Bittersweet Goodbye

I’ve been told I’m a good teacher. My student evaluations consistently show highest marks with the only complaints being “uses too many hot keys” and sometimes “goes a little fast”.  I like teaching. It keeps me fresh with the software, forces me out of my comfort zone, and gives me much needed face-time with people other than my kids. Plus I like being around people younger than me. Makes me feel a little less old and out-of-touch.

Yet, despite all this, I’m leaving. This was my last semester teaching in the publishing graduate program at Pace University (wipe a small tear drop), and my exit is so bittersweet. I chose to leave, and they tried to get me to stay, but I just can’t do it anymore. I have two—really three—other jobs (art director at the Progressive, principal of KV Design, and mom to two little kids). This past year I realized that four jobs is too many. I did all four, and frankly not well. My teaching suffered. I dreaded going into the city for 3 hours. I dreaded grading projects. I sighed when receiving student emails. That’s how I knew it was time to go.

Remember your best teachers? Do you know what separates a good teacher from a bad one? It’s not knowledge of the subject matter (it helps, but is not the most important…). What makes a good teacher is that she gives a shit (forgive the language). She genuinely wants to help you learn and enjoys it.

So I knew it was time for me to go when I opened a 3-page student email and thought, no, I don’t want to read this and I don’t care what’s going on in your life. That’s the sign you need to quit, when you can’t muster any empathy and your immediate reaction is one of irritation and shouldering a burden. This doesn’t just happen with teaching, it happens at most jobs. A client email elicits an eye roll, a phone call from a customer makes you want to scream. Whatever it is, the moment you think I don’t care, it’s time to move on. So, I’m moving on, but not forever. I want to teach again, maybe when my kids don’t need me so much, or don’t even want me around. No doubt at that point I’ll need some smiling students who crave my attention and knowledge. Until then, goodbye Pace and thank you to all my amazing students and good luck. You all taught me how to teach you.