Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dates of Departure

"Delay is the deadliest form of denial."

- C. Northcote Parkinson

On 03/09, I woke up at 5:00 am. I didn’t need to wake up until 6:00 am. But school weighed on my mind like a chest infection presses on someone’s lungs. My daughter was sick on Monday, so I stayed home. Tuesday was an early release day, so I didn’t teach most of my classes. And my last day was going to be Friday. How could I possibly cram all I wanted to do with these students in three teaching days?

The emotional side was getting to me too.

Two weeks ago, one parent came in and gave me a goodbye gift because she wasn’t sure the exact day I was leaving. (At that point I wasn’t exactly sure either). She gave me a lovely potted orchid. In my card, she called me an “inspirational teacher”.

That made me feel good.

And awful.

Last week, walking the halls, I heard the line, “Dead man walking”.

It was all a ruse. This is not my school. Even though the projects my students did in my class are plastered all over the walls, these are not my classes. These are not my students.

Since February break I’ve been writing more. I’ve written more than 10k. The end of my WIP Naked Eye is on the horizon. This is what I do. When one aspect of my life is falling apart, I flee to another. Since I started on October 15th I knew I was supposed to leave the school at the end of February/beginning of March.

“She won’t come back,” the other teachers insisted.

At first I couldn’t hear it. It was overwhelming and I couldn’t imagine making it to March, let alone June.

Then I couldn’t dare to believe it. Can’t build up hope only to have it crumble before your eyes.

In early February, I was told she would come back the first week of March. On a Friday. I teared up a little driving home. On Sunday I found out my short story would be included in 100 Stories for Queensland 100 Stories for Queensland . That softened the slap.

Remember the post way back. My first couple of weeks into the job, an 8th-grade student (The one with the Breck Girl hair) asked, “If you’re not still here, will you come to our graduation?”

I replied, “I don’t know. I’ll try.”

Last week, the same girl asked, “Will you come to our 8th-grade graduation?”

“I think so. I’ll have to take a day off.” She gave me a look. “But money is less important than relationships.” She smiled.

The week she’d return loomed ahead. I began asking for a specific date.


On 03/08 I asked to confirm the date. No response.

On 03/09, the morning I woke up too early with too much on my mind, I went to my school mailbox. Inside was a card with a box of truffles. I opened the card. It read:

Dear Ms. Milstein,

I hear that Ms. (Redacted) is returning. I wanted to Thank You for taking over for her. (Student) loved your class Social Studies is his favorite subject. I'm sorry to see you leave. Hope you'll come back again.

Regards, (Redacted)

I teared up as I climbed the stairs.

1st period I spent preparing to leave material about a student whose IEP meeting I’d miss. Then I went to the office to confirm my departures date. I was told my last day on my own would be 03/11. We’d transition on 03/14. They’d just make sure.

My 2nd period class had me laughing as they acted out African folktales. One boy agreed to play a girl part and borrowed a neon green wig. I was going to miss them.

3rd period, I was told to call the office.

Turns out 04/04 is the new date.

Dead man got an appeal.

Looks like I get to enjoy these students a little longer.


  1. Wow--uncertainty is so difficult. It sounds like you're making the best of the time you have with these students, but it also seems pretty stressful. It's wonderful to have writing to turn to.

  2. Hi Theresa .. this "in out" saga is a little trying .. but at least you've another few weeks .. and that means time for life's opportunities to unfold.

    Delighted for you .. that they realise 'you are worth it' .. that's great news and comforting to know.

    My thoughts are with you .. and as Sarah says .. it's great to have blogging and writing to turn to - give you thought for ideas ..

    Cheers and enjoy the reprieved week .. Hilary

  3. I think that most people are returning to their jobs in this economic climate.
    Enjoy your last few weeks and how lovely that you were valued while you were there.

  4. Wow what a whirlwind of emotions! I have no idea how you handle it!!! To get pulled back like that, what a feeling! SO many emotions for one person, and I am one emotional being so I can only imagine how I'd react in that situation.

