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I was interviewed by a local paper just two days after Columbine
High. (most of us treat time now as pre-Columbine or post-Columbine, have
The reporter had set this interview pre-Columbine and just wanted to
know about my upcoming retirement after 32 years of teaching. No big
deal. But as I looked at this young man across from me, sitting in the
room where I had been with children for so many years and I thought of
such things as where are the family meals, communing with nature, the
loss of beauty in their lives, the influence of TV, etc.........you know.
"How has teaching changed in 32 years?" he finally asked as I knew
he would. I leaned back and looked at him, taking a deep breath. The
images of Columbine were still so vivid.
I tried quietly to tell him of the "courage" of teachers. I told him
of the great joys and deep sadness of working with young children always
trying to make a difference for their good. I told him how I mourned the
loss of their childhood in modern society where small children are
exposed to violence on a daily basis, are not safe in their own yards,
are subjected to drugs and the fear of strangers, and then are neglected
in their own
homes where there are no limits. I mentioned loss of respect for adults
and for each other, loss of tolerance and the ability to deal with
failure and mistakes, and having way too much too soon including access
to real weapons.
I prayed that Columbine would be a wake up call that would not soon
be forgotten, it would give some meaning to those senseless deaths. I
talked about how my "end" of the teaching scaffold starts so bright with
promise...with such innocence and with such hope. How much I learned
from my children. What a gift they have been. I am hopeful, not
hopeless. We can and must turn this around.
At the end of the interview he stood up quietly. "Mrs. Stiles, this
has been an unusual interview." I waited. "You have a lot of passion
for what you do." I thanked him for discerning this.
His last question was a good one. "But this is your life. What
will you do without this?" he looked around the room. I smiled.
"Teachers go on teaching all their lives, just as we all should. I'll
share what I know and help to influence my 7 grandchildren's lives. I'll
also take longer walks, see new places, read more books, and volunteer to
my community. I'll role model what I want my children to do when they
leave their professions." He shook his head and smiled and shook my hand
and walked quietly out of the room into the quiet hall of the late
afternoon. I sat for a long time looking after him.
Now begin the last 28 days of my career...every day now is filled
with strange mixtures of joy and sadness. No regrets ...just a
bittersweet feeling of great change now ... like stepping off an airplane
in some unfamiliar but wonderful place, full of anticipation and a little
shyness. I wonder if I'll speak the language here? I'll shed a few tears
the day I close the door for the last time and turn in my keys but it's
time. There will always be a little place for my work tucked into my
heart to go back and look at. And it will be a pleasant journey, like
reliving a trip with a photo album.
fax # (815) 364-0805
"Remember that not getting what you want
is sometimes a stroke of luck."
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