Sunday, August 23, 2015


Tomorrow marks the beginning of another school year.  Another nine months dictated by schoolwork, homework, alarm clocks, report cards, curriculum, and what can feel like insufficient amounts of caffeine.

Tomorrow also marks the third year in a row where I won't be the one anxiously awaiting my gaggle of excited gigglers as they make their way with anticipation into the classroom I have tirelessly decorated with them in mind.  I won't be the one with a fresh lesson plan book, ready to be filled with ink and pencil and sticky notes and crossed-out, changed plans and meeting times.  My attire isn't professional, my lunch isn't a smattering of crackers and strawberries that I sneak in between filing and emailing and grading.  My tenure as a teacher is halted.

Instead, I roll up to school in yoga pants, a tank top, and a top knot to let my kids tumble out of my goldfish-crumbed SUV.  My coffee splashes from my mug and onto papers I quickly sign at each red light because the kids forgot to give me the night before.  At home, my calendar that was once filled with swimming and play dates and movies and beach days looks different.  It's emptier now, void of the fun and replaced with a checklist household chores I put on the back burner for a couple weeks.  While my lunch is usually a random assortment of snacks eaten on the run; it's between grocery shopping and meal planning and vacuuming and laundry where I find time to feed my face.  For three years in a row, I have anxiously awaited this day.  When my life feels more 'scheduled', when the fights are less frequent, when the grocery bill gets smaller {seriously.  They}.  I'm excited to have some time to 'get things done', and take a little 'time for me' {my gym membership?  Yeah, it's ready to break up with me.}.

But at the same time, I'm sad.  I'll miss the dun of noise, the giggles of kids playing, the requests to be driven down the street to go swimming, the spur-of-the-moment summertime fun activities, and yes, even the non.stop.eating {it's crazy, y'all.  They're vultures on my pantry.}.  The flexibility of life is squandered a bit; the time spent with my kids, compressed into pockets of time before and after school.  My fourth, second, and pre-k aged kids are about to embark on another nine month journey where they'll come out more knowledgeable and independent; leaving me to feel a little less needed and {as my pre-k'er says} "much more older".

It's strange to think that my oldest two are the age of the students I once dedicated a huge slice of my life to each school year.  I remember those kids.  Each and every single one.  They were fun and funny, sweet and sassy, excited and exhausting.  I spent hours and hours each day sharing knowledge with them, laughing with them, and building community with them. And for that time; I received a heck of a lot in return.  The ways in which my former students have changed me is something for which I will never truly be able to thank them.

I don't think kids always think of the ways in which they can impact the lives of adults.  I would even venture to say there are kids out there who don't believe they actually can impact the lives of adults.  But they can, and they do.  Kids bring hope.  They bring joy.  Laughter.  Tears.  Frustration.  Anticipation.  Pride.  Fear.  Confusion.   Patience.   Effervescent love.  A broadening of perspective that whites out the suffix of selfish and replaces it with -less.

This morning, the superintendent of a local school district spoke at our church to pray over those in the educational field as the school year gets underway.  He shared a little story about a kindergarten boy with whom he had encountered in the hallway under dire circumstances.  The little boy's shoes were not tied--not even on his feet--when he tripped and fell.  The superintendent approached the boy and helped him tie his shoes and got him back to class.  A few weeks later at an open house, the superintendent was approached by the boy and his parents.  The kindergartner introduced the him to the parents as 'the man who ties his shoes'.  Such an adorable reminder of the perspective from which children view their world.

Teachers tie the shoes of children each day.  The story he shared encouraged teachers to find a victory in each and every day.  One victory that she can reflect upon; one set of shoelaces that she secured so one child would be able to get where he's heading with the security of someone who has his back.  She works tirelessly, dedicating her life, time, and finances to the betterment of her students' education.  She brings together the loose ends of what is a misunderstanding and connects them in such a way that it 'stays put' in the brains of her students.

One of the noblest careers is that of an educator preparing the pathway for a student's success.  To help draft a chapter in the lives of each child she teaches; to shine light on *something* that he did not realize about himself before he met you.  There is really nothing like the pride and joy a teacher feels when she watches the lives of their students take shape.

One of the most underrated outcomes of a school year is that of a student, walking side by side with the teacher, learning along with rather than learning from.  Students help draft chapters, too.  They pen paragraphs of memories and experiences that help shape identities of teachers.  Students have the power to turn frustration into joy, tears into smiles, and confusion into patience.

The power of education is life-changing.  When you take the time to tie someone's shoes, you empower them to go further down the road.  When you take the time to pay attention to the person tying your shoes, watch what they're modeling, and soon do it yourself; the limits of the road become endless.

To the educators who work with students daily, thank you.  The words tumble out easily, but the weight of them is unfathomable.  The ties that bind our generations and incorporate peace and unity into this broken world are ones that you knot together each and every day.  Your work is holy.  Your impact: immeasurable.  Your selflessness is limitless.  Your students are inconceivably lucky.  And your shoelaces are tied beautifully.