My last year of teaching was the year that Harlan was born. Her due date was mid-September, so I thought that I’d have some time at school to get to know my students before her arrival. She arrived more than three weeks early, just one week after school started.

Her early arrival threw us for a loop. Not only did I have to scramble to get all of my lessons plans and find a substitute for my leave of absence, but we also happened to find out the day that Harlan was born that MacKay had been offered his job in Manhattan. We made the decision shortly after she was born that I’d stay in Tampa and finish out the school year and MacKay would move up on his own for a while.

I’d hardly had time to get to know my students and they certainly didn’t have time to get to know me before I was out for 12 weeks. While getting used to the life as a new mom and the fact that I’d have to say goodbye to my husband in a short time, I stayed up to date on what was going on in my classroom. I asked my susbtitute about each of my classes, the students, and how each lesson was going. Although I wasn’t phsycially there, I wanted my students to know that I was still thinking of them.

Twelve weeks after Harlan was born I returned to work. I was tired, nervous, sad, excited, and so many other emotions in between. I couldn’t wait to get to know these kids that I’ had the honor of teaching for the rest of the year. Perhaps they knew that I was a bit fragile with all of these sudden changes in my life because they were so gentle with me.

When I walked back into that classroom as a mom, I had an entire new outlook on these. No longer were these children just my students, there were someone else’s sons and daughters. Their parents trusted me to take care of their most precious posessions when they couldn’t. Not only did I love what I did because of the subject that I was teaching, but I loved these students that valued the relationship with me just as much as I did them.

It’s been six years since I stepped out of the classroom. Six years since I said goodbye to the last group of students that I’d ever teach. Thankfully with technology, it hasn’t been six years since I’ve spoken with some of them. I’ve been able to follow their lives just as much as they have mine. And let me tell you how proud I am of them.

Last week, that last group of students that I taught graduated from high school. Many are off to college to further their education. I sat, scrolling through my Facebook feed looking at all of their photos with their caps and gowns on, beaming with pride for how far they’d come from being those 11 year-olds in my classroom. I made sure to let them know how proud I was of them for making it this far.

One of my students wrote me back telling me that she couldn’t have done this without me. The joy that I got from just that one statement is overwhelming.

I walked into that classroom every single day ready to teach. Despite all of the craziness that was going on in my life that last year of teaching, my classroom was my safe place. I never took the time to sit down and think of the impact that I was making on some of these children’s lives or better yet, what impact they were making on my own life.

While some of them may say that they couldn’t have done it with out me, please know that I really couldn’t have done it without them either.

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