The past few weeks I’ve been packing up my classroom. Each year I dread this task, because it’s dirty (you wouldn’t BELIEVE the dust bunnies that accumulate!) and it’s somewhat depressing. A school year is over. Finished. Completed. It’s done. No more improvements to be made. No more learning to discover. No more songs to sing or projects to create.
This year I’ve begun a lot earlier than usual. As one of my colleagues keeps pointing out, “You have a LOT of stuff.” So, my room is looking bare and I’m very aware of the finality of the decision I’ve made not to return to teaching. As I pack, an old Michael W. Smith song keeps playing in my mind, “Friends are Friends Forever”. Actually, the first line, “Packing up the dreams God planted….” couldn’t be more fitting. “I can’t believe the hopes He’s granted, means a chapter in your life is through…” Although this chapter seems to be over for me, the book is not finished. And I hope the characters do not change dramatically.
These “characters” — the friendships I have formed while teaching, are some of the best. My very first years at a Nashville inner city middle school were spent with 3 teammates, 2 of whom I’m still blessed to call my friends 15 years later. Elizabeth and Jenny listened to my horror stories of the day, cheered me up and dried my tears. (I know I cried every day after school). They were both encouragers and treated me more as an equal than I ever deserved. I used techniques that they “taught” me (more like, I stole from them!) to this day. I am forever grateful to them, for they are both wonderful teachers. They taught me that it’s important to share with your colleagues, but most importantly, to encourage each other. Many days, that’s all we have!
Then, even while a short stay in Memphis, I was blessed with more great teammates. When I got the flu and was out suddenly for 6 days, these women wrote my sub plans, copied work and kept my class afloat, all the while, never complaining. They taught me that it takes a team and sometimes you give 125%, while others give 25%, but you never know when the roles might be reversed.
Next, I made a move to a Gallatin elementary school where I was blessed with another good team, but one teacher and I in particular just “clicked”. We planned together, shared together and even taught together. Susan had the patience of Job and the compassion of Jesus. She had one of the softest “teacher voices” I had ever heard. She taught me how to organize an event, how to create memories for students and that sometimes to be heard, you have to lower your voice.
Finally, I moved to the school where I now am leaving. The first years there were tough. It was a tight-knit school AND community, and I was very much an outsider. It was the kind of school that when the students and parents found out they had the “new” teacher, they were worried. Eventually, I formed friendships, and one that has literally saved my life. If it had not been for the actions of Susie, I may not have survived the dark days of depression. She has been my fitness friend, my health hero and my free counselor. She has also, at times, been a thorn in my flesh. Iron sharpens iron, so the saying goes. I have many more friends at this school and have been so blessed to see friendships grow as the years go by. An unexpected blessing of this tight-knit community is that some of my “parents” of students have turned into true-blue friends.
So although the chapter is through, I do hope the characters remain. My fear is that these friendships will fade away once I am no longer there working side by side. And that may be the case, but even if it is, my life has been made richer by knowing these women.
What about you? How do you keep friendships alive once the convenience of working together is no longer there?