It is that time of year, when most of us are going back to school. The start of the school year affects most people in one way or another. Whether you are a teacher, a parent, a student, or any working person, back-to-school days are bittersweet– exciting, yet mournful; happy, yet solemn.
I am a teacher and a mom. Back to school for me, means many things:
1) My vacation is over. I use the summer vacation to recharge. No matter what your opinion is of a teacher’s schedule, deserved or undeserved. One hundred eighty days of high energy individuals not only inspire, but they also drain the energy from those who are entrusted to their care and education. It takes a lot to love so many children, and it is truly a gift from God to be able to do so day in and day out. So, yes, I do need a vacation—a long one.
2) I have to be without my kids. I know some parents are relieved when their kids go back to school, but for me, there is a little pleasure in letting go, even if only from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. The summers, for me, are filled with sleeping in, trips to the zoo, afternