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The Legacy of the Table

Once upon a time, there were two sisters.

These sisters loved each other very much.

They were each others’ main playmates, and they spent many, many hours coloring and playing games at this table…

Much laughter and, most likely, many arguments (as is the way with siblings close in age) were exchanged at this table as the girls grew up.

The table eventually came to reside in the eldest sister’s room, and it was there that this sister stayed up late many nights before her wedding writing thank you notes for the beautiful wedding presents that were pouring in.

Both sisters got married, and the eldest one was the first to have children.

Not long after her own daughter was born, this sister acquired the table.

It was time for a new generation to create memories.

The daughter and son that soon followed whiled away summer days coloring and playing games.  They built castles out of Legos and had Hot Wheels races off the table.  Many mid-afternoon snacks were enjoyed at this table, sometimes with Mama and other times with friends.

After a number of years, the table and chairs, which had been, by this time, whittled down to two from the full set of four that once existed, found their way to the attic.

The children had long outgrown them.

The daughter grew up, moved away to attend college, and began her grown-up job.

Meanwhile, the chairs and table sat, lonely, in the attic.

Until today…

When the eldest sister’s daughter requested them for her kindergarten classroom…

Where a new generation of little ones will begin creating their own memories.

They may find themselves like the original owner of the set, the eldest sister, whose happiest memories are tied to the fun experienced at this table…where a less-than-ideal home life may be offset, if only in small chunks of time, by the laughter shared with other little people.

The eldest sister’s eyes filled with tears when her daughter requested that she make that trip up to the attic, for she knew that the legacy of the table would continue.

Impactful

Today, I officially completed my fourth year of teaching.

I’ve been thinking about this day for the last couple of weeks.

I’d been reflecting…trying to put to words what my heart had been feeling.

Locking my door after closing up shop for the summer was bittersweet…

If I were to ascribe one word to each of my first three years of teaching, the list would look like the following:

Year #1 – Overwhelming (five preps and no teaching experience were a tough combination)

Year #2 – Stressful (learning how to teach remedial reading to teenagers dependent on passing the FCAT led to much angst)

Year #3 – Magtical (the pieces started coming together)

That brings me to Year #4.

The word I’d use to describe this past year would be impactful.

As I read my students’ reflections last week, had conversations with parents over the last couple of days, and talked to my mentor, Cinda, I grew to realize that my relationship building skills had grown by leaps and bounds this year.

I’ve often said that you can’t teach if you don’t have a relationship with students.

This never proved more true than this year.

One of my classes was comprised of students who were in double blocks of reading and math, so they spent over half of their day together.

That’s a lot of time for annoyances to creep in…for tempers to flare.

Flare they did, and class could get very “interesting” at times.

I worked very hard to build rapport in this class.

I didn’t always do a good job holding my tongue as frustration set in on particular rough days, but students and I learned to reflect thanks to Cinda’s modeling early in the year.

My students and I learned how to pick apart lessons that had gone awry…procedures that weren’t fitting in with the classroom environment…and changes were made.

I did this with all of my classes.  What worked for one class had to be changed for another to fit that class’s needs.

As students saw me reflecting and taking action, they began to do the same.

This was very impactful, and I witnessed students’ conversations naturally leading to introspection.

It was an amazing process to behold.

Another thing that happened this year was that my students became genuine book lovers.

I have always fought my students when it came to silent reading time.

This year, I purchased many, many books for my classroom library.

If a student found an author he/she liked, I bought all of the books by that writer.

If a student enjoyed the first book in a series, I bought the rest of the books.

Students began having conversations about their books.  I learned that just because students were talking during class did not mean the conversations were about boys/girls or the latest parties they had been to.

Kids were talking about books.

They were showing each other funny parts of the books.

They were borrowing each others’ books.

My class that had the toughest road to travel…well, that class seriously could not stop talking about books.  I’m really not kidding.

Take a look at the letter a student in that class wrote to me.  She gave it to me the last day of school.

Click to embiggen

As you saw in the letters of advice my students wrote to next year’s students, they read…a lot…and they reflected on their reading through the writing exercises that followed.

This was impactful.

The last day I had each class, students talked about how sad they were to leave…how much they were going to miss me.

They had watched the movies I had made for them…slideshows comprised of photos taken throughout the year.

They had laughed and cried as they watched the school year fly by, frame by frame.

Strong bonds were forged this year…student-to-student and student-to-teacher.

I called a parent today to discuss her son’s wonderful progress on FCAT, and we had a lengthy conversation.

She asked if I had been the person who had made the movie, and I said yes.  I had given CDs of that class’s movie to the students after they requested copies.

This mom and her son had watched the movie together at home.  I heard the tears in her voice as she said, “You done something to him with that video.  It changed him.”