    I'm so glad you get stick around for awhile longer. Makes me wonder though, does it make it harder in the end?

  5. Oh my stars!! What a roller coaster of emotions for you!! Good grief!!! I'm so glad you got to stay a little longer. I just wish it were longer!! I shall continue to hope and hope and hope for you!!

    I'm sending you tons of hugs over the ether!!

    Take care Theresa Milstein!! I hope your daughter is better too!!


  6. Well that took my stomach away, like a roller coaster. What a day. Glad you get a reprieve and a few extra days. I sure wish the best for you. Big Cyber Hug!
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  7. I'm glad you have the extra few weeks. I've been watching my daughter teach this year, her first year, and it's a pretty amazing journey. It sounds like it is for you, too.

  8. I'm looking forward to reading your Queensland story. An acceptance is a great pick-me-up.

  9. Excited to hear you get more time with the students! That feeling of not knowing must be torture. Enjoy your extra days!

    Take care...:)

  10. At least you have more time to say goodbye! I do the same thing as you when one aspect of my life isn't going well, I focus on another. I thin it's a good thing to do.

    Good luck with you last days! Save all those nice letters and emails.

  11. Man, my heart was thumping in my chest for you. I LOVE that you love them so much. I love that they love you. (Clearly you have a gift and that school should be finding a way to hire you.)
    I'm sorry you are on this roller coaster of an emotional ride, but I'm glad, for you and for your students, that you have another month with them.

    Love and hugs,

  12. I'm so glad that you have another month with the kids!

  13. I feel for you. It's tough trying to leave the kids you've grown attached to. The little bugs and their annoying yet lovable ways just creep up on you, and before you know it you're smitten. It's heartbreaking to say goodbye once they've got your heart. I hope you get more good news from your writing life to ease the pain.

  14. An appeal, I love that! What an awful thing to have hanging over your head. That's fantastic that you wrote 10K as a distraction though. I love that you channeled your frustration into writing.

  15. @ Sarah, that is what it's like. Now that I'm staying longer, I have more planning to do. I won't think about leaving again for a couple of more weeks.

    @ Hilary, who knew that the extended term sub job would turn into a saga like being a daily sub.

    I'm glad to have blogging and writing.

    @ Brigid, I wouldn't give up the pay if I were the teacher! Jobs are precious.

    @ Jen, it is hard. I try to psychologically separate only to be pulled back in. It will be that much harder to prepare next time.

    @ Old Kitty, it's good to have the students, security, and money a little longer!

  16. That's great that you get to teach there longer! Even if you aren't staying there permanently, though, these students have been your students this year, because you've been working with them, guiding them, and it's obvious that they've grown attached to you too.
    When I was in grade school my class once had a substitute teacher who stayed for several months, and I did think of her as my teacher, partly because she was so good at her job (just like you are).

  17. Since October? You've been with them more than she has! Not fair at all.

    It's great that you're so invested, but I feel for you having to leave. Maybe she won't come back. It would only be for a month and a half, right?

    The waiting to find out is the hardest part. Try not to think about it (easy to say...)

  18. Daaang Theresa, I can't believe you brought me on that ride with you. This is how I know you're a good writer.

  19. @ Jules, the roller coaster analogy is a good one. Now that I'll have more time, I'll have to tackle the next units!

    @ Joanne, has your daughter hit her stride? I know they say it takes 3 years. I've taught History so many times, so it didn't take me as long as it did the first time I taught.

    @ LR, the acceptance was big pick me up. I can't wait for the book to come out.

    @ Jamie, thank you. I plan to enjoy the extra days.

    @ Shari, thanks. I will! (I hope.)

  20. @ Aubrie, even though I feel like I'm torn in two directions, it is nice to be able to go back and forth as needed. Now to finish the manuscript. And find a full-time job.

