One day in late May every spring, a teacher puts away the whiteboard markers, stacks the textbooks on the shelf, takes one last look at the empty desks, and locks the classroom door behind her.
She is trading in her teacher hat for three short months, trading it in for another hat: a second-job hat, a student hat at the local college because she needs more education credits, maybe a more-time-to-be-mom hat, or even, if she is lucky, a much-deserved relaxing hat.
She is trading in her chalk for gardening tools.
She is trading in her red grading pen for a Canon camera and her gradebooks for a passport.
She is trading in her high heels for a pair of hiking sandals and her book bag for a hiking pack.
She is trading in her parking space at school for a boat dock.
She is trading in school lunch chicken nuggets in the cafeteria for fresh-cut strawberries on the porch.
She is trading in hours spent teaching other people’s children the ins and outs of grammar, literature, and respecting others, and instead, she spends those hours teaching her nephew how to ride a horse.
She is a little sad. She is sad to say goodbye to those students, knowing she will not teach most of them again and will maybe never see some of them again. They will move on to other paths, other states, other teachers, other desks in other classrooms. She hopes she has done her job well, hopes they have learned how to write a little better and think a little more, how to treat each other nicer and see the world as a big, wide playground, a place waiting just for them.
But she is also happy.
She is happy to say that she has put her heart and soul into her students this year, even if they don’t know it. She is happy that one student found a love for reading this year, and another student figured out he is good at poetry. And she is happy that she can forget, for just a short time, about PD and PLCs and IEPs and remember, instead, how wonderful it is to sit on the porch in the sun in the middle of the day.
In what seems like a blink of an eye, she will be back in the classroom, handing out textbooks, digging out whiteboard markers, and hanging up bulletin boards.
But for now, she is taking her teacher hat and trading it in.