Leaving a teaching post mid-year means adjustments all ’round. Because most of us gaze at our navels or our own reflections more than looking outward, we notice the changes and challenges of our own circumstances before we look for collateral damage. Guilty as charged.
I unhung the walls, de-booked the shelves, wrote off the desk. I removed myself from a learning place. What kind of learning might go on there now, I only hear about tangentially. And second-hand news bears a post-modernish stamp of open-ended, ‘does anybody really know what time it is?’ interpretation. Nearly wholly unreliable. Of course, we rely on it all the time.
For instance, former students tweet at me from time to time, and with their penchant for drama, things seem dire indeed. An occasional FB status from former colleagues (and still friends, for cryin’ out loud!) hints at the dailiness of the school’s life, the changes on the horizon, the anticipation of spring break, if not for its Florida destinations, at least in the warming of our local days. Connections remain, just a smidge short of shorting out. A flip of the switch will one day soon only yield a burned out bulb. As Linda Loman so poignantly declares: “Well, dear, life is a casting off. It’s always that way.” What we have, we have only for a season.
When I ended my season by resigning my post, my personal ‘casting off’ garnered more consideration than how such an action would affect those I ‘left behind.’ First, I knew they’d be okay (tweets to the contrary). Next, I knew it was time to go. Still, discomfort accompanies most adjustments. Mine. And theirs.
If I were still around, this would be the time of year when I’d start harping at those sophomores, reminding them that they still have a good way to go. That, generally speaking, the year upcoming brings the toughest schedules and the longest slog of the high school trek. Big tests, big AP courses, big college decision looming ever closer. So, you think you want to go to college???? Then start reading and writing like you do!! Annotate! THINK!!! Consider the ‘why’s and ‘how’s of characters’ behaviors and decisions, don’t merely recall the ‘what.’ Take a look at those setting details, and the poet’s chosen imagery. How do they make you feel? What do they help you understand about this big life we’re living? When you write, bring something meaningful to the conversation going on all ’round you. Words matter, and don’t you forget it! Give me something worth reading! Make a difference with your words — stop going through mere motion. As Willy Loman says, “The woods are burning, boys, you understand? There’s a blaze going on all around.” In other words… Capiche? (I don’t know that I’ve ever said ‘capiche’ to students, but now, I really wish I had…)
And to those seniors, who look ahead to graduation and back on the swiftness of four years nearly over (and who are largely convinced that forks should be stuck, for they are well and truly ‘done’) I would say:
YOU’RE NEVER ‘DONE’!! (I would most assuredly increase my volume, here, hence the all caps). Learning doesn’t stop. There’s more and always more, and we can never be filled up. Savor these final weeks with friends you’ve made and teachers who’ve invested so much in you. See that the ‘casting off’ of high school is good and necessary on the one hand, and impossible on the other, for the secondary years do become a permanent, foundational part of you. (EGAD!) READ the poems, the chapters, the ideas imparted to you as the days grow longer (it IS Spring after all) and shorter (May IS approaching, after all). Leave the legacy you’ve been challenged to leave — an example to follow that proves you seek after excellence. Remember that the truly Excellent can be found always, and only, in the Person and Truth of Christ Jesus. Ask Him to author and perfect your faith. Faith, in the cultural morass of 21st century America, means many things to many people. The notion that mere fervency of belief alone matters will confront you continually as you move forward. Know what you believe, and why you believe it. Better by far, though, know Whom you have believed, and ask Him to “help [your] unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) He will, you know. He is faithful. Put your faith in Him.
We will never get to the bottom of the mysteries or the goodness of God. And aren’t you thankful? As we are, we tend to make Him quite small and manageable. It’s much easier for us to ‘cast Him off’ when we do that. We actually believe the notion that, after all, God is just ‘one of us.’ Well. No. But He intends to make those who believe much more like Him. I must warn you, though, the changeover will be a painful one. Casting off usually means tearing off the scaly, dragony hard shell of our old selves. Remember Eustace? 🙂 Good news: the Lion who will use his sharp talons to rip those scales from you will velvet those paws and take you for the wildest, sweetest ride you’ve ever known. And then, he’ll invite you to sink your hands and face into his marvelous mane that you might breathe in the life he alone gives. Remember Reepicheep? Be like him — sail until the wind ceases, then row until your own coracle sinks, then swim with all your might until you reach the Lion’s country. NEVER give up. Keep seeking, keep striving, keep looking for the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He has triumphed. He is there beside you, helping you. He is behind you, shielding your back. He is in front of you, calling you home. This is the God we serve. The Lord who reigns. The source of Truth and the comfort of the ages. You have heard of Him during these past four years. What are you going to do about Him? THAT’s what learning is all about, you know.
So keep after it. As I do. When we ‘cast off,’ we do leave behind. But we also set forth. Onto the big, open sea and the adventures it will bring, but always, always, looking forward to ‘home.’ Remember these things. Don’t ‘cast off’ the Truth. It alone sets you free, you know.
So, this post is especially for those who were needing a bit of something ‘Fieldsian.’ Not quite the same, I know. No hand motions, no facial maneuverings, and no audible voice. But maybe the next best thing. The admonition to keep striving. The reminder of learning’s goodness. The call of the Lion. Mmmm. So, so good.