After teaching thousands of classes, today I taught my last. At least in a formal sort of way.
Seven years ago, I retired from full-time teaching, but since then I’ve been teaching education classes as an adjunct. Today, I gave my last lecture, led my last student exercise, and issued my last call to do good in the world.
And I received my last teacher gift. Apples, fragrance, candles, pens, paintings, clocks, pads of paper, and packs of pencils—all these gifts and more have filled my desk for decades on the last days of school. Some of these gifts are still scattered around my house.
Today’s gift symbolizes for me what I hope I’ve done at least a few times in my thirty-seven years of teaching. It’s a book, handmade by a student.
And on its cover, my student painted her interpretation of a poem. In “Root Cellar” by Roethke, feisty plants refuse to give up life in a damp, dark cellar filled with mold and manure. In this cellar, Roethke says, even the dirt keeps breathing a small breath.
But my student didn’t stop with Roethke’s imagery. In her dark and gloomy painting, she hung lightbulbs.
“Thanks for giving me hope,” she said when she handed me the book she created.
What she can’t realize is how much hope she and her classmates have given me.
Today I spent a moment of class, just looking at faces.
My grandchildren, I thought, would be in good hands with them.