Originally published on May 15, 2013
It’s now been five years since I went to work one October day and realized I was no longer the teacher I wanted to be. That wasn’t the only thing to have changed with advancing Parkinson’s.
I was no longer the father I wanted to be.
I was no longer the lover, the brother, the son, the friend I wanted to be.
I was no longer the person I wanted to be.
Yet foremost in my mind that day were the kids I was to face – still new to me as this was a new year at yet another new school for me. My third change of schools since going on part-time disability with Parkinson’s Disease. I was starting to show increased signs of PD and felt more challenged than ever before. How do these kids perceive me when I’m in this condition? Am I seen as a teacher with little patience? An irritable or frustrated teacher? A teacher with little emotive responses? Was I “lost” or scattered as I made my way from Grade 2 music to Sr.K playtime to Grade 3 Social Studies to Grade 1 gym to Grade 2 Science? How was I helping them? How was I demonstrating my professionalism, my skills as a teacher, my love of teaching and my joy in working with these young ones?
As I started to pack up my trolley with the mornings materials for each of the classes, I decided I could not. I could not continue. I could no longer be that teacher I had been. I was doing no one any favours. It was time to recognize that this wasn’t helping anyone. I proceeded to the Principal’s office and informed him that regrettably, I was done. It was not fair to the children or my colleagues for me to continue. I was met by complete understanding and within an hour, I was packed up and gone from the school (though my moniker “ Robert Kendrick 1.0 FTE” likely still surfaces on papers at the school to this day to the puzzlement of many!).
This was not an impulsive, spur of the moment decision as I had been preparing for the eventuality that I hoped would not come. Yet it did come and on that October day, I made a life-altering decision. I don’t know that there was any other one I could have made.
But I do know I was no longer the teacher I wanted to be. No longer the teacher these kids needed me to be.