Dear Reader, as another school year quickly approaches, I wanted to share this again. Although this year may look much different from anything we’d have expected when I first wrote this a year ago, just like last year, I’m still excited to start.
Twenty-six years ago a young twenty-two year old, wide-eyed, naive almost-girl who loved children, learning, and laughing became a third grade teacher. She was too confident to even fear what she should have feared. She was too “educated” to even acknowledge what she didn’t know. And she was too full of hopes and dreams to even realize the life commitment a truly dedicated teacher must give to his or her students.
Twenty-six year later, and now forty-eight years old, she was recently hired at the same elementary school where she taught all those years ago. This time she will serve fifth graders. This time her confidence level isn’t nearly as high, and she has a fairly good idea of the majority of things she should fear, but is mindful there will be difficulties she hasn’t even considered. While still “educated” she acknowledges there are many, many things in life she does not know or understand. While there’s no doubt she will be the adult in charge of her room, she also acknowledges she does not have all the answers. The students will learn from her, but she will learn just as much from the students. This time she enters the classroom she has actually lived the commitment a truly dedicated teacher must give to his or her students. She’s logged in countless countless hours this summer (even though contractually she doesn’t begin until mid-August) working in her room, literally going through every book, teacher’s manual, and all curriculum, peppering her fifth grade teammates with questions, and trying to think through everything so she can be as prepared as possible. This time she understands teaching is a bit like selling your soul. She is selling out to a group of children and parents in hopes of making this world a better place by investing and pouring into young people.
You see, that hope and dream in her has never died.
When she left teaching at age 30 to raise her children, she honestly thought she was saying good-bye to her own classroom forever. She sobbed and sobbed that last day and so did her students. She gave all of her teaching materials and supplies away, every last one, because she’s always been about helping whoever she could as much as she could. So she began this round of teaching with literally “nothing.”
Her husband wasn’t with her the first time she had a first year of teaching, so he was a bit shocked. After spending $600 on everything from hand soap for her classroom sink to student stools for her classroom table, her husband came up for air. And after his job was unexpectedly eliminated one Friday, the soon-to-be teacher had to put a hard stop to all spending. She hopes, perhaps, some of the parents will help with any more of the necessary supplies for her classroom, although she’s not counting on it.
One person told her to her face, “It’s been a long time since you taught and kids have changed. Let’s hope you can handle this as well as you think you can handle this!”
She thanked him for his “encouragement” and chuckled to herself. Yes, kids have changed but so has she.
- She has raised her own two children, both male and female, and now has the valuable perspective of a parent with a child who is halfway through her sophomore year of college and a child who will be a junior in high school.
- She has actually lived life understanding that no matter how bad and grim a situation the sun still does rise the next day.
- She doesn’t have all the answers like she used to, but she now understands how truly faithful she is and how that faith produces a strength that is rock solid and dependable.
- And even though the kids have changed over the years she knows this hasn’t: Kids can still spot a phony a mile away. They can tell who wants to be with them and who does not. They can tell who loves them and cares for them and who does not. They can tell when someone is teaching because she has to teach and when someone is teaching because she wants to teach.
In 1993 in third grade she believed children were our most valuable natural resource. And in 2019 in fifth grade she still believes children are our most valuable natural resource.
Until the next Wednesday the Lord allows.