You may have noticed that I have been uncharacteristically quiet the last few weeks. Part of this silence is due to the fact that I have been insanely busy with library life, and many of my happenings/discoveries have been posted on my library blog at http://theunquietlibrary.wordpress.com . Part of the silence has also just been life—this time of year seems to be busy for all.
However, I have also been quiet as I have tried to make sense of and come to terms with the news that our evening school campus at CHS (“North Campus”) will be closing at the end of the semester. We the faculty learned this shocking and devastating news on Thursday, October 2 prior to giving our last exams of the first quarter. The news then was published in the local newspaper before we even had a chance to break the news to our students the following week.
While one board member was quoted as saying he believed “students would not suffer” from the consolidation of our two campuses, students in fact have already been impacted by this news. Many of our students live 20-30 miles away from the south campus in Woodstock and cannot afford to drive 40-60 miles round trip four nights a week to take courses. Others cannot make it to the first class by 4:00 due to their work schedules and the distance of the south campus from their workplace during the day. Several students have already withdrawn to seek their GED this past week and specifically stated that the impending closure of our campus was the reason for them stopping their studies and pursuit of a diploma through our north campus. Other students have commented that they probably will not continue their schooling after this quarter because they cannot make the drive to the south campus come January.
I am one of the original faculty members of our north campus that opened in January 2006. For the last three years, I have spent an average of 18 hours a week teaching English courses to our students. While we are compensated for our work, you have to love what you are doing and have some kind of passion for teaching to devote that much of your time and your weeknight evenings (especially when you consider the fact I taught until 11:00 the first two years until our schedule changed and we now end at 9:45) to such an endeavor. Our campus, which housed 150 students at our peak last year, has been a small and nurturing environment in which students felt like they belonged to a family and that staff members truly cared about their progress and well-being. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to teach here and to hone my teaching skills—it has been a wonderful adventure for me and my students as we have tried new learning strategies and activities. This was a campus in which I felt valued as a faculty member and as though I truly made a difference in the lives of my students, particularly those that I “looped” with through consecutive courses. It was here that I was lucky enough to teach some of the brightest and most industrious students I have met in my 17+ years of teaching.
It is never easy to say goodbye to something you love, to let it go. It has not always been an easy road to travel, but it has been a gratifying journey to travel this way for three years—I will always treasure the wealth of happy memories I have of being part of this campus. I feel immensely lucky and honored to have been part of this fellowship—my heart aches to think of how much I will miss our students and the camaraderie with the faculty. I wonder what will become of my students—what path will they take, and what will happen to them? I hope that we have made a positive impact and that whatever road they take, that some part of Polaris North will always be with our students.
Many of you have heard the old expression, “Where one door closes, another opens”; I have found this to be true time and time again in my life. After having a few days to absorb this major news, I realize that for the first time in many years, I will have free time on my hands. While I am truly sad and heartbroken about the closing of our campus, I am envisioning the doors that will be opened in my life by this change. I look forward to having more time for myself, to exercise and take better care of myself—I might even begin running again and train for another marathon! I look forward to more time with my family and my dogs, to have time to catch up on my reading (outside of all the reading I did and enjoyed with my students), to have more time to devote to my library, to have more time to spend with friends.
I have no doubt that my experiences as an English teacher for the last three years have made me a better person, librarian (yes), and teacher in profound ways. I feel I have been a positive influence in the lives of my students. While my heart is heavy to see this journey come to an end, I look forward to the possibilities that this change will bring to my life. Even Thoreau, as much as he treasured his time and experiences at Walden, saw that there were benefits to leaving that treasured place and to exploring new directions in his life. I am giving myself permission to slow down and be still for a bit, to heed the wisdom in Willa Cather’s words, “There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” I look forward to seeing what I can learn from the “calm” that will envelop me come January 1, 2009!