The End of an Era…

That’s how my principal described it over the loudspeakers at the football game last night.  My last day at my job was Friday, but pandemic fallout caused our game to be rescheduled to Saturday night.  (Was a really late night, so I’m writing this the next day).

His surprise tribute at our team’s Senior Night was unexpected, for sure.  I got into education to SERVE, and even though I teach performing arts classes and am literally ON STAGE all the time, I avoid the spotlight all I can.  Part of me feels selfish for leaving such a noble profession and some of the most deserving kids, but I tell them all the time:

“Be true to yourself and pursue your dreams.”

The last day.

My last day at work was a busy one – despite working toward a smooth transfer to my replacement for over a month, there was still a lot to do.  I shook lots of hands, wished folks well, hugs, tears, well-wishes…everything you’d expect when someone you know is moving cross-country – presumably for good.

A kid I don’t even teach brought me a hot coffee from the coffee shop she works for.  My supervisor came in to say goodbye – we’ve been through A TON of tough scrapes in the past 9 years.  We reminisced, shared a hug, then a radio call forced her back to reality.  Some of the teachers I’ve worked most closely with came down to say goodbye or to talk frankly about a few things.

I stayed behind a bit longer to say goodbyes to our office staff – the unsung heroes who ACTUALLY run our school.  I discovered a few of them have the same concerns for the future of Washington State I do.  As it turns out, A LOT of people are looking to leave the West Coast.  My wife and I were lucky – we had little to tie us down here and an opportunity to move thanks to her employer.  Many of my WA friends are stuck here…I only hope they find the courage to continue to fight against segregation and the fear-based politics that seem to have a grip on the Puget Sound region.

My replacement came to the game with us the next night (which was TECHNICALLY my last day).  In the end, I showed him our lockup procedure, handed over my keys, and was done.  Achievement Unlocked: 23 years of being a band director.

achievement unlocked
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I’m going to miss A LOT of things:

I’m going to miss THE KIDS most of all.

These young men and women have always been my reason for coming to work these past 23 years.  I love working with young adults and watching them grow into amazing musicians and human beings.  I said goodbye to some very emotional kids – in particular, my Seniors.  Despite all the state of WA has put them through (rant to come), they are resilient survivors who are a constant inspiration to everyone they encounter.

Know that I learned as much from you as you did from me.  Thanks for the music and the memories!

I’m going to miss THE MUSIC.

Bringing music back to the people has literally reignited the community’s sense of hope.  We came back IN FULL UNIFORM for a reason: coming back made a statement that we weren’t beaten.  In the face of perpetual “states of emergency,” endless mandates and regulations, and nonstop messages of fear – we came and performed LIVE…as my old director used to say “AS ONE.”

Music is a powerful thing – it brought together a diverse population of people, united them as brothers and sisters, and allowed them to share their own hope and optimism with anyone in earshot.  What a cool way to spend my last day.  I have a feeling it’ll be more infections than the insidious virus we’ve been hiding from for far too long.

I’m going to miss THE PEOPLE (well, some of them).

I’m no follower; I stick to my own moral compass and follow it religiously.  I’ve never been into “popularity,” and I don’t work to score points via deeds or virtue signals.  I also keep my personal life out of work.  This puts me at odds with others who center their lives on trends and “social currency.”  You know what?  That’s OK.  No one should ever change who they are to impress others – if others require you to change, they typically aren’t worth your time.

Chances are, the haters won’t be reading this blog anyway – so I can just say that I’ll miss my coworkers who were REAL.  When you come to school each day with SERVICE TO OTHERS as your “Prime Directive,” you do great things.  The “fake woke” posers who post things “in solidarity” and never accomplish anything?  They’ll fade as fast as the trends they follow.  Real work takes time, sweat, and (sometimes) tears.

I’m going to miss the ones who got it done FOR THE KIDS.  You know who you are.

I’m not going to miss:

4:30 – 5 AM alarm clocks.

The person who decided that high schoolers should be in class by 7:20 AM needs his/her head examined.  At least put a coffee shop on campus!  I was VERY HAPPY to have my last day of 0-dark-thirty alarm clocks.  FUTURE ME: Hold me to this – nothing starts before 9 (maybe 10).

Fake People.

I can’t stand fake.  The worst kind of lie is a person who brags about being progressive, intelligent, enlightened, or any other virtuous adjective…only to be a completely different person when there are no “likes” involved.  Every person has value in their own way – be yourself and contribute in your way.  To those who truly matter, you have nothing to prove.

MEETINGS and “trainings.”

In education, we meet about EVERYTHING: hours of endless PowerPoints about concepts that could be summed up in a few brief sentences and sent via email.  Lots of whining and arguing – nothing changes, and we lose hours of our lives.

As for trainings: I taught the same way on my last day as I did on my first.  I ‘ve been subjected to thousands of hours of professional development, most of it from some researcher with a “new idea” that will “revolutionize education.”  Snake oil.  What I needed I got in my own high school experience and from experts in my field in my undergrad and graduate studies.  

Goodbye public education…

This probably deserves its own blog.  My last day in public education was a bittersweet moment.  I’m sad to be leaving an occupation that I spent 7 years training for and 23 years working in.

However, I also understand that it was time for me to go many years ago.  From the moment I turned in my resignation, I’ve felt more and more free.  On my last day, I was sad to leave the people I care about – but I know it was the right choice for my health, my family, and my spiritual well-being.  

I’ll never forget the people who have impacted my life – and I hope those I impacted don’t soon forget me.  It’s been real, y’all – but it’s time to move on to the next chapter.