Donna O'Donnell Figurski's Blog

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TidBits About Donna #38 Throwing in the Chalk!

It’s happy. It’s sad. It’s bittersweet. After teaching 1st or 3rd grade for nearly 30 years, I am throwing in the chalk, the eraser, the whole kit and kaboodle – including the chalkboard/whiteboard, the textbooks, the gradebooks, the pens and pencils and crayons, and heart-to-heart talks. Patching up skinned knees and sometimes broken hearts, reassuring egos and building self-esteem, cheerleading and encouraging words – all these must go, too, as I close my classroom door for the last time. But I will take with me many, many happy memories of the more than 600 students I have taught throughout my career.

Memories like this one about a mom who stopped by my classroom one afternoon to say that her 2nd grade daughter, who I had taught in 1st grade the year before, had planned on having me again for 3rd grade. She wished me well, but said, too, that she was sad that I was leaving. She told me her daughter asked if I could do her a favor and stay one more year.

Or this memory, which nearly brought a tear to my eye of the 2nd grade boy who stopped me in the hallway to ask incredulously, “Are you really going to re- re- …” “Retire,” I helped him. I gently nodded and tousled his blonde hair as I watched him fight back tears. “But I wanted you again,” he said. “My mom and dad said I could be in your class again.” I smiled and said I was sorry. “I wanted you in my class again, too,” I said before he rushed down the hallway to the lunchroom.

I’m still smiling as I remember the refrain, “Thank you so much, so, so much … for everything you did … for us.” Six of my girls all clad in orange, my favorite color of the day, wrote and sang that song for me. “You’re the best teacher we eeevvver had,” sang one a little off-tune, but with such sincerity.  Two other  girls crooned, “We’ll never forget you. We will miss you forever and ever,” as they leaned their heads together while smiling at each other.

Those are just a few memories of my last days of school. There are hundreds of memories waiting to be remembered. Memories like The Bathroom Opera Singer, The Little Engine That Could, Lily, My April Flower, Charlotte’s Web play, re-meeting my former student, Tiffany (all grown-up now with a child of her own) in Erie – my hometown. Memories – waiting to be brought to life again as I pen them in this blog.

Though I have turned in the keys to my classroom, which I have lived in with countless students for the past 30 years, I have not turned in my memories. They will play and replay for many years to come and I will savor them.

But for now I will join my fellow retired teachers in monthly breakfasts, book clubs, and leisurely lunches.

As always we will talk about our students – now former students.  We will continue to attempt to sort out the problems in the educational world and no doubt ponder educational philosophies. But we will also brag about our grandkids, report on adventures of our latest trekkings across the continent and the world, and sip coffee or tea in a local restaurant in a normal way-  instead of dashing into the faculty room, grabbing a sip, and running off to our next class.

So though I made the bittersweet decision to take down my shingle, I will always treasure my life as a 1st and/or 3rd grade teacher. I am proud to be a teacher. Once a teacher – Always a teacher.

(Clipart compliments of


June 28, 2011 - Posted by | TidBits About Donna


  1. Excellent post mom. Congratulations! You can feel good about the hundreds of students that you have encouraged over the decades. Retirement is well deserved, but I know you better than to expect you to sit back and sip on coffee. I know something other than coffee is brewing and I look forward to hearing about your next creative ventures!

    love you!

    Comment by jared figurski | June 28, 2011 | Reply

  2. WOW, Jared, you read this instantaneously. I barely posted it when you commented.
    You are right working on my book, A Prisoner Without Bars – surviving traumatic brain injury, my new jewelry business, diemodi, and reopening my picture book manuscripts should fill my days. I’ll probably figure out a few more things, too. Already looking into taking more dance lessons and some fitness classes.

    Comment by donnaodonnellfigurski | June 28, 2011 | Reply

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