Bittersweet Departure

by Erica Snowden

These days I have a lot of double dip feelings. 

I feel both accomplished and like a disappointment at the same time. 

It’s the both/and of leaving one school after only two years, all of which happened during a pandemic, and starting a new school.

I’m still trying to accomplish my dreams and goals in life and I can only do that when I make moves to improve myself. I still dream about what I wanna be when I grow up. It’s what I tell my students and families AND it’s true.

I know this sentiment isn’t new for many educators out there but for IBPOC educators, especially those of us in independent schools, transitioning schools is particularly tough every time. It doesn’t matter what your reasons for moving forward are, it still leaves a rupture in your heart. You know that your leaving is more than losing  a teacher, a director of DEI, a staff person. Your presence represents so much more. The holes you leave are endless. 

Mom. Friend. Aunt. Teacher. Snack-bearer. Tutor. Confidante. Nurse. Advocate. Cheerleader. Coach. Sponsor. Mentor. Mirror. Window. Listener. Truth-teller. Co-conspirator. Colleague. Sister. Therapist. Thought Partner. Survivor. Thriver. Possibility. Vault.

Maybe unconsciously I thought that becoming all things to all people would help me to at least save some students, some colleagues, and some families. While often being a vessel for students, families, and colleagues, I am realizing that I hold, give, and carry so much. It has kept me from pouring into myself when being poured into is far and few and in between. Caring for others becomes the essential task and being cared for gets lost. Is self-care also essential you might ask? Of course! And yet, it is a skill that I must continue to grow and cultivate. The burden of not wanting to disappoint and/or leave IBPOC folx has sometimes kept me from reaching towards my personal goals and putting my own self care first.

And that means changing schools.

 It often feels like there is an unspoken rule in independent schools that you are supposed to stay forever. That you should teach all the children from a family. You should be there when they have kids and teach their kids. You should stay and be acknowledged by…

the umbrella for 10 years,

the 15 year throw blanket, 

the 20 year plant, 

and the coveted chair at 25 years. 

(really?) Is this what I want people to believe? If we tell people, especially students to be lifelong learners and continue to grow, can we succumb to the idea that growth can only happen in one place? That loyalty means to stay?

“What we do is more important than what we say or what we say we believe.”

-bell hooks

This quote by bell hooks feels especially poignant in this case because the actions, the doing, is what people connect to. We even say to students, “actions speak louder than words.” I am challenging myself and others to be doers and not just speakers and believers. Do my actions disrupt the narrative that grinding is the only way to be successful? Do my actions disrupt the narrative that educators should sacrifice their one growth for that of their students? Do my actions disrupt the narrative that relationships must cease to exist when you leave a place? Do my actions disrupt the narrative that my growth can only come at the detriment of my mental health and rest?

What narratives are your actions disrupting?

And so I must add another double scoop. 

I am feeling worthy and excited.

I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this very moment. My worth has always been here and now I feel liberated about making sure people acknowledge it. (Take that how you want). I’m prioritizing my sleep and exercise as elements of self care. I’m modeling for myself and others that life is what you make of it and you can always be more. I’m excited about the next chapter in my life and the new crop of people whose lives I will touch. I’m excited about upcoming opportunities for growth and the challenges that may accompany them. 

I’m excited to reflect on my own path and to both remember and honor my worth. 

This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Series, a month-long movement to feature the voices of indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. Please CLICK HERE to read yesterday’s blog post by Christina Spears (and be sure to check out the link at the end of each post to catch up on the rest of the blog series).

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