I got an email the other day from one of my favorite students, and for the first time since I gave my notice six weeks ago, I feel sad about leaving my job. Are you surprised to know that I have favorite students? Of course I do. We all did. You just can't help it when you work with students on a daily basis. Some of them wait until they are hopelessly bogged down and tearfully demand a quick solution to an insoluble problem. Some of them are incredibly needy, with needs that can never be met. But some of them, well, they just steal your heart.
I hadn't heard from this student in over a year. He has been in and out of school a couple times, and each time he is ready to come back, he gives me a call or sends me an email, to sort of "test the water," I think. I am always delighted to hear from him, and I try to let him know that. He makes an appointment, and I assure him I can't wait to see him. When I emailed him back this time, I encouraged him to make an appointment, as always, but had to tell him I won't be there. I will be very sorry not to see him.
It is important for me to remind myself, however, that what had once been the most important part of my job, (and the part I felt I was best at), that is, being the initial contact for every student who came to our office, had been taken away from me. Instead of being the first face every student saw, I was an incidental person who only saw students when the receptionist was overwhelmed or had a question she couldn't answer. After I lost contact with the students, there just didn't seem to be a real good reason for working at a university.
Classes start in ten days, and for the first time in five years, I won't be there. On the plus side, that means I won't have to answer the same question from hundreds of incoming freshmen (and their truly horrible parents), but at the same time, I won't be there to greet my returning favorites or meet new ones. That makes me a little sad. And I know it was my decision and it is my loss, but I think it might be the university's loss just a little bit, too.
So while I wish the incoming class of 2011 (!) good luck, I most especially wish a good year to the students who will be returning and who might actually miss seeing my face at the counter. I'll be thinking about you.