Back to school: A teacher’s perspective
School begins next week. As a veteran teacher, bittersweet is the word that best describes my feelings this time of year, at this time in my life.
A popular meme on social media these days attempts to explain the situation. As if posted by a teacher, it reads, “It is not that I do not want to go back to school … it’s that I don’t want to wake up early, put on real clothes, drive or have any responsibilities.” This statement seemed to fit me so well that without hesitation, I clicked on the “love” button, virtually commiserating with my tribe. Then, since I still had some free time ahead of me, I promptly began my “back to school” shopping.
T-shirts and ‘Teacherisms’
I purchased three T-shirts in no time. One features the definition of teacher: (noun) “A person in it for outcome rather than the income; the most important professional in your town; a really easy job, like riding a bike, except that the bike is on fire, you are on fire, and everything is on fire.” Yes!
The second shirt has a peace sign over a heart-shaped graphic with the words: “Teach love and peace.” Such a worthy goal!
The third is a long sleeve shirt. On it is printed the alphabet, letter by letter, except for that word in the middle, “elemeno.” God only knows when this might be worn given the heat wave outside and my own internal flaring, but it is cute!
As you might now realize, I teach in an elementary school where occasional T-shirt wearing by the Intensive Intervention teacher is acceptable. I will add these shirts into the rotation of others worn during my 30-plus years of teaching.
Shifts and preparations
While I feel so privileged and fortunate to do this work, this ministry that I believe I was called to do, it is true that I have begun to look around, to catch a glimpse of what might be next for me. Of course, I do realize my audience when writing this blog post. Kudos to you many Sisters of Providence and others who taught 40 new students each year for 40 years and then moved on to become principal for many years to follow! I do not have it in me. I am watching my peers retire and/or make changes, and I, too, am itching to do so.
My summertime respite is ending. Change is in the air. It shifts in early July, meeting me on my porch each morning as I leisurely sip my coffee, think my big thoughts and ponder my wonderings.
So, while I purchase shirts for myself, I buy instructional materials and classroom supplies for a new group of students. I attend in-service days to learn the newest research-based practices for teaching. I communicate and plan with my school colleagues and get my classroom in shape.
I swim laps each day to calm my nerves and prepare my body. I get my teeth cleaned, I complete my annual physical and I get my hair cut, even shorter than usual, lest it should catch fire!
For now, I am a teacher. I like to work. I have T-shirts to wear. And, I do love teaching! In fact, I am passionate about it. I love the students — delightful, challenging and endearing. Christ among us! I have many coworker friendships and I have a supportive community of family and friends who understand the bitter sweetness of this time for me. So, with trepidation and excitement, we begin a new school year.
I will “Love the students first and then teach them.” Does this quote from our dear Mother Theodore sound familiar to you? It is my mantra. “Just breathe,” I tell myself so that I might slow down enough to actually do the loving first. And, giving thanks to a dear friend for this quick prayer suggestion, I pray, “God, your timing is perfect,” when I need yet more patience. I recite my own version too, “Have faith in the natural order of things,” before adding, “Providence never fails,” just to fortify matters. When I really need grounding, I hum the melody to a simple refrain I composed summers ago, very likely in July, when I began to feel the air shift a bit. Lyrics are as follows:
Help me to pause before acting in haste
To breathe in your love, your mercy and grace
And if taking action is what’s meant to be
Then may your compassion flow forth from me.
Don’t believe anyone who tells you there is no prayer in public school! This teacher is praying all the time! And where is God to be found? She is sitting in those desks and He is working behind the scenes in those schools, every day. If you are so inclined, pray with me, please, to the God of your heart. School will soon begin.