Expiring Educator: Now There’s A Job Description

“Expiring Educator Certificates 06/30/18” the email heading read.

My goodness, they’re being awfully casual about dying teachers, I thought. But reading on…oh. They mean ME.

Our records determine that you hold an educator certificate with an expiration date of June 30, 2018. You may log into your EDS account at any time to submit an application:https://eds.ospi.k12.wa.us. The application must be received no later than June 30, 2018 in order to continue to hold a valid certificate. If the process is delayed due to non-submission of an application, you risk beginning the 2018-2019 school year with an expired certificate. 

Ha! If I started teaching again next fall after an 8-year hiatus, I’d risk a lot more than an expired certificate! To say nothing of what those kids would risk with me as their returned-from-island-exile teacher.

“Um, Ms. Wing? We scan our homework in now. Nobody needs that lined paper.”

“We’re not supposed to raise our hands anymore. We just tap the icon. You didn’t KNOW that?”

“Pssst…where’s this lady been? Can you believe she just said we could email her if we had questions?”

I’ll probably have a work-stress dream tonight just thinking about it.

American Studies field trip, pausing on Tacoma’s Bridge of Glass

Except…here are some teaching things I miss the HELL out of:

  • watching teens, sleepy as lizards, slowly come to life during first period (if they didn’t, well–try harder tomorrow!)
  • joshing (“Hey, I like your shoes–can I have ’em?”)
  • those internal gasps of awe when some kid writes something I never saw coming
  • feeling the esprit de corps grow, falter, then grow again during group projects
  • throwing pieces of candy across the room to get someone’s attention (and calling Jolly Ranchers “Happy Farmers”)

    My 4th Period AP Lit. class showing off its food drive efforts

Not much suspense to this post. I’m not renewing the certificate I first earned in 1987. (If I’d planned to, I would have had to start many months ago!) I’ve been an ex-teacher for eight years now; this just makes it official. 

Except…is there such a thing as an ex-teacher, REALLY? Since I’m still chewing on this teachable moment, I’d say not. Better assign myself a longer essay than this to get that bittersweetness out of my system.

Back in the Classroom Again, Minus the Essays–What’s Not to Like?

It’s been nearly four years. At any hour between 7:45 and 2:15 I can still tell you exactly what period it is at my old high school, Franklin Pierce, Home of the Cardinals. This week is AP testing (as was last, which was also state testing for all ages in Washington). My former colleagues, and the younger siblings and–yikes!–high school-age children of my long-ago former students, are stressed to the max.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, everyone. I no longer include myself in that comment.

Except when I do.

Next week, as part of my promotion of my new YA novel, The Flying Burgowski, I am meeting with several 9th grade English classes at Anacortes High School. Anacortes is the closest mainland town to our little island, its high school many times the size of ours. I may get to spend my day with over 100 kids–just like I used to, day after day. Just like most high school and middle school teachers do.


I am PUMPED. Yes, I’m going to read a chapter, just as I will have done the night before at Village Books in Bellingham, but the high school event won’t just be another boring author reading/Q & A/book signing. (Note to self: don’t ever sound jaded about such an extraordinary privilege.) Nope–I’m still a teacher, turns out, and I’m going to engage the heck out of those kids. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that butcher paper, markers, shiny stickers, and movement around the classroom are involved.

But no essays to grade! I feel like the grandma, picking the kids up for a fun day at the zoo, then dropping ’em back off with their exhausted parents. (Okay, OKAY, I know an author coming to one’s class does not exactly = a day at the zoo. Well, maybe one of those tiny, small-town zoos with, like, a bunch of pygmy goats and one sad wallaby.)

Yes, I can hear a question begging. “Gretchen, if you love teaching so much, and there’s a school on your island, why not…? You know. At least you could be a sub!”

Here, in sped-up form, is the scenario I envision should I step back through those doors with lesson plans and tea mug in hand: 

  1.  I start subbing.
  2. Since subs are so few, I sub every single day.
  3. Pretty soon, this test is posed:

A) A full-time position opens.

B) Some students and/or parents, who have become my fans, start begging me to apply.

C) Looking at the plans of the teacher(s) I’m called to sub for, I start believing I could do it better.

D) All of the above.

4. Result: there goes my new career as a writer/baker/singer-songwriter. I know myself, and the teaching profession, too well. It is WAY MORE THAN A FULL-TIME JOB. If I want to be true to my commitment to my own creativity now, I have to keep my distance.

But next week, I’m still gonna enjoy the heck out of my day at school.


In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (a week late, but when is appreciation ever misplaced?), would you guys please chime in with some teacher-stories of your own? Or thoughts about what REAL teacher appreciation might look like?