The teacher that made you feel like you mattered.
I was part of the class who made up Mr. S.'s first year of teaching. I thought about him a lot during my own first year after realizing how hard teaching really was. Mr. S. walked away from education at the age of 50 after 25 years of teaching. I contacted him recently via e-mail offering best wishes as well as inquiring about why he resigned. He sent me the farewell e-mail he sent to the school staff and it was just like how I remembered him; sincere, humorous at times, and very real.
He said that with his two kids out of high school (one in college and one a recent college grad) he felt it was OK to acknowledge he didn't have it in him anymore to, and I quote, "fight the good fight," and walk away from the job he's known most of his adult life. With the recent demands from the administration, school board, and state test score expectations...he felt that the profession he worked so hard at all of these years just wasn't the same anymore.
I saw Mr. S. 16 years ago at a festival back in my hometown when I first became a teacher. I told Mr. S. that I was in my first year of teaching and that I remembered having him during his first year. He smiled and said, "Yeah...sorry about that. I didn't have a clue what I was doing back then." I told him I felt the same way. We laughed, talked a bit more, and wished each other well. That was the last time I saw him face-to-face.
I hear a lot of teachers speaking in a way that echoes what Mr. S. was saying. I don't know what the future of education holds, but I know one thing for sure...if Mr. S. made the decision to walk away, the education pendulum has to swing back soon or there will be more good teachers in this country just like him following his lead.