It was a strange feeling—turning in my school keys.
Since I’d started working at the school seven years ago, I’d never turned them in to the office for the summer as many teachers did. They’d always been with me, heavy with significance. They defined me, just like my argyle cardigans and boring slacks and sensible shoes (except on Fridays). Those keys made me a teacher. They were official. I kept them on a lanyard with my staff badge, after all. How much more official can you get than that?
So it was weird, handing them over to the secretaries on that last day, knowing that gesture represented so much more than not being able to unlock room 202 anymore.
I was giving up teaching, and it became real in that moment.
My keys would be given to another teacher, my classroom, too. When I return to that place, it will be as a mere visitor. I won’t have my keys to gain access to the building. I’ll have to use the visitor’s entrance and get one of those ridiculous visitor stickers, even though everyone already knows who I am. My classroom won’t be my classroom anymore. My students won’t be--
They will forever be my students.
So my keys—turning them in, I mean—represented all of this. For seven years, they had granted me access to the magical little world that was my classroom, this place of imagination and hard work and love and energy and fun, and I was passing them off like an Olympic torch.
My leg of this race is run.
These aren’t the only keys I’ve given up this year. I gave up my car keys in January, and though it was hard, it did not devastate me. Giving up these keys was hard, but I can’t let it devastate me.
In time, new keys will come into my life, and they’ll unlock new and glorious mysteries that I cannot yet even begin to fathom.