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At the end of every school year, I’ve taken time to reflect.

Well, folks, yesterday I closed up my classroom for the summer after finishing my sixth year of teaching.  It’s a little hard to believe!!!

If I had to sum up the year with one word, it would be transformed.

When you boil things down, this word fits in for everything that has been my world since the start of the school year last August.

My transformation journey actually began last July when Rooster told me that he had decided to enlist in the Air Force.  My heart plummeted at what I thought was a sudden decision (it wasn’t…he’d been pondering it for a while).  Fear set in as I imagined him in dangerous situations.  Sadness descended at the thought of being separated from him.  We’ve been extremely close since he was born.

He didn’t immediately go in even after acing the ASVAB test.  He was waiting to get offered a certain type of job.

Thus it was that I started my new school year.

I was extremely hesitant.  Last school year had been one of my worst.  I’d been let down by a system that I felt had betrayed me.  I wasn’t mad at my school…just the people in ivory towers making decisions about my effectiveness as a teacher.

I’d also gotten word about my schedule, and I fought it tooth and nail.  A bit of a diva?  Perhaps.  The result of extreme burnout?  Yep.

Despite my concerns, my schedule didn’t change, and I trusted that God would work things out.

Well you guys…He sure came through!!

I fell in love with my students the first week.  Sure, I knew that the beginning of school is always the honeymoon phase; however, the blend of kids I had was terrific.  There’s never a guarantee that students’ personalities will mesh into combinations that work well, but the classes I had quickly became little families within themselves.

My first class was simply full of joy.  Many of them had been together the previous year…in the classroom beside me…and I was concerned that their boisterous antics would be a little unmanageable.  It didn’t take them long to adjust to Mrs. Auburnchick’s ways.

My second class was my loudest class.  They were a handful all year, but their personalities kept me chuckling.  I formed strong bonds with a few of the young ladies in this class and developed a deep respect for their strong work ethics.

My third class was my smallest and, at the beginning, my most challenging.  I very quickly grew to love them, though.  Their needs were great, and they required much patience.  Despite these things, I looked forward to teaching them each day and loved that they were my final students of the day.  They asked the best questions, always apologizing first (I don’t know why, and I often told them to never apologize).  They were so good about advocating for themselves and took ownership of their behavior.

Looking back, I can’t say that I had the best attitude going into the school year.  I was facing personal and what I thought were professional obstacles that were both emotional and challenging.

This is where the transformation happened.

I had to turn all of my concerns over to God.

He didn’t change my circumstances.

He changed me.

Along the way, I saw Him working in the lives of my loved ones and the precious teenagers I taught.

I watched my Rooster grow stronger, both physically and mentally.  I saw him transform into a man who had a renewed focus in his life.  Sitting on the sidelines, reading the letters he wrote from basic training and hearing his voice when he called home, transformed me from a hesitant military mom to a strong and proud Air Force mama.

I was also transformed as I made the conscious decision to put my family first and limit the amount of time I worked from home.  Lesson planning was relegated to one night a week…two, max, if I didn’t finish the first night.  I quit grading at home and didn’t work on the weekends.  I knew that my time with Rooster was limited, and I didn’t want anything to distract me from our time together.  I also knew that I had to invest time with the Mr. so that when the time came for Rooster to leave, the Mr. and I would have a stronger marriage and wouldn’t be left flailing about haphazardly.

Although I was nervous about limiting my work time (i.e., no more burning the candle at both ends…working until 1am), I discovered that I was still an effective teacher.  Sure, I couldn’t always hand back graded work the next day, but I made more efficient use of my in-school planning period, thus learning to work smarter, not harder.  I think that this resulted in a less-stressed-out me, which benefited my students as there wasn’t stress pouring out of me and onto them.  Students saw the priority I placed on family and respected that more than I’d expected.  They understood the boundaries I had created and saw that I could still be productive and care for their success at the same time.

I’d like to think that this process helped transform them.  Oh, the growth I saw in my kiddos this year.  So many of them walked in with little confidence, and they scored poorly on early classroom assessments.  It was upsetting to watch them struggle.  As the year went by, they slowly began seeing the fruits of their efforts.  I watched them exclaim in surprise when they began acing some of my very difficult tests, and their confidence grew.

I watched as one certain young lady walked into my classroom, head held down, self-confidence shattered by bullying she’d experienced about her weight.  This girl is insanely gorgeous with the sweetest personality to match, but she’d allowed the negative, jealousy-filled comments to hold her back.  One small conversation after class early in the year began the process of transformation, and by the end of the school year, she was walking around with her head held up.  The last day of class, she waited until everyone had left and asked me to take a picture with her.  ❤

She is but one example of the number of transformed students I saw during the year.

When the bell rang at the end of the last two days of final exams, I hugged each of my students as they left.  We had all been transformed into a family with the sincerest respect for each other.  I know they’ll be visiting me when they return next school year and the year after…until they graduate.  They’ll come back to me, proudly holding up their first cap and gown pictures, the ones I took of them the first day of class, and they will show me their new pictures…the ones in which they are wearing gowns that actually fit them…gowns they’ll be wearing when they cross the stage to receive their diplomas.

To be transformed and to be a part of others’ transformations is simply incredible.  It’s an ongoing process and one I’ll never tire of.  Though it can be painful at times, such as seeing my boy fly the coop and wrestling with the academic and behavior issues of my students, it is also a joy when I emerge on the other side, stronger and ready to face the next set of challenges.

Year 6 was one of my best years to date, and I’ll always think back to it with a smile on my face and joy in my heart.

One Response

  1. I loved reading this post. May your summer be one filled with wonderful adventures.

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