I walked to the principals office twice before handing it in. Denial.
To most, it doesn't seem like a big deal. To me, it felt like it was the end of something truly incredible.
I was one of those lucky people that had a career that I absolutely adored. Being an art teacher at a public school in NYC is a dream come true. Making that dream come true of switching careers wasn't easy of course. Rich and I both made some temporary sacrifices that allowed me to get my masters in education to make this dream possible.
Teaching art daily to children under the age of 10 was heavenly. Not only do I have a thirst for art, but I adore children. They fascinate me. They entertain me. But most of all, they teach me.
Being a teacher is so much more than teaching a subject matter. Its about socializing children and showing them the human-ness in our world. It's about raising kids to be good, and being the best person they can be. Its about love, honesty, emotions, communication, and being a good role model to children.
On a daily basis I have helped children work out disputes, understand their emotions and behavior, helped children talk about familial issues, and encouraging friendship with each other. I have taught lessons not just on art, but about sharing, being kind, respecting one another, and communication.
During my years at PS 6, a beloved colleague, Eric Dutt, passed away. He was our science teacher, and was loved by all. When the students were told of his passing, grief and sadness poured through our classrooms like a tidal wave. All of us, were hit hard by this loss. The hardest part was consoling our children and trying to answer their many questions, while we ourselves were devastated and pained from the loss of our friend. The children were so young, and most had never experienced death before. The art room turned into a safe room, where students could come in and grieve, or talk about Eric and their feelings. As a teacher, I felt absolutely unprepared to help these children. They looked to us for answers with tears in their eyes.... There was nothing in a book, or an education class that could prepare you for this. Most of the time, a long lasting hug was the only answer we could offer.
My goal as an art teacher was to excite students about art and make everyone feel successful. My goal in the art room was to create a safe environment and a sacred space that encouraged creativity.
However, the thing that always meant the most to me...was for each child to know that I cared. When I told my 500 students that I was moving to Africa, a student raised her hand and said, 'But Ms. Valdmanis, nobody is going to love us like you did'.
I know now that I can't walk out those big red doors on Wednesday, knowing that I made a difference.