Tomorrow, bright and early, I will begin my fifteenth year at Caldwell Academy. In some ways this seems impossible, but if I really consider the change that has taken place in the school and in my life over those years, it seems hard to believe that only fourteen years have passed since my first day at Caldwell.
On that first day in 1999, the school had just moved to its permanent campus. There were no brick buildings and the modulars were surrounded by a sea of mud kept in check by the many truck loads of mulch that parents helped to spread over the play areas. The high school was only in its second year. There were nineteen freshmen and nine sophmores. I taught six different classes from 7th through 10th grade. The entire school(K-10) went to assembly first thing every morning and we all fit easily into the cafeteria. None of the teachers had a computer and none of the students carried a cell phone. A television on a cart with a VCR was the extent of our classroom technology…wait, we also shared a slide projector and several overhead projectors. All my grades were kept on paper and progress reports took hours because every single one had to be figured and written out by hand.
Tomorrow I go to a campus with three beautiful permanent buildings connected by covered walkways with a lovely arched colonnade. In addition, there is a covered outdoor gym, a weight room, and a field house. We still use a few modular buildings because we need the room. The high school numbers 200. I still teach six classes, but I only have two preps. My classroom technology includes a computer, a video projector, and a document camera. Several teachers have smart boards and we have mobile computer labs for student use. EVERYONE has a cell phone and most of them are smart. Grades are kept by computer; a couple of clicks prints a progress report, and students and parents have access to grades, homework, and teacher web pages on-line. It’s a world I don’t think I could have imagined in 1999.
Fourteen years ago I brought four of my five children to school with me. Tomorrow three of my nine grandchildren begin their school year at Caldwell. Fourteen years ago I was returning to the classroom after 18 years as a stay-at-home mom, including 7 years of home-schooling. I was terrified. Fourteen years ago I was going back to work so that my kids could go to college. I was leaving the life I loved for the life we felt was a necessity. Honestly, I was in mourning. This afternoon as I left my classroom and headed down the stairs, I was a little shocked to realize how much fun I had today getting ready for tomorrow. Life is good. I felt like celebrating.