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Humbled – Reflections from Year 7 of Teaching

Seems like only a short time ago that I donned my blue dress and headed out for the first day of school.

Then, BAM!  Here I am at the beginning of my summer break.

Ok, so it really didn’t seem that quick, if I can be honest with you.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I have had quite the year with some difficult personal challenges strewn along my way.

I think that’s why it’s especially important that I sit down and reflect, as I’m wont to do, while the feelings are fresh.

I’ve been looking back at my end-of-the-year teaching posts to help me identify themes throughout my time in the classroom.

Year 1 was overwhelming.  I would have been accused of lying if I’d written about everything being flowers and butterflies.  By the way, I REALLY love the post I wrote that year.  Like really, really, really love it.  So much.

Year 2 was stressful with a move to the public school system and a completely new prep to learn how to teach.

Year 3 was magical as I began to gain confidence in myself.

Year 4 was impactful.  This was the first year I really felt like I’d made a difference.

Year 5 taught me all about adapting to change, empowering myself to speak up, and balancing work and home.

Year 6 was about transformation.  I definitely left that school year on a high note.

And so I find myself at the end of Year 7.

If I had to sum up this year in one word, it would be humbling.

Never, ever think too long on something when it’s going well because there’s always a flip side.

I feel as though I started a bit behind the eight ball by having two preps, which I’ll admit that I did agree to last summer.  I went into the year of planning in a bit of a nervous state, and that came through in the early weeks of school.

I lacked confidence when it came to teaching my two, 45-minute Freshmen Honors English classes.  The time was shorter, the kids were new to high school, and these students were really good readers.  Heck, they even found a few typos in some of the stuff I projected on the Smartboard.

By November, I was hitting my stride pretty good, though, just as I injured myself in my freak fall over my dog.  Recovering from surgery and being out for almost two weeks took every bit of energy out of me, and it took me awhile to get back into the groove.

Then, the Mr. got admitted to the hospital, thus beginning our still-continuing roller coaster ride with his health, in addition to my ongoing physical therapy to rehab my ankle.

Through all of the challenges . . . multiple lesson preps, teenagers who either wanted to be taught hard-core or didn’t show up for class at all, and some ongoing behavioral issues . . . I learned how to lean on God more fully.

Heck, I kind of had to since I only had one good foot.

Ha!

I think that it was good for the kids to see me dust myself off after being knocked on my butt.  I hope it showed them that a person can get stronger even when brought low.  I’d like to think that my students saw my determination to be a consistent presence despite a few setbacks.  I pray that they saw me finish strong at the end.

During the last couple of weeks of school, when my students were working on their final projects, the vibe in my classroom was very chill, and the kids were able to converse more freely with one another.  During one conversation, a student told me that I was a really good teacher . . . that I worked hard to make sure that everyone understood what we were doing in class.  Other students echoed her sentiment.

Y’all have no idea how much this touched my heart because these students were in a class that had been especially challenging, behavior-wise, all year.  I had suffered from doubts about how effective I’d been.  I was humbled to see that God had come through once again and shined through my efforts.

God had been my strength when I struggled both physically and emotionally.  When I was drained of energy and didn’t know how I was going to put one foot (or boot . . . or crutch) in front of another, He supported me.

Something else that humbled me occurred after I passed back the cap and gown photos I’d taken the first day of school.  My students always love getting to take these home.  Several students in one of my 9th grade classes asked me to sign their pictures . . . like a celebrity would do.

I’m not kidding!

Wow.  I was, again, humbled.  I so much adored these children all year; they were reciprocating with their love at the end.

Yesterday morning, as I left for school on what was the last day, I turned on the radio and heard the song, “I am Redeemed.”

Oh my, but the words about shaking off the heavy chains and not being who I used to be made me cry.

My chains this year have been physical . . . my cast, my boot, my still-recovering ankle . . . in addition to hospital rooms and doctor’s offices.

My chains have been emotional . . . self-doubt and frustration.

That’s what makes this journey especially sweet this year.  God allowed every challenge into my life to reveal to me just how much I need Him.  He was with me on the mountaintop last year; He never left my side when I was in the valley.

That knowledge helped me make it through the second half of the school year with joy still in my heart and a new thankfulness for the blessings He has poured upon me.

The lessons from this year define who I am at the end of this seventh year of teaching, and they are what I carried with me as I closed the door to my classroom and headed home for the summer.

This is the face of a teacher in the parking lot leaving school for summer. Please note the bright eyes and happy smile.

I called the Mr. on my way home and quoted the following . . .

That Muggle hubby of mine had no clue what I was talking about.  Sheesh.  You’d think he could put the pieces together.  Ha!

As I put my lunchbox away and hung up my classroom keys, I felt relieved that I’d have a couple of months to rest and recharge.

Each year, I want to be a better teacher than I was the year before.  I don’t know that I accomplished that this year, but I do know that I definitely taught differently, quit sweating some of the small stuff, and kept my eyes focused on the big picture . . . forming relationships with my students, fostering a love for reading, and maintaining a high set of standards.

One of my students made this crane for me on the last day of school.

So, if you need me between now and August, you’ll be able to find me playing on my phone, having fun with Snapchat filters, and just generally taking things as they come without a whole lot of formal planning.

Did my eyes really look like that, or was it the filter? Can I be vain a moment (because I’m loving the look).

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