jobs in this or other districts that afford them the satisfaction that may have been missing for them here. Yet another group has simply moved on to heaven knows where.
I still run into folks I knew back then. At district events, or in the grocery store. We compare notes and inevitably they look at me with a bemused smile when I tell them I am still holding down the fort where my teaching career began back in another century. Before Columbine. Before the attacks of September 11. Before my son started school. Before smart phones. Before I became an institutional memory.
The kindergartners were promoted on Wednesday. They will be next year's first graders. The fifth graders moved on Thursday morning. I will most assuredly see many of them as they return to see just how small the halls look after they have been away for a little while. There will also be that group that will be gone and never come back. They will be the memories that fade, merged with all the faces that have passed before me over two decades. Except for that percentage of a percentage that left a mark. The ones who taught me something while I was busy trying to teach them.
I joke sometimes with my fellow teachers about how easy education would be without all these kids around. That's what we do in those days before school begins in August. And that day after all the short people have left for the summer. We clean up. We prepare. We remember some and try to forget others. We move on.
Even if we're standing still.