Another Farewell

The other day I got asked why on earth I chose to forsake a significantly higher salary and the chance to do science in order to hang out with teenagers all day.

Well. Because 5 years in, if people ask me what I do I still light up when I tell them I’m a teacher.
Because you can’t argue with a vocation.
Because I want to make a difference.
Because “teenagers” is not an epithet. Teenagers have energy. They have enthusiasm. They have intensity, and that intensity will change the world. And I can help them do that.
Because I still do science, but now I have whole classes full of willing collaborators.
And because it’s more fun!

Tonight is another Valedictory dinner. This will be my fourth, and each one feels like both the first and the last. I came into teaching from academia wanting to be part of something I believed in with all my heart. Wanting to connect. And wanting to make a difference.

But that very connection – that very sense of being a part of these lives, of being allowed in for a year or two or three, of being trusted – makes it really hard to say goodbye.

I put so much of myself into my job – maybe too much sometimes. I’m not very good at balance! But however much I put in, I get so much more back. In the enthusiastic class discussions. In the students who other teachers tell me hardly ever talk, but who engage so intensely with Computer Science that they are voluble, even cheeky in my classes.

In the students who always take an unexpected angle on any topic under discussion, and make me see things in ways I never would have found on my own.

In the students who still send me interesting things they have found that I can use in my teaching.

In the ones who flew from the start, and the ones who needed to be helped up that first step. In the comments in anonymous feedback surveys that make me laugh because I can hear their voices as I read them.

In the Christmas cards that tell me I made a difference. In every student who goes on to do Computer Science, and yes, every student who doesn’t.

Every class is special. Every student has so much potential, today and every day. Some will stay in touch, some might never glance behind them, but all of them will take a piece of my heart with them, whether they know it or not.

I can’t tell you how much I will miss you, my friends, but it’s time. Go change the world! You’ve already changed me.


2 thoughts on “Another Farewell

  1. Konrad Cybulski

    I’m sure I speak for everyone that has ever been in your class when I say: you are entirely correct.
    I’ve seen a boy in your class consider it a “bludge” and then proceed to put the most effort he’s ever put into anything into one of your projects. A project that was the start of his love for creation, for design. His love for seeing an idea turn into something that can change lives (perhaps in a very small way but in some way nonetheless). I know I will never forget your classes. You taught me that often you should take a step back in order to move forward. You taught me that computers hold more than simply a game or application, they hold the key to anything your heart desires or your brain can imagine. You taught me many things, some I have already forgotten, the facts I can always rediscover, however the passion will forever be in my heart. You were an excellent teacher and I will miss you dearly, I’m sure when I’ve created a technological singularity you will be the first to hear, and perhaps the last to perish when it takes over the world. I wish you the best of luck with another cohort of troubled teens much like us, but I have no doubt you’ll change their lives in much the same way you have changed mine and others. We can discuss my ideas for a sentient machine that will take over the world over dinner tonight, I won’t reveal the top secret details online (online privacy, you taught me that).

    Mr Cybulski.

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