Teaching is what I did for so long, and it defined me in many ways. Even now, as a retired teacher, it will always be a part of who I am
Recently I visited with a younger friend who I worked with, and who is now a principal. We shared some books, including Letting Swift River Go by Jane Yolen. Here is our email conversation that followed:
My friend wrote:
Thank you for “Letting Swift River Go”. The book is a treasure, as is the lesson plan you included, and I felt honored that you wanted to share it with me. I am actually thinking about using it for an in-service if that is okay.
I had no idea about Quabbin and of course, I grew up less than an hour from that place. It always strikes me that you can live in a place and never really scratch the surface.
And on, “letting go”… this was my first classroom. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodstock_Academy_Classroom_Building
I shared that first classroom with my mentor, on the first floor (center window). Then Paul left for the State Department and I went upstairs to the second floor, left side (the oak trees have grown). I looked out on those same green hills that formed a climbing chain that rose northward toward the Quabbin Valley. Those first years were full of halcyon days.
When I was hired in the late 90’s I was the rookie by fifteen years; I learned how to teach among veterans who had spent hours creating and refining their craft. We listened to each other and often we created together. I know now how fortunate I was to have spent the first few years of my vocation in the Academy building.
As I shared yesterday, if I returned to that building today, I would find instruction dramatically changed and my colleagues mostly all retired. So, I “let go” in knowing that I can never go back. But like, Sally Jane, there are moments when I catch the “starry water” and daydream of autumn days with a chalkboard. How wonderful to have made those memories in the first place!
And I replied:
Thank you for sharing this memory. The building is incredibly picture perfect. Just exactly what I would imagine as the essential schoolhouse. But your memories make it even more special. I love the halcyon days that I had long ago as well, and isn’t it funny how vividly those memories come back to us as if we are not so far removed as we really are. Sadly things have changed everywhere, but nothing can change what we learned from those experiences and the contentment that thoughts of those times can still bring.
I know that your own integrity-filled character is what makes you so special and so good at what you do – but this background information also explains why you are such a dedicated teacher. Those mentors did their job well! And, so often we don’t realize how good we have it until later. So that is why I am relishing finding the joy in every day!
I am so glad you liked Swift River and so happy you have those connections. Of course you may use it, and I just wish I could be there to hear what you have to say! You must tie in your Woodstock schoolhouse, and you have to use this phrase, “I looked out on those same green hills that formed a climbing chain that rose northward toward the Quabbin Valley.” It is all about connections, you know. Phonics just can’t touch our souls like that.
So teaching and best practices and memorable books still remain a part of my life, especially in times that are spent with those who have journeyed along the same path.
(And I am sure this post would be much easier to follow if you have read Letting Swift River Go. I highly recommend it!)