I've written here before about how, living in the tropics, my year is not as defined by seasons as it is for people further north and south. But we're about to enter the next season, one that I've been entering nearly every year for my whole life: School.
(I took this photo on Sunday. I don't know what kind of tree it is, but it's beautiful and seasonal. Does anybody know?)
This year it's coming again. The summer was short, as it always is. The supplies are purchased, as they always are. I'm going back to the same classroom I've worked in for lots of years, to teach the same subjects.
Pat said she's waiting for her "favorite things," not that she's looking forward to anything new. The challenge is keeping it new every year, remembering that even though I've taught this book many times, it's the first time through for this seventh grade class. And even though I've opened and shut dozens of lockers hundreds of times, these seventh graders have never worked a combination lock before. My eighth graders I know already, but there will be new things for them, too: new books, new experiences, new emotions. I can't yawn and check out because I've been through it all before; they haven't, and they need guides for their first time to travel this way.
So, some of my favorite things in the season of School:
The new Dry-Erase markers, brightly colored to write the August dates on my white board.
The box of locks to be handed out to kids who think having a locker is an exciting development.
The new faces in the faculty meeting. (I have mixed feelings about this, I confess. I know some of those people will become my friends, but I've just said goodbye to some others who became my friends and then moved on. It's not easy to open my heart again.)
The blank walls of my classroom, ready to be decorated again by me and by my kids.
The class lists: once my husband said that each class list is a holy document. Each one of the names on that list belongs to an eternal soul, and who knows what awaits this year and into the future because of the combination of all of those eternal souls hanging out together in Room 23?
All of these things, and more, are coming up for me next week as I head back to meet with my colleagues and set up my room, and the week after, as my students arrive. It's a new year, a new season, a new set of challenges which I will soon learn.
I wish summer could last a few more weeks, and yet I'm ready. I'm ready for my mind to be occupied with work that never stops stretching me. I know that even though it looks right now as though we can't possibly have everything in order in time, we will.
Do I have what it takes? At our last meeting back in May, an administrator gave us each a manila file folder which we were supposed to wear on our backs. Our colleagues lined up behind us, and then we behind them, to write on the file folders: words of encouragement, preferably. Afterward, when I read the words, many of them made me smile and feel great. "You survived seventh grade. You are a hero." (Yeah, that's kind of true.) "You maintained my sanity through the way you humorously viewed teaching our students. Middle School forever!" (Yes! That's why I'm here!) "Thank you for loving and appreciating middle schoolers as much as I do." (There's nothing like 'em, even on the days when they make you want to scream.) Other comments made me wonder if the writers really knew me. Patience? That word was there quite a few times. I know the impatience of my own heart, but I guess it's good that I at least give the impression of being a patient person - that's a start. One person used the word "serenity." Me, serene? Try intense, jumping out of my skin, as overly emotional as any middle schooler, though with many more years of experience at managing it. One person wrote about my resilience. "Your resilience is beautiful." That's one I want to be true, even though I sometimes doubt that it is. I've got many scars as I enter this, my - I stopped to count - twenty sixth year of teaching (I think I have that number right. I know which year I began, but I get a little confused about how many of those baby years there were).
As I reread what my colleagues wrote two months ago, I reflect that God has given me what I need for this year - at least they think so. I've definitely done it all many times before. I'm ready to help the newcomers with a reminder that if it seems like the hardest thing they've ever done, that's because it is - but it will get easier, and they can do it. I'm cultivating patience and serenity and resilience, and I bet I'll get plenty of opportunities this year to continue that cultivation.
Here we go again, new season, old friend!
Pat's blog to see what everyone else wrote about their spiritual journey.