Saturday, June 21, 2014
Gratitude is the most passionate
transformative force in the cosmos.
When we offer thanks to God or to
another human being, gratitude
gifts us with renewal, reflection and
-Sarah Ban Breathnach
The quarter is over. The school year is over. Tonight is graduation and I will watch hundreds and hundreds of students start a new chapter in their lives. They are college graduates.
Teaching is sacred work and I am so grateful to be a teacher.
Every week day, for 12 weeks, I am invited into the lives of my beloved and vulnerable students. All 120 of them each day. That's right. I didn't make that up. 120 of them each day. My classes start at 7:30 in the morning and go straight through until 11:30. Then my afternoon is filled with meetings and class work. Every morning I arrive at the college at 5:30 am to grade papers, to get each lesson plan organized, to turn on the music, and to bring food or coffee to my food table. Room 239, my classroom, ready to blast off for another day of fabulous learning! CHECK
The halls are quiet when I get to school. My friends, the maintenance and custodian people, are quietly buzzing through each room, most are listening to music. Mary is the one who keeps my room going, and we always greet each other with a smile. And then she is quickly back to work. The custodians are never startled to see me with my roller briefcase open and crammed with apples, oranges and muffins, ready to feed starving bodies. My arms full of plastic grocery bags filled with sustenance for hungry college students.
There are many elementary schools that provide breakfast for their students. They know a secret. A brain cannot work well when a student is starving. And many of my college students, those souls God allows me to care for while they are in my classroom, are starving for food and spiritual and intellectual nourishment. My "food table" is right by the door and often students I don't even know will peer in, gaze at the food, and gently look at me for the OK. I always say, "Please help yourself. I bring it just for you." They sometimes look like they will cry when their hands get a hold of an apple or orange. Some do cry and then I cry.
I am so grateful to be a teacher and be able to provide physical, emotional and intellectual nourishment for my students.
At 5am each morning I arrive at my neighborhood Safeway to pick up
a fresh batch of this and a dozen of that. Paul, on the night shift, teases me endlessly about all the oranges I get. He wonders if I will have money left over for when I retire. He carefully double bags everything so the heavy fruit doesn't break through and then go all over the hall or even the elevator I ride to the second floor of Old Main. Room 239. My classroom.
It's a ritual, you see. A morning pattern of knowing how much God has given to me. My heart is overflowing and like so many, many teachers I can't stand to see my students hungry. Hungry for food. Hungry for affection. Hungry for someone to know who they are. What their dreams are. Hungry to be someone who matters. They know they matter to me.
And after a journey from the elevator down a long and almost ghost-like hall, I reach my classroom. I set everything down. I look at the door and put my right hand on it. I say a prayer out loud, asking God that today the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart would be acceptable in His sight. That He would guide me and help me know TODAY what each student needs. I ask Him to help me know when to be gentle and when to be tough. I ask him to give me the energy to minister to 120 of His children. And I tell Him I am grateful.
Grateful every day, for all these years, that He made me to do this work. I was born to be a teacher!
I love being a teacher so much I would do it for free
This year is my 48th year of teaching. I did my year-long teaching internship when I was 19 and entered my own high school classroom for the first time
when I was only a smidge older than the students I was teaching. I still have contact with many of those students today. They all find a place in my heart.
And some have even found a place in our home when they had nowhere else to turn. Thousands and thousands of students.
And every day I am so blessed to share an hour with them... sharing time and space and minds and hearts. Because of what I teach, Communication Studies, we journey through interpersonal communication, intercultural communication, gender communication, conflict management, leadership, business and professional communication and more. Life-giving and life-changing classes. It's truly a garden where I watch people of all ages blossom, find themselves, and become more of who they were meant to be. I am challenged to encourage them, inspire them, motivate them, and expect them to do college-level work. It's a delicate balance. Giving feedback to someone with potential, who wants to just skate by, is God's work. I am tough and loving and
caring and concerned. I bring it all every day. I am all in! All that I am. All that He wants me to be. I can only do what I do because God gives me the wisdom and strength to do it. And what do I do? I bring love into a classroom. I love what I teach and I love my students.
Recently I was teaching a 7:30 class and saw that my students kept looking at the door. So I turned slightly to see what had their attention. Low and behold, there was Myia Hackett . Myia was my student years and years ago. She even lived with our family before she left to get her teaching degree. We gave each other a huge hug and only had a minute to reconnect before I had to get back to my students. Teachers transform the lives of students, and students truly transform the lives of their teachers as well. I am so grateful for all the blessings my students have given me. I am so grateful that Myia was my student and that she is still a part of our lives.
So today as graduation nears, I am filled to overflowing with a deep sense of gratitude. Gratitude for students passed and gratitude for my current students.
I have my graduation robe, hat and college adornments hanging in my home-office. Dusted off for another year of saying goodbye. And then I will pick up the fresh Hawaiian lei I wear at each graduation in honor of my parents who helped me to go to college and become a teacher.
All day today as I wait in anticipation of seeing my students, many for the last time, I will be filled with thanksgiving. I will be filled with gratitude and an overwhelming sense of renewal, reflection and reconnection.
Tonight I will shout and cheer as their names are called. And I will thank God over and over again, that it was in His plan for me, His calling for me, that
I was their teacher.
"If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old." ...