She Left Because

Huck had headed out to the territory
one too many times.

She left because she told
students to discover their passions.

She left because of rubrics.

She left because Hester Prynne wouldn’t
and Dimmesdale couldn’t.

She left because she started planning
her summer vacation in February—
okay, January. Okaaay, November.

She left because it was time
to find Kunitz’s garden.

She left because Thoreau’s distant drum
kept disrupting her classroom.

She left because she still could.

She left because some days
she wanted to give everyone an A—
and some days an F.

She left because the things she carried
were no longer a storyteller’s truth.

She left teaching because
it was time to go.

Published in English Journal, July 2007

In a few days it will be six years since I left teaching high school English. Sometimes it seems like yesterday, and other times it is a lifetime ago. I am so glad I was a teacher for 12 years of my life, that I had this experience. I still remember the excitement of the last day of school — and the first day of school each year.

What I (think I’ve) realized is that I need to see something finished and completed. I like projects with deadlines and something to show at the end. Teaching was an eternal treadmill for me. Even though I liked the students and their dramas and their energy, they moved on and I didn’t. In the end, I needed to move on, too.

When I meet former students, they all wonder why I quit teaching. Some even think it was because of what they might or might not have done. Believe me, the students were the best part of teaching. It was everything else, and everything else I still wanted to do, that took me away from teaching.


6 thoughts on “She Left Because

  1. I was one who stayed. I don’t think about whether I regret it or not. I understand your comment, “they moved on and I stayed,” completely and absolutely. Students were the best part of teaching. The rest was not so good, well, mind and soul tearing. The few teachers I still know say it is worse now. Enough of that. Your poem says all so well. Make a cake with six candles on it, pour some wine and drink in the warmth of memories and the joy of release. Oh, I’ve been retired from teaching for eleven years. I join you in prasing all those teachers who made and make a difference.

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