Childhood is sacred.
2nd grade in particular is a year I hold dear. That’s when I met my best childhood friend, Kimber (short for Kimberly. Whatever you do, don’t call her “Kim”, though I’m allowed to on occasion for a laugh.)
Worthy interjection – I just looked over at Matt who is using a femur bone as a back scratcher.
Back to my story.
She had permed hair and pierced ears, and I thought she was the cat’s meow. I still do.
She was the tallest in the class, and I was the shortest. Now, we’re all evened out and about the same height. Funny how that happens.
Here we are in our 8-year old glory on class picture day. Kimber is the sweet, serene one in the back row. I’m the dark, eager-eyed one in the front row.
And here we are celebrating our 30th birthdays (which are actually nowhere near each other on the calendar, but we just celebrated both when she came to visit me in CO).
We value the same things but have opposite personalities in some ways, which, I think makes for a good friendship. She sharpens me and has proven over the years to be loyal, steadily kind, and wise. She’s currently in the process of adopting a boy (or two!) from Ethiopia.
I pray that my students will find true and faithful friendships amongst each other. It’s sweet to watch them form, knowing how long they may last.
This is my ninth year of teaching (tap tap, is that number right?), but my first year to teach 2nd grade. AND I LOVE IT. Having spent my previous years in 1st grade, I find that 2nd graders are, well, a year farther along than 1st graders. Obvious yes, but worth stating because that one year of emotional, social, and academic development is a huge leap when comparing a beginning first grader to a beginning 2nd grader.
It helps, too, that I have a delightful group of students. (I am protecting their privacy by not posting their precious faces to this blog.)
Before the school year began, my first order of business was setting up my classroom – a place where I could feel ownership and work efficiently and effectively. That meant unpacking my boxes, arranging furniture, organizing cabinets, and going through the many files I inherited from the previous teachers of that classroom.
The curtains, I decided, were a distraction to me and had to go. Think: long, dingy white with vertical, multicolor, pastel stripes and lavender ruffles on both the top and the bottom to add a touch of sass I guess. I was hesitant to take them down right away, not knowing if some sweet old lady in the church sewed them (my school is part of a church and shares the same building). After asking and being assured that this was not the case and that I was certainly free to take them down, I set to work with a song in my heart (Hallelujah chorus) and a pep in my step.
After replacing the curtains, finding some bookshelves for sale at Target ($15!), unpacking my books, designating places for various resources and materials, and semi-organizing those aforementioned files, I had a room in which I felt ready to teach America’s youth.
Charlotte Mason (here I go), founder of the homeschooling movement waaay back when (1800s), said that the home is the best atmosphere for learning and therefore a classroom environment should be homelike and natural (paraphrased). To that end I aimed, and here is my simple classroom when all was fini.
Since children’s affinities are still being shaped, I want to be careful what I put in front of them, not just putting up any old silly thing to teach them to love it. A place of education should lift a child higher than himself, higher than what he may be used to, higher than what he may initially choose for himself. So I think it an important responsibility to influence a child’s tastes for what is lovely and real.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. – Philippians 4:8
I admit that I grew over time into my educational philosophy, having not emerged from college with my present mindset. In fact, when I first started teaching, it looked like a circus threw up in my classroom. I shudder to think about all the cheesy, unnecessary, non-educational junk I so proudly displayed and spent HOURS creating and money buying. And the poor children’s attention spans – how can they learn to focus best for a long period of time when every inch of the room is overly stimulating and is assaulting their senses, screaming for their attention? I think they just learn to pay little attention to all of it, instead of a lot of attention to any one thing.
While not all bad, the teacher stores are a business. A very lucrative business.
Enough on that. (How I drone on sometimes!)
While I do strongly believe in modeling organization to my students, when they leave to go home for the day, my work area looks more like this. I considered cleaning it off before showing it here, but then thought better of it. This is reality.My heart is bursting with thankfulness to the Lord for this humble job at this humble school that has quickly become a place of gracious purpose for me.
One thing I like to do is periodically read back through my old journals to remember where I was at this time during a past year and what God was teaching me then.
Today, I was reading an entry from September 2010, exactly two years ago. I was wondering about what purpose I would have if Matt got into med school. Matt and I had just discussed postponing starting a family. My immediate reaction was ready acceptance/my typical “take-one-for-the-team, stay optimistic” attitude. Matt knows me well enough that he pointedly asked how I felt three times. After that third time, my tears quietly came and I realized I was disappointed.
I love this quote: “Thoughts untangle themselves through honest lips and pencil tips.”
As I spoke, my true thoughts started to untangle themselves, and I was finally able to articulate that the decision to give up my beloved place of work at the time for Matt to pursue med school in another state was made easier for me by the thought of having a baby. Releasing one purposeful position (teacher) for another (mother) made me look forward to the changes on the horizon. Now though, it felt like Matt would be moving on to bigger and better things, and I would just be…moving.
While I was excited for Matt and eager to support him, at the same time, I was asking “What of me, Lord?” I didn’t want to be overlooked and forgotten. And while cognitively I knew that He would not abandon me and would lead me…, my heart desperately needed His personal reassurance and hope that He would grant me fulfilling purpose.
Over the next months, moments of uncertainty came and went, each time the Lord drawing me back to remembering His sovereign shepherding of me in the past. There’s nothing that so boosts my confidence in Him like remembering what He has already done.
And now, 2 years later, I can use this present time as one of my future memories to look back on and say, “The Lord heard me. He didn’t forget me. He never abandoned me. Though He gave me a different purpose than I thought I would have right now, in His plan, I have experienced satisfaction.”
So while there is no baby in my arms, my heart is full.
I love spending my days training and guiding the 18 children who have been entrusted to me. Children are a gift from the Lord – Psalm 127:3. And these students are the children He has seen fit to gift me with right now.