Of Beginnings and Endings

The final days of the school term are quickly approaching. For some reason this rather surprises me. When the term began, all was new, and I never really thought about how it would end or that it even would. Exciting beginnings never seem to leave much room for thoughts of endings.

But the end of this term is coming. Once in a while, I think about the little that I have accomplished in it and wonder: am I doing anything? These small beginnings: are they worth it? Not that I question whether it’s worth it for me—I have learned so much in the last six months and I know God wants me here—but, are my stumbles and fumbles worth it for those who are paying me?

A few weeks ago, the chairman of the school board and his wife came to school after classes to ask the teachers how we feel about next year. They found us lady teachers randomly lounging around my classroom, chatting about people’s varying learning styles and how important it is to not shove students into boxes. We invited them into the conversation and we all talked together for a few minutes.

Then the other teachers went their ways, leaving Daniel and Gladys and I to have the first interview. I pulled up chairs. We sat down to business.

Only, I don’t like to call it business. They care too much about the school and the people involved. We talked about how the year has gone so far. They listened and gave insights.

Then came the questions. I was expecting The Question: Do you want to stay and teach next term?

But before that one was another. “We’re looking for someone to teach the kindergarten class in April. Is that something you would be interested in?”

Interested? Yes! I had secretly wished that I could, but had assumed the first-grade classroom would be chosen to host the kindergarten students. But I was being asked? Why yes. Yes. I would love to.

After we had discussed that a little while, the other question came. I told them I would be happy to teach again next year, though I would have to discuss it with my parents yet to be sure I had their blessing. “I can’t see myself doing anything else next year,” I said.

And it was true. For a while I had had the sense that if they wanted me, I would teach again next term, whether I wanted to or not—that it was God’s plan for me. But along the way I realized I also very much wanted to say yes. A few days later I gave the confirmation. I felt like I was running along a beach with the wind at my back—childlike joy.

Now the last few weeks I’ve had the joy of four kindergarten students in my classroom part of the time. These three boys and one girl have already found special places in my heart. I thought life was rich with one student to love, but it just gets deeper with more. I have only two more weeks with them; let me make the most of it before it ends.

Kindergarten is an adventure. One day, one of the students in the front row toppled over, desk and all, while reaching for a dropped eraser. I set the desk upright and the tears soon faded. About twenty minutes later, another one fell out the other side, again taking the desk with him. There were no lasting ill effects, and no one else has tried it since.

We’ve had stories and played dodgeball and learned that at school you raise your hand before you talk. We’ve rolled a big colorful die and stepped along numbers laid out on the floor. We’ve practiced colors and numbers and letters. Little beginnings. The foundations for future learning.

The upper grade students come in sometimes to help out. I love watching them gain confidence and seeing their methods—as different as their individual personalities. I can learn from them too.

Last week on Friday afternoon I showed my little class how to make lilies by tracing their hand-prints on colored paper. They cut the hand-prints out while I went around to help where needed. Watch out, you don’t want to cut the thumb off. See, if you hold your scissors like this, you can cut better. Uh-oh, the thumb came off your hand-print anyway. Shall we tape it back on or have a flower with four petals instead of five?

I helped them curl the fingers around a pencil to make the petals, then we taped the edges together and attached them to sticks for stems. A few students made leaves for their flowers. One of them came up with the idea of making a heart shaped leaf.

The finished flowers are now arranged in a jar adorning my desk. Some of the petals have jagged edges, and one did end up with only four petals, while another one has its fifth petal taped back on. But that doesn’t bother me. The children did their best, and I’m delighted with the results of their efforts. They’re my students. I love to see their creativity blossom, watch them discover what they can do, and encourage every little achievement.

Kindergarten will end, but they will go on learning. First grade is around the corner.

My relationship with God is similar. Even though I sometimes feel I have only made small beginnings, He is there for me at every step. He delights in my efforts at seeking Him. He gives me courage for the work I do in His name. He rejoices to see His children learning to walk in the truth. The foundations are always worth the effort.

And often I discover that what I thought was the end is only the beginning.

After School

I am a teacher.

Footsteps echo in empty halls after students have gone home.

I pull back the curtains,
finish my lunch,
sigh at red marks on paper—
	what can I do to improve his grasp of math?

A co-teacher calls from her basement classroom, 
	“Do you have lima beans at home? 
        I need some for a science project.”

I thump down the hollow steps to chat,
sharing joys and tips.

We put our heads together,
bouncing ideas about field trips.

Back to my cluttered classroom. 

The clock ticks. There are papers to grade and collect,
words to scratch on the blackboard,
thoughts to think, plans to make.

I am a teacher, 
	somehow. Not because of me,
	but because of the Master Teacher,
Who has seen fit to place me here,
enabling me with grace.

Our day of school is over, but mine is never complete.
	I am a teacher, yet taught by the most High.
	I am His servant.