Today is bittersweet. For many reasons. I have really enjoyed the slower pace that summer affords this wife/parent/teacher. I have enjoyed our travels to southern California, New York state, Tahoe, and Yosemite. I have enjoyed watching all 4 seasons of "Damages" with James and wasting time on Pinterest (without James). I have enjoyed letting my teenagers sleep late, having a fairly open schedule which has included many opportunities to spend time with precious friends, get my house in order (literally), hang out with my kids, have impromptu lunch with James, and *gasp* read things NOT related to my life as a teacher. And today's my last. I go back to a job I adore this coming Monday, I begin my two weeks of student-free preparations for the first day of school, I will see my beloved colleagues again and we will catch up on each other's lives, and set up my classroom (fun!) in a new and exciting way, though still themed in black/white brocade and shades of blue and green with giant "books" on the wall. I love my "normal," though I will miss the quiet, long mornings to myself that have given me time to pause, think, listen to God, be still.
I have been reflecting on these past three and a half years of teaching. My first full year I learned to survive. Marked by the challenges of learning all the things I didn't know (and there were SO many) about running a classroom, managing students, parent interactions, and balancing work and home, that first year also brought some major health issues that could have stopped me in my tracks but for God's grace and strength. My second year I learned to teach well. Not that I've arrived, by any means, I will ALWAYS strive to improve and grow as an educator, but I made great strides that second year. Last year, I learned how to really love my students. God gave me a heart last year for a group of particularly sassy 8th grade girls, most of whom I'd had since they were 6th graders. These girls had alternated between making me cry, making me laugh, making me call their parents, and stressing me out over three years' time. Distruptive? Yes. Attitude? Yes. Leaders? To the core, but not always using their powers for good. Good hearts? Yes, but didn't know how to show that. By the end of last year, God had done an amazing thing. These were the girls I cried over as I said goodbye to them at graduation, amid their promises to come and visit me next year. They had asked me to lead a Bible study for them at lunch this past February, which I did, and God moved greatly in their hearts. And in mine. Through that experience, God opened me up to seeing so many other students as He would have me see them, and He taught me to love them with His heart.
As I begin my 4th year of full time teaching, I don't fully know what He has for me yet (when do we ever??). I begin with some trepidation, as this is my son's senior year of high school and my daughter's freshman year. For the first time I won't have one of my kids on my campus. This, honestly, makes me so very sad. I will miss them. But I also know they, particularly Grace (since she's been on my campus since the day she started Bradshaw), have a need to find their own paths, continue find their own identities in Christ, and branch out more and more into being someone other than that teacher's kid. I'm so blessed by the growth and maturity I've seen in each of them this summer. I know God has great things for them, but I lament the end of this, their last real summer together as kids. I choke up just typing that. Wow. Big reality. Another step toward independence for these precious kids with whom God has entrusted us, if only for a short time. Next summer Conor will have graduated, will be (hopefully) working part time, and preparing to leave for college. Grace will be even more independent than she already is, working on her driver's permit, I'm sure. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Back to this fall: I am taking on a new position this year in addition to teaching English: heading up events and teaching a class on Student Leadership. I'm very excited and a little scared. We're getting Conor ready for SATs, ACTs, and college applications. We're getting Grace ready to start high school and I'm teaching her the rudiments of flute since she's starting band in a few days. Also exciting/scary. My English department head/colleague/good friend Ric Reyes has thrown down the gauntlet that I (actually we as an English department, including him) should blog at least every other week. We try to teach our students to think like writers and readers, and I have to be in that mode myself, thinking as a writer rather than just pushing through life, my head down, eyes fixed on the task at hand. Writing helps me reflect, see the bigger picture, and keep things in perspective, as I hope it will do for my students. So the challenge has been issued, Ric Reyes. Challenge accepted.
So! What does one do on the last day of summer break? Savor. Every. Moment.