    @ Lola, I wish there were a spot for me. If they add any classes, I hope I've made a good enough impression to get the job.

    @ Nicole, thank you!

    @ Nutschell, they are like bugs sometimes. Last week, I told one group to be extra annoying so I'd miss them less.

    @ Heather, next I need the governor to give me a stay of execution.

    I'm glad I have writing. In a perverse way, I was looking forward to having more writing time. But I really can't have writing time at the expense of income.

  21. I'm glad you get a few more weeks with the kids.

  22. I'm glad to hear you have more time with the students!

  23. *sniff* OH! More time to dread, but more time to enjoy. I'm really glad you have them for a while longer, and that they have you. Do they know?

  24. oh, yay! Another month (almost) with the kiddies you love. That's awesome. And who knows... that's getting awfully close to the end of the year. She just might not return~ :o) <3

  25. @ Neurotic Workaholic, I just realized it will be 5 months on Tuesday. I guess I've been their teacher for the majority of the year. Thanks for the nice words.

    @ Tara, it's true. I'll have 6 of the months, while she'll have 3.

    Maybe she will, maybe she won't. That's what I've been hearing since mid-October. We'll see....

    @ Sophia, thanks for riding the roller coaster with me. I felt like I hadn't written a proper post in ages. I relived the emotions as I wrote it.

    @ Connie, me too. Thanks!

    @ The Golden Eagle, thank you. Me too!

    @ The Words Crafter, funny you ask. I found out 3rd period, so I hadn't told the 2nd period class (obviously). But I told the other classes.

    Today, near the end of the day, that group passed me in the hall and a few students asked, "Is tomorrow really your last day?"

    I said, "Oh yeah. I forgot to tell you today!"

    @LTM, we'll see. Most of the teachers agree with you!

  26. Yay for your appeal! Your kids (and parents) clearly love you:)

  27. You are obviously dedicated to your career. Congratulations.

    As a teacher in Wisconsin (sorry, don't mean to be political on your blog, just an observation) - it takes a TON of dedication to do what we do. Times that by at least ten to be a long-term sub.


  28. Whew! A reprieve! I guess they're going to get to enjoy you for a little while longer, too!

  29. Well,

    Its fun with kids and students. I am sure you would have already agreed with it long back.

    Happy to know that you got more time with those kids.

    Hey Ms. Theresa Milstein and everyone out there,

    I am organizing a flash fiction challenge on my blog. Please do participate in the same.

    with warm regards

  30. @ Erica, thanks! I hope to keep the loving going for another few weeks.

    @ Erica and Christy, the Wisconsin events have been crazy. They made groups like teachers the scapegoat rather than tackling the seemingly insurmountable problems.

    Those kids lives are in our hands, and many of them come from such unhappy homes that school is their only refuge. And we deal with the baggage.

    @JEFritz, I'm happy for the reprieve.

    @AllMyPosts, thank you.

    Good luck with your flash fiction. I'm already doing something similar this month, so I may not participate. But I hope you get plenty of people up to the challenge!

  31. Awh that's so tough, glad you get to see your students a bit more. And then just cherish the extra time you have to write. Or do you have something else lined up right away?

  32. Such a roller coaster, I'm so sorry :( I hope the appeal goes through for you. When kids are that attached it means you have that something special that makes for a great teacher. It's rare and I'm glad for your kids, that they have you! Hang in there, and I'm glad you had your writing to turn to.

  33. Parting is sweet sorrow when you are dedicated to many things. It's hard, but I would like to think things happen for a reason. You might find out that reason, or you might not, but for now, I would take it as a message to write.

  34. Hard to say something that isn't trite or banally Polyannaish...
    The rapport you established with and the reaction of the classes demonstrate that you don't have to worry about your skills as a teacher for when you do get a permanent teaching job. Not that it was ever in doubt. ; j

  35. Yay Theresa! I was thrilled when I saw this on Facebook. I hope she just never comes back and you get to stay! The kids seem to have really connected with you. :)

  36. @ Kangaroobee, I can't line something else up until I know this job is done. By April, I doubt I'll get a long-term gig for this school year.

    @ Erica, it's good to know many of the students have enjoyed having me as their teacher. I appreciate these extra few weeks.

    @ Katherine, parting is such sweet sorrow.

    I'm going to try to keep making time to write. I'm so near the end, the rest is virtually written in my head.

    @ Alesa, I definitely feel more confident. Taking the year away from normal classroom teaching got me out of the habit of planning and all the rest. The next time I get a chance to interview, I'll have so much more to say about the kind of teacher I am.

    For now, I'll concentrate on teaching these kids.

  37. I am delighted you have another few weeks. Both for you and for the students. The rollercoaster is a bit hard to deal with, but you are making such a difference. Well done you. Only good can come of this Theresa.

  38. You sound like a great teacher and your students are lucky to have you! Good luck on the upcoming weeks!

  39. I'm happy for you. You clearly love what you do and the students love you too. Congratulations for the reprieve.


  40. @ Talli, thank you. We'll see....

    @ Ann, thanks. I hope I make a good next three weeks for them and me.

    @ Kulsuma, thank you. I appreciate it.

    @ Jai, it was strange to think I was going, but now I'm staying, but not for too long. I'll roll with it!

  41. I'm so glad you have another month with your class. It's a wonderful thing that kids actually appreciate their teacher.

    You must be awesome to want you to stay... CONGRATS!


  42. I'm so glad you get a few more weeks with your kiddos! Congratulations!!!!!

  43. That must be tough, not knowing when your last day will be, but I'm glad you got some more time with your students. It sounds like you're a fantastic teacher and I just know you're going to find your own perfect position when the time and circumstances are just right. Until then, you can make mega progress on your writing. Good luck!

  44. @ Gideon86, it is nice to be appreciated. But for one class, I think I need to take back authority. We got into this casual, I'm leaving phase. Now I actually have more teaching to do!

    @ Sharon, thank you! Today, I'm going to plan the lessons I now need to teach.

    @ Susan, thanks for the nice comment. It is a bit unsettling. And with all this work, I have to make time to job search too.

  45. Hi Theresa,

    What a tension filled time you must have gone through. But I'm glad you received the reprieve!

  46. Aww, that's lovely that the students and parents care enough to send you such notes. Hope you get another extension.
    And congrats on the word count!

  47. You are so dedicated to your students, you honestly inspire me to want to be a better teacher. (But I am still looking forward to the end of the quarter.)

  48. @ Nas, thank you. Three more weeks of stability and pay is nice too!

    @ Deniz, the notes are sweet.

    I even got a little writing in Saturday. 42,556!

    @ Missed Periods, that sweet to say. Whether I'm with these students or not, I'm looking forward to spring break in April!

  49. Wow what tension--happy for you (leaving will be so bittersweet)--even moreso now! ((hugs))

  50. It's difficult no matter when you have to say good-bye--whether you're a substitute or a "regular" teacher. And what joy you've obviously brought into these students' lives, and the friendships you've made!

    I appreciate your friendship also. Thanks for stopping by my blog just now and commenting!

  51. @ Christina, it will make the eventual leaving more expected for the students and me, I think.

    @ Ann, it's true, I always got weepy at the end of each school year when I was an assistant. Leaving the faculty is harder than ever, because I really like this group.

    I liked your post. Thanks for commenting here too!

  52. Transitions are tough, especially when they involve students who you are attached to and who are attached to you. It sounds like you've really touched their lives in a positive way!!

  53. Aw wow, you have so much going on and you're still handling it WHILE making a difference in the lives of others. There have been some great articles about teachers in the newspapers lately and I always think of you when I read them.

  54. @ Paul, thank you. I'm now planning projects for the classes for the next weeks.

    @ Saumya, thanks for thinking of me! I hope I'm making a difference.