Another school year has begun, and I’m not there. The funny thing is, it’s okay.
Yes, I miss the students and my subject matter, but it’s okay.
I need to find time for life. I don’t think I had time for it before I left the classroom because teaching is (was) (has been) my life.
I am finally finding the time to cull the clutter from my library, and I am being forced to reflect upon the purpose of my life, the person I have been, the person I am to be.
I wrote the following poem mid-way through my teaching career when I saw the paradox of my purpose:
I Am a Candle Who Lights the Way
I am from Homer to Hawthorne And from Tennyson to Tennessee Williams. I delight in sharing pearls of wisdom From the pages of the immortal bard.
My voice is more active than passive. My conjugations are always intense. My moods are not indicative of my emotions. I can be imperative if I need be.
I can be three persons, And I am very possessive Where my apostrophes are concerned. In most cases, however, I can be objective.
I strive to open minds and hearts And point in the right direction. I encourage the reluctant And try to contain the overzealous.
I am from hallowed halls that echo The voices of pedagogues long ago revered. Their influence still lingers inside me And urges me to keep afloat.
I am from confusion to epiphany. I am an English teacher, Consuming myself While lighting the way for others.
As I reflect upon the past thirty-plus years of teaching, I have been blessed with a treasure trove of letters and thank you notes from former students. Not only can I not bring myself to throw these letters away, but I also can’t stop myself from re-reading them. They make me reflect, they make me cry, they make me laugh. Most of all, they make me smile.
My students’ letters remind me of how impactful a teacher can be; they make me realize I have served a specific purpose as a teacher for many years, but they also remind me of the opportunity to continue to make a difference.
I am also having a hard time throwing away books in my library. I don’t think I will ever re-read any of them, but you never know. So why do I keep them?
Like Don Quixote, I may find some new adventures within their pages. Unlike Don Quixote, however, I hope my niece doesn’t throw my volumes into the yard if I lose my faculties. What will happen to them after I’m gone, I don’t know. Maybe someone will write a book about how crazy I was about books.
In the meantime, I’m trying to find my way. I’m trying to serve another purpose.
In the 2011 movie The Letter Writer, written and directed by Christian Vuissa, an elderly gentleman makes a difference in the lives of others by writing anonymous letters of encouragement.
He says, “Within every human being there is a God-given ability that if you find it and nurture it, you’ll be able to bless the lives of others.”
That’s what I’d like to do: bless the lives of others. Through subbing, administering the ACT, volunteering at Good Sam, teaching piano, teaching Sunday School, playing with and reading to my great nieces and nephew, writing, and finding time for new adventures, I want to nurture my God-given abilities and be a blessing to someone each day.
In the words of Cervantes, “Where one door shuts, another door opens. . . .To dream the impossible dream, that is my quest.”
To find my purpose, that is my goal.
I believe I still have opportunities: Psalm 92, verse 14 says that the righteous “will still bear fruit in old age.” (Note: I don’t consider myself old.)
The words of Mercy Me’s song “Word of God Speak” also give me hope. They remind me to let go, and let God.
“I’m finding myself at a loss for words, and the funny thing is, it’s okay. The last thing I need is to be heard, but to hear what You would say. . . . I’m finding myself in the midst of You, beyond the music, [beyond the classroom], beyond the noise. All that I need is to be with You, and in the quiet hear Your voice.”
If you are finding yourself at a crossroad or in the midst of change, take a moment to hear God’s voice. Allow Him to guide your path and bless others in whatever you do.
If you are a teacher, I hope you find the time to allow God’s guidance in your life as you guide your students. Have a blessed school year, and I will be thinking of you all.
Psalm 51:10; Titus 2:7-8