Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Solomon's Puzzle and Teaching

Loss and Frustration: Part 2 of 4

While I've been editing Solomon’s Puzzle my family has continued to grow. This spring we hosted a baby shower for Care and Eric, both teachers at AACS where I also taught; they are expecting their first child in a few days. To the shower came Eric and Care’s colleages, as well as some students who Eric had taught and coached.

The only problem was that these people were also my former colleagues and I had taught most of the students when they were in grade eleven or twelve. After the party, I felt the gaping hole in my heart.

For days I could not remember why I quit teaching. As I was staring at my computer screen through brimming eyes, I asked why had I left teaching in which God had given me so much success and wisdom and fulfillment and joy?
my dear friend Kathy and me at the shower -she taught my kids, I taught hers

Why had I chosen writing—a job that was characterized by loneliness and frustration—and left a job that had been so fulfilling and fun? (hmm… except when it wasn’t fun. Like when that boy sniffed all through class every day, a sniff that sounded like an elephant snorting an entire bucket full of crunchy peanut butter [despite my offering tissues and cough drops and suggesting antibiotics and begging him to see a doctor. I even stuck Velcro to the desk hoping if he rubbed it he'd forget his nose]. Maybe I should have taught at an all girls’ school... but no... there was that girl who, when I whispered to her please to sit a different way because I could see her bright red underpants, replied, “That’s what everybody on the bus said this morning!" (They don't prepare you for stuff like that in teaching school.) Or the girl in an honors section who blamed her quiz failures on the fact that her mother hadn’t had time to read the chapter aloud to her. )

 But none of these are good reasons to quit teaching. These incidents and others like them cause the sort of chronic, internal hysteria that fuels good teachers to keep trying.
colleagues, friends, parents of dear students all came to the shower

Nor did I quit for these reasons, I knew that much was true, but I couldn’t think of why I had quit.

Instead I remembered that wonderful class who, in spite of the distractions of a sniffing classmate, loved to read, worked to write and rewrite. I remembered the class who loved John Donne’s stirring poems. I remembered how Laurel and Liz, Todd, the Jessicas, Dain, Shannon, Ashley and the others had seen the importance of place both literal and figurative in Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” how their own growing faith had illuminated the poem’s beauty and depth.

This picture sent to me of a former student, once good at poetry, now practicing medicine. It reminds me that it is a privilege to teach.

... and a thousand other incidents like that, just as amazing and beautiful as that. These were what I remembered after the baby shower and I grieved that I was not there in a damp, freezing, moldy classroom watching as God fed the intellects of those bright, fresh minds.

My family tried to comfort me. Andrea had an entire list of good reasons; they helped a little. Eric, both Karls, Valerie each reminded me of the worth of writing and grandchildren and these reasons are so true and dear.

I wouldn't trade a minute with my grandchildren but...
But I felt I had lost something great and beautiful, remembered the frustration of knowing I had to write, and thought it was a character flaw that I had not been able to continue to do it all.

I was in this state when the phone rang.

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