A Different Type of Signing Day

Today I was greeted with the news that anyone planning on not being at Northwestern in the fall would need to give in their letters of resignation. For many reasons, I did not want to have someone bring around a form to me to fill out and sign and I decided to fill one out online myself to print out. As I sat there staring at the form, the blank lines of reason for leaving stared back at me. Reason for leaving–that’s a loaded response.

I don’t think there could ever be a way to fully express all that I would put into that line, both positive and negative. I could talk about my reasons for leaving being my diverging vision from the literacy department at my school, or I’m leaving because the phrase ‘follow through’ has never meant less in a given space. But those are all lessons learned. All food for thought on any night when my mind churns about what real reform in our urban school systems could truly look like. And that too is reason for leaving I’m leaving because just as I want my students to continue to grow and learn, I too wish to do the same. I’m leaving because I need to seek out more solutions to the problems I have encountered, and I want those solutions to impact more and more students because I LOVE my kids.

But what does this letter mean in the scale of the word ‘resignation’? I haven’t resigned myself to the fact that education cannot be equal and meaningful and life-changing for all students across race, class, and gender in America. I haven’t resigned myself to the belief that intensive students will forever stay in that track and are incapable of the type of rigorous learning and work production as AP level students. I could never resign from relentless hope and and one day at a time optimism and hard work. And I would never resign from my students.

All it means is that I’m resigning from this current course–that my sails have shifted and caught the winds of change. But I won’t forget the harbor I have sailed from, nor the ones who helped me build the ship in the first place.

I began the work of slowly telling my students in small groups that I am leaving. It is by far one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, and some are not dealing with it well. In the face of this confession, however, one voice struck a chord with me. One of my students James when asked by a close friend of mine in front of me how he felt about me leaving said that he was sad I wouldn’t be there next year, but that he wasn’t angry because I was leaving to pursue something that would better me and I was being a role model for them to do the same. He said that I was going so that I could help them and others more.

I know leaving can never be easy, never be a perfect cut of a chord, but if all my students can know deep down that I want my vision to be true for so many others and they would always be a part of it—leaving could at least hurt a little less, and mean a lot more.

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