This column was submitted by Deerfield Public Schools (Ill.) Superintendent Dr. Mike Lubelfeld.
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
I’m not sure I completely agree with Einstein’s quote above, but to a veteran educator like me, the end of the school year offers an opportunity to contemplate education, learning, and life.
It’s also an emotionally powerful time for educators. Part drained, part proud, part sad, part happy, this confluence of emotions is what sets teaching apart from other professions. We take care of your children. We take care of society’s future. We give so much of our emotional selves each and every day, so that at the end of the year, we’re mentally exhausted.
At the start of every year, school folks get a “do-over.” Teachers are tasked with facilitating learning for millions of youngsters between the ages of 5-18. For the less than 200 days that school is in session, rites of passage, cultural exchanges, norms, and rituals govern the lives of thousands of communities all across the land.
What else marks the end of the school year? Standards mastered, lessons learned, physical, emotional, spiritual growth. For some the year’s end invites a sensation of fear of transition and change. But for some it’s full of excitement, fun, and energy. And for others it’s the end of their first year — a time they can count their battle scars, or the year they finally retire — a melancholy time when 30-40 year careers come to a close.
Few professions or vocations are more powerfully rewarding than teaching.
I think Aristotle said it best: “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” It’s hard to teach children each and every day, fostering growth in the community’s most precious assets. Yet nothing is more rewarding or exhilarating than supporting learning opportunities and helping children realize they are all talented, unique, and special.
Nothing is more rewarding than helping other people find out that they matter, and they offer the world gifts and talents unique to them.
The end of the year is a meaningful time for educators to smile, take a few deep breaths, clean our classrooms and return home to energize, refresh, and reengage, all so we can do this sacred work again at the start of the next school year!