What I Forgot When I Left the Classroom (Part Two)

A student stops by my classroom asking if he can borrow the computer over the break. "I want to blog on vacation."

"I don't really do extra credit," I tell him.

"I know," he answers. He spends two weeks blogging each day about video games, football, the holidays and movies.

Another student stops by with a gift basket containing a Starbucks mug, hot chocolate and coffee.

I wander outside before my duty starts and within minutes, I'm engaged in a conversation about holiday rituals with students who will be visiting Mexico.

When I was a coach, I remembered how to teach. I remembered what it looked like for students to get something for the first time. But I forgot what it was like to get an unexpected Christmas present. I forgot what it meant to know a student's story. I forgot what it felt like to watch a kid who who struggled for years with reading fall in love with a novel.

I forgot what it was like to have a circle of people around you while you're on duty, talking about life and arguing about football. I forgot what it was like when a kid decides to take on his or her own learning outside of school because of something that happened inside of school.

Don't get me wrong. I forgot just how hard teaching can be. But I also forgot just how rewarding it can be as well.
John Spencer

Professor. Maker. Speaker.
I want to see schools unleash the creative potential in all teachers to transform classrooms into bastions of creativity and wonder. Read more →
Email me at john@educationrethink.com for speaking inquiries on design thinking and creativity.


  1. Dear John,

    There are many ways to teach, but only one way to be real good at it--and there is a price to pay.

    I still believe the trade-off is worth it--I'd leave teaching if I thought otherwise.

    I'll teach until I am unable--it might be health, it might be mandates from Duncan on down, but I will continue until I cannot.

    And when I cannot, I will forget the intensity of the classroom. I forget it every time I am away for more than a week.

    I used to work in the projects in Newark, also intense, and also indescribable unless you're in the middle of it. I used to work on the docks, too, and I could say the same thing.

    We're only here once--embrace the intensity.

    1. I like the term intensity. That's really it, isn't it? The job is intense in all the joy and the sorrow. It's why I look forward to being back tomorrow. I love teaching.

  2. I NEVER forgot that part! I never forgot that collective sound of "oooh" when students "got it". I never forgot how I could be amazed by the poem of a student I never thought was listening. I never forgot what it was like to get the hand-made cards and home-made ornaments. THAT is why I wanted to come back so badly!!!

    1. I never truly forgot that, either. It's part of why I went back, too.

  3. Thanks for this! Sometimes I don't know how to explain the teaching profession!!

  4. I've only been out of the classroom for a semester. While there are MANY things I don't miss (grading, planning), I do miss the connections I had with students and being there with them as they grew in my class. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Makes sense. There are some things that are hard. But it's worth it to me.

  5. I was a classroom teacher for 8 years before moving to another school as a library media specialist. The thing I missed the most, even though I worked with all of the kids in the school, was having that close connection with MY students. It's so different not being in the classroom and developing those relationships. Now that I've left the schools completely, I see the interactions of teachers and students when go back in a school and I'm just thrilled those relationships are taking place. I do miss it. I don't miss a lot of the other, more negative, stuff that I had to deal with as a classroom teacher though.


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