My Last Day

20120527-231233.jpg

Not long ago, I handed in my letter of resignation. I made two hard creases and folded up 13 years of teaching English at a rural high school in Northern Indiana.

Friday was my last day in the classroom. The first student who opened my door that morning handed me a card and a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies. I read the card after she left. “I’ll be praying for you and your family,” she wrote.

The whole day was bittersweet, just like that.

This summer my family of four will begin our new life in Winnipeg, a large urban city in central Canada. It’s been a dream of ours for years. There comes a time when the only way to make a dream come true is to stop dreaming and take action.

Sometimes that means letting go of a regular paycheck and a regular routine. And the security of sensibly-placed furniture.

At least for a time.

As I emptied my classroom of 13 years of memories and supplies, I needed the help of others. I handed out most of my belongings to students and teachers. I doled out handfuls of pens and highlighters, my famous collection of kitschy garden gnomes, a giant lamp shaped like a tree stump with three perching owls on it, and hundreds of pieces of magnetic poetry. I gave away coffee mugs and framed artwork. I removed special books from my shelves, sat down and wrote notes inside them, and went to deliver them to students who might treasure a particular book from me. It felt good to give things away. It also felt strange.

So many pieces of me. Scattered.

In the afternoon, 20 or so students from Mr. Thompson’s English classroom suddenly stormed mine with an arctic blast of symbolism. These former students of mine blasted me with laughter and a blizzard of hundreds of crumpled paper snowballs.

Soon after, Mr. Thompson stopped by with a smile and a big snow shovel. He cleared the floor of the wadded-up notebook paper. His students left the snowballs a few inches deep.

Friday was strange in unspeakable ways and my stomach didn’t feel like eating lunch.

Before I left at the end of the day, two students dropped by to say goodbye. A.J. noticed my cool astronaut water bottle, still half-full, sitting on my desk. He wondered if he could have it.

I was suddenly overcome with thirst. But I knew he would enjoy it.

Then, once it was time to go — get this — these two students asked if they could pray for me.

Yes, A.J.

Yes, Kyla.

I wouldn’t want my life in the classroom to end any other way.

Special note: As our family gears up for this big move, we face many unknowns. The days before us will surely bubble and froth with adventure. My plan is to share the continuing story with you during these life-changing months as often as I can.

If you think of us, my family thanks you for your prayers.

I am grateful for the community which has formed over the last year, here on my page. You’ve left more than just messages in comment boxes. You’ve left gifts of encouragement and personal connection, so my prayers are with you, too.

 

Stretching a Prayer

This is my seventh hour in the classroom, and the sun surprises me, clearing up my coffee mug with fresh peppermint tea.

Today even the boys band together. They’re wearing pink t-shirts for a reason. Especially the basketball players. One sits at the back of my room. But he’s not reading, at least not like the others.

Continue reading

How Are Your Grades?

What if God decided to assess our spiritual performance by using nine-week grading periods?

Or, if the Trinity preferred, trimesters could be instituted, with some form of cumulative assessment at the end of each.

Either way, everybody knows when these terms come to a close. The rectangle yard of my desk usually serves as a harbinger. There, unmarked papers start multiplying like white bunnies, while those with red streaks huddle together next the computer, waiting to be placed in their cage.

Why must it take so long to stuff them inside?

Continue reading

Someone to See the Unseen

While daydreaming from a metal folding chair, I saw my grandfather praying.

I had been listening to a class discussion which revolved around the subject of Henri Nouwen’s book, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership.

But the long fingers of my memory thumbed backward through the pages of my life until my grandfather stood before me.

Continue reading

Kind of Blue

Friday is for throwing out a week of stale chord progressions for a good pair of jeans. It’s for playing with scales and avoiding the usual trappings of key changes.

Fridays are my Kind of Blue.

The sky had just put on a soft robe of periwinkle when I got to school. A slow breeze stirred, and I felt a promising movement in the crisp September air.

Or maybe it was my third shot of espresso.
Continue reading

Holding It Together

One shouldn’t underestimate the power of a paper clip.

I sat down at my computer Friday morning to see how much e-mail and coffee I could take in before the first bell rang. I didn’t get through much because the message at the top of my inbox was addressed from a student who graduated two years ago.

She was on my newspaper staff during her senior year. She was an instigator.

Continue reading

A Cause for Applause

“There is no massing of men with God.”

— George MacDonald

After the bell rang, I walked into my classroom to face the first herd of the school year. Two dozen still unidentified bodies had been severed in half. The sand-colored laminate blade of a large tabletop saw had made its fresh, horizontal cut into the chest of each of my students — stopping just short of the heart.

And here they thought they were just sitting down in their desks.

Continue reading