photo of pathway surrounded by fir trees
Photo by James Wheeler on

I opened an e-mail from my daughter’s principal and the first line stared back at me.

Your child’s teacher has made the decision to leave our school mid-year.

That was the only explanation that we got from the principal and there was no communication directly from the teacher. The next day that the kids were back in class the teacher was gone. I was caught off guard by the news and then I was caught off guard by how sad I felt.

I had enjoyed getting to know my child’s teacher through volunteering in the class, so I was going to miss her. My child also thrives with routine, so I anticipated we would have some rough days adjusting to this change. Those were definitely part of what made me sad, but most of my sadness wasn’t for myself or my child. I was really sad for the teacher. I don’t really know what happened, but the only thing that made sense to me was that she was miserable and finishing the school year was too much. I might be wrong, but I reasoned that a situational change (new job, unexpected move, etc.) would have been communicated and explained by the teacher. We would have been able to say goodbye. I reasoned that any sort of health or family emergency that would have prevented us from saying goodbye would have been alluded to by the principal. I also reasoned that any sort of incident wouldn’t have been “her decision.” The only thing that seemed to be left was that she was unhappy. Whether I was right or wrong in all of this reasoning, I found myself empathizing with surprisingly strong emotions.

I don’t know for sure how she felt, but I was sad for what I imagined she felt. I went back and read the beginning of the year blog. It was full of optimism and excitement. I thought about how things must not have been what she imagined and hoped. I thought about how rough it must have been for her to want to leave in the middle of the year. I worried about whether our teachers get enough support. (That’s an entire topic of its own!) I felt like I was watching someone’s exciting opportunity fall apart. And, it felt familiar. I know what it feels like to have high hopes for something that ends up not working out – opportunities, relationships, jobs. I’ve watched friends go through the same thing too. I think most of us have experienced this. All sorts of things sound great at the start and then turn out to not be right for us.

We don’t always give ourselves permission to move on when this happens. We are taught to never give up! And, to just keep trying! It is so easy to get stuck somewhere because you’re trying to force it to be what you thought it was going to be. Sometimes, it’s just not and it’s not going to be even if you keep trying. That can feel disappointing. Super disappointing. I have stayed at things longer than I should have because I was waiting for my initial excitement and optimism to come to fruition. Every single thing that we do has an opportunity cost, though. When we make one choice, we lose the opportunity to gain from another choice. When we keep doing something that we are unhappy with, we are missing the opportunity to do something that could make us happy. While we are waiting for something to get better, we might be missing something that is better. There are all sorts of things to consider, but, sometimes, moving on is the right thing to do.

I realized that I wasn’t really watching someone’s exciting opportunity fall apart. I didn’t know it, but I had been watching that for months. What I was watching was someone making a change when they weren’t happy. I do still feel sad about all of it, but watching someone make a change for the better is inspiring. So, I’m grateful to my daughter’s teacher for empowering and inspiring our children. She did it when she was teaching them in the classroom and she did it when she showed them how to take the brave step of walking away from something to make room for something better.

(I really do miss her, though….)