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Posts Tagged ‘Back to School’

Back to school arrived last week, for me.

The first week back, after summer vacation, is always a difficult week at work for me, for a few reasons.

One is that summer is over (it really does not matter what the weather is, or what the calendar says about the end of summer being a month later, summer ends when school begins, period).

Secondly I work in a school … with students, and before Labor Day weekend, there are no students at school. Work without students is … boring!

Another reason is that, in my line of work, every year can mean a completely new assignment, with completely different students, in completely different classes and grades, working with completely different teachers. Everything, and I mean everything that I was confident in just two months ago is gone, and is replaced by something new.

And, finally, people ask how I feel about being back, and well, considering the above mentioned reasons for the first week being difficult, that is an answer that I really do not want to give … because it makes me sound terribly negative, and feel terribly depressed.

Once I get to work, on this first day back, I am (along with my colleges) given our schedules, with the reminder that we should not write down anything, except in pencil (things can still change for the first couple of weeks of school). It is then that full panic mode begins.

For the past few years when I receive that initial schedule for the year, I really start to feel panicky because I feel as though I am so inadequate to do the job that has been handed to me. And then, from that moment until the first day of school, I get increasingly panicked.

I often consider resigning, saying no, running away. Anything that will allow me to put distance between my job assignment and me. At this point, I am convinced those little butterflies in my stomach have changed into buzzards, and they have come home to roost inside of my innards.

As I was driving to school the final day of the week I was drawn in by the lyrics of a song that was playing on the radio …

“A thousand times I’ve failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I’m caught in your grace”
Oh man, how did God know that it was fear of my own failure that was making me anxious?
“Your will above all else,
my purpose remains

The art of losing myself
in bringing you praise”
Oh ya! This job, this life, it’s not about me, it is about me decreasing so that He would increase.
“My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise, become my embrace
To love You from the inside out”
Oh, how I needed embrace right then. And He met me where I was was at, and the reminder that in giving Him control, justice and praise would fill me from the inside out.
“Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
From the inside out, O my soul cries out.”
I get it. I remember now. I will praise You, from the inside out, and leave the anxious, fearful thoughts of my job assignment to You, because You are everlasting and faithful to me.

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Two weeks from today summer will really be over. There will be great mourning and gnashing of teeth in our home. It will be with great regret that our alarms will be set, lunches will be made, and the trek to school will be taken.

As I contemplate all that this day means, I also think back …  w  a  y  back  … to when I was school student. I remember the new clothes (brand new fall/winter sweaters when the temperatures are often still reflecting the summer season), the new shoes (which always came home not so white, and feet requiring bandages for the new shoe blisters), the crisp clean lined Hilroy notebooks, the line-up at the pencil sharpener (because we all had new pencils), and the revelation of who would be our classroom teacher for the school year.

Just one month ago I was driving down a highway in Oregon, listening to a radio station, and they started talking about back to school. I just about drove into a light standard! Back to school was not something that I wanted to hear about in late July. But what they were saying about returning to school stopped me from doing anything too radical. They were encouraging people, parents, to print off a teacher appreciation certificate and take it to the school on the first day, as an act of supporting and encouraging the teachers of their children.

Now that I could get into!

I have tried over the years to be supportive to the classroom teachers of my kids. Working within the school system gives me an even more intimate understanding of just how appreciated (and, for those teaching high school, rare) words, acts and gifts of encouragement are to these teachers who spend more time with our kids each day than we do.

I think all of us can think back to at least one teacher who inspired us to live better, think differently, and who encouraged us in who we are.

Immediately I think back to my grade four teacher, Mrs. Kavanaugh, who was so kind … to everyone in the class. The thing I remember most about her is how she treated the ‘underdogs’ of the classroom. She was more patient with them than any other teacher. She gave them extra words of encouragement. She did not favor the smartest, the prettiest, the richest. You know, I do not remember one academic thing she taught us, but I think I took away something better, because she gave me the tools to be a better person.

She was not the only teacher that I think of, but she is the one who comes to my mind first.

How about you? Do you remember a special teacher? How about taking the challenge to encourage a teacher as your children return to classrooms, gymnasiums, and libraries? How about starting the parent-teacher relationship off with an act of  encouragement, of love?

It just might set the stage for a great year for your son or daughter, for their teacher, and for you.

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Having now been back to work, in a school, for three days, I am confident of one thing … school is not school without the students!

It has been wonderful to see and reconnect with my work colleagues, get my schedule, and hear of the new plans and initiatives for the school year. But … it does not feel like my job, it does not feel like school, if there are no students there. The building is NOT the school, even the staff are not the school. Both of those are valuable parts of ‘school’, but it is the students who make up, and who are … the school.

All parts that come together under the roof of the school, from teaching to non-teaching staff, from parents to guardians, from professional development to textbooks, from note pads to computers, do so with one purpose in mind … to teach the students who will attend there. And it is in they, the students, that our purpose for being there lies.

It has been a good reminder to me of what my job is really about. Although I benefit from my job (financially and with a sense of purpose and fulfillment), I am there for the benefit of the students, not the other way around. I am there to help them to learn, they are not there to help me learn (but, they do). I am there to encourage them, not they encourage me (but, they do). I am there to make their lives and their futures better, they are not there to improve my life (but, they do).

I hope that remembering why I do what I was hired to do helps me to do my job better. I hope that a month from now, I can remember how very boring and even pointless (not that it is, but it ‘feels’ that way) being at school without the students was, way back here in August.

The highlight of my day … meeting the family of one of the students I get to work with this coming school year … That was one step closer to what I was hired to do!

“…the fundamental purpose of school is learning, not teaching.”

Richard DuFour

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