It took six days but I finally have my classroom cleaned out of 32 years of saving, creating, collecting, and reusing stuff! It only took five or six wheelbarrow loads a short trip to the dumpster and a LONG walk down memory lane. Deep in the corners of drawers, cupboards and shelves I found trinkets, artwork, and gifts I have received through the years. Precious things that a teacher just cannot throw away. Amongst these treasures were a variety of love notes from former students. Some scribbled on scraps of paper. Others drawn with crayons or markers and the paper filled with colorful drawings. Reading those forgotten notes brought back vivid memories of children I taught who are now adults with children of their own as well as students I have had more recently. Many letters had no name on them to identify the writer just the words “I love you” in a child’s print, but I saved them all just the same.
The offering of love is a precious gift. One that we should all freely give. Children seem to understand this better than we adults. Four little words, You’re the best teacher”, scribbled on the back of an old wrinkled spelling test years ago, filled me with such joy when I received it and again when I uncovered it last week. Six words…..”I wish you were my mother”. Three words….”I love you”. It seems so simple….feel something and express it, but we know that giving love is risky. We might be hurt or made fun of. The feeling may not be returned. We can think of many reasons for not opening our hearts to others. It seems easier just to keep it to ourselves.
After experiencing the overwhelming warmth of love I felt as I read each note I found, I’m determined to be braver and more willing to show others how I feel about them. Maybe it will be through a smile, a hug, a gift, or who knows, even through a love note. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It doesn’t have to be planned. It just simply has to be shared.
Before I started cleaning out my classroom, I promised myself (and my husband) that I wouldn’t bring too much home with me. I must confess though, that I could not bring myself to throw away those precious acts of love I had been so freely given. I tucked them away in a special box to be gone through again when my heart needs reminding about the wonderful power of a simple love note.
Oh my! So much has happened since my last post. It has been a whirlwind and I haven’t quite stopped spinning yet. In the past two weeks I have been the speaker at the 6th grade commencement, finished the school year with my Second Graders, made it through my retirement ceremony, spent the weekend on a mountaintop with girlfriends, and traveled with my family to Indiana for my nephew’s High School Graduation Open House. Whew!
As you can see, my last two weeks have been a series of celebrations! It’s funny, each event celebrated an ending but at the same time they also celebrate new beginnings. The Sixth Graders are leaving Elementary School behind but will be making new friends in Middle School. My Second Graders will no longer sit in their small desks in my classroom but will instead move down the hall into larger desks and will learn so many new and exciting things. I am no longer a teacher at NFES. There are so many parts of that I do not want to end, however there is a small tickle of anticipation beginning to grow in my soul at the thought of taking a new path. My friends and I escaped to a mountain retreat to celebrate not one but THREE retirees! We each have taught for many years and to see it end is scary and yet each of us have new hopes, dreams, and goals we desire to fulfill as we begin this new life stage. And finally, my nephew has accomplished so much and has made us very proud during his High School years but now he will move on and begin his path to finding the perfect career.
These past two weeks have been filled with laughter, hugs, reminiscing, and yes, tears. Through it all I am reminded that though life presents many endings it also gifts us with new beginnings that take us into unchartered territory. Thankfully it does not send us there unprepared. We take with us all the lessons we have learned along the way, the support of those who mean the most to us, and the confidence that our steps are guided to lead us right where we are meant to be. Yes, endings can be sad and scary but discovering the possibilities that our new beginnings offer us are definitiely a reason for celebration!
On a normal school day I get up, have my cup of coffee, get dressed, eat breakfast, pack my lunch, and head off to school. I have done the same thing for more mornings than I can count. This morning however, had just a little more excitement! After I had gotten dressed but before I packed my lunch I heard an unusual noise. I looked out my front door and found that one of our neighbor’s goats was wedged between a building and the fence AND he had his head, horns and all, stuck through the fence. Now, I was raised a city girl but I’ve learned a few things in 32 years of country living. Unfortunately, being a “goat whisperer” is not one of them. I frantically worked for 20 minutes to try and free that crazy animal’s head from what I thought was sure death! After having my fingers pinched between goat horns and fence wire several times, I came to the conclusion that I was not going to be able to save the poor thing so decided to call around the neighborhood to find someone stronger to help me. Promising the goat I would return I quickly ran inside to use the phone. Would you believe that as the phone was ringing on the other end I looked out the window and that dumb goat was gone!!!! He had freed himself and was back on the top of the hill with the herd!!! ( now you decide who was the dumb one…him or me!)
Sometimes, being a teacher is a little bit like my goat friend this morning. Decisions that are out of our control are made and the results wedge us into places we don’t want to be. What we know and believe to be true about children is overlooked and expectations are placed upon us that are cumbersome and unrealistic. Of course, most of us do all we can to try and accomplish what is asked of us, all the while working to help our students be the best they can be. And just about the time we start to figure it all out, the expectations change again and there we are stuck just like the goat with someone who doesn’t have the skills to help, trying to push us in a direction we don’t want to go. I truly believe that if the powers that be would offer teachers the time and opportunity to find their own way, they would be surprised at how quickly it would free us to practice what we know to be right and allow us to lead our students to the top of the hill, right where every “kid” should be!
Well let’s see, since I last posted, I’ve ridden a school bus for my final class field trip, cheered through my last Field Day, and today, graded the last set of papers of my career. I have to be honest. I won’t miss field trips, field days, or grading papers too much and yet it makes me melancholy just the same. As I reflect on that, I guess even though they weren’t my favorite things about being a teacher, they are still part of the job. As with anything, you take the good with the bad and if you’re lucky the good outweighs the bad. I’ve been very lucky.
For the last 32 years I have been honored to work with the most wonderful teachers and staff. Our school has been a place of support, cooperation, and encouragement for our students and each other. My fellow teachers have been my sounding board, shoulder to cry on, and at times the voice of reason that I needed. I truly couldn’t have made it this far without them. I’ve tried to figure out a way to let them know what they mean to me but have decided it’s impossible. How do I put into words all the feelings that fill my heart? First of all, I am an emotional wreck in the best of times. This week will probably be a super storm of feelings for me anyway, so actually saying the words (if I had them) will be virtually impossible. I only hope that a smile through my tears, hugs that are tighter than usual, and whispered thank yous will convey to them more than just those simple gestures. I hope it will let them know that they are blessings in my life and have given me the best gift anyone can receive. They have turned a school into so much more…..a place to turn to when I am troubled, a place to share my joys, a place of protection, a place of inspiration, a place to laugh, and a place to grow. The good has abundantly outweighed the bad. I may have been a teacher for 32 years but I have learned more from my school family than they’ll ever know. And for that, I am eternally grateful. Yes, I have been VERY lucky!