He had been impacted by the images…reminders that he had been important to me.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I sat at my desk and cried after I hung up the phone…humbled at the blessings that the Lord has bestowed on me through this marvelous career He led me to.

I have so many stories I could share with you…stories I’ve constantly shared with my mentor.

I do so…not to brag but to share how amazed I am every single time someone tells me thank you.

There are so many difficult days of teaching…times when lesson plans don’t work…students misbehave…decisions get made by asinine state officials who have never stood in front of a classroom.

At the end of the day, what matters most is the impact I’ve had on each child who has crossed my threshold.

This was, by far, my best year of teaching to date.

I got into teaching because I believed in the power of shaping young minds.

I never knew that I’d be shaping their hearts as well.

The picture below shows a happy face…mine…one that is excited to go home and kick off summer vacation with a long nap.

What you don’t see is my heart…enlarged and filled to the brim with an intense love for people who, nine months ago, were strangers…now grafted into my ever-growing family.

These kiddos will always be my children, and I will never forget them nor their impact on my life.

Legacy

Yesterday at church, my pastor preached a dynamic sermon.

The topic was legacy.

He is currently preaching his way through some of the more famous stories in the Bible and explaining the very adult themes of each of these seemingly “kiddie” stories.

Yesterday’s story was the Tower of Babel, and how people were forced to spread out around the world to spread God’s message.

This, my friends, needs to be every Christian’s legacy…sharing God’s Word.

I loved when my pastor said that we need to be purposeful about the legacy we create.  If we’re not purposeful, our legacy will, more than likely, be a negative one.

Isn’t it true that to truly lead a life for God, we must be purposeful in the decisions we make every day?

I think about my recent post about the language I use.  I must, at times, choose my words carefully, especially when I’m angry.

Tom, my pastor, spoke about how we are to share the story of our legacy, and how it came to be, with others.

For instance, think of the stories that have been handed down from one generation to another.  You probably have favorite family stories…and some not-so-favorite.

Christians have their own legacies.  Some involve people who were amazing servants for God…who loved Him passionately and passed that love and devotion to their children.

Others are first-generation Christians.  Their legacy is different and not any less valuable.

I thought about my own legacy.

I grew up in a broken home, and religion, until I moved to Alabama when I was nine years old, was fairly nonexistent.

When I moved to Alabama, I started attending a small Baptist church, where everyone gets religion fast!

😀

I remember reading my Bible in my room late at night, and I accepted Christ a long time before I told anyone.

One night, my mom came into my room and found me reading my Bible.  She made fun of me and questioned why I was reading it.

I didn’t say anything, but I put my Bible away and didn’t pull it out much for a while after that.

She later got saved, but our relationship was so broken (still is), that we really never talked much or meaningfully about our faith.

I publicly accepted the Lord the day after my high school prom and was baptized shortly afterward.

I’ve been serving God ever since…sometimes closely and sometimes more remotely, as people are prone to do.  My love for Him has never waned.

I raised my children with before-school devotions and prayer, along with church activities and whatnot.

I’ve not been a perfect mother, that I know, but I hope that my love for God ultimately shows through in the end.

I’m trying to apply this love for the Lord to my students…how I care for them…without preaching to them.

I hope that my love for God can be felt by my friends, whom I love dearly and would do nearly anything for.

I am soooooo not perfect.  This was made abundantly clear to me, once again, last week.

Daily, I look into the mirror and am unhappy with what I see.  I know my heart well and the areas that need much work.

This is the legacy I’m cultivating, warts and all, and I hope that when all is said and done, I will hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

In the end, though, it’s about the Lord and bringing others to a saving knowledge of Him.

If I play one small role in the amazing journey another person has toward finding Him, I will consider my life as being worthwhile.

Nichole Nordeman – Legacy Lyrics
I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me
And I enjoy an accolade like the rest
And you could take my picture and hang it in a gallery
Of all the who's who's and so-and-so
That used to be the best at such and such
It wouldn't matter much

I won't lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights
We all need an 'Atta Boy' or 'Atta Girl'
In the end I'd like to hang my hat on more besides
The temporary trappings of this world

I want to leave a legacy, how will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to you enough
To make a mark on things? I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who blessed your name
Unapologetically and leave that kind of legacy

I don't have to look too far or too long awhile
To make a lengthly list of all that I enjoy
It's an accumulating trinket and a treasure pile
Where moth and rust, thieves and such will soon enough destroy

I want to leave a legacy, how will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to you enough
To make a mark on things? I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who blessed your name
Unapologetically and leave that kind of legacy

Not well traveled, not well read
Not well-to-do or well bred
I just want to hear instead
"Well done good and faithful one"
Yeah, yeah

I want to leave a legacy, how will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to you enough
To make a mark on things? I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who blessed your name
Unapologetically and leave that kind of legacy

I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me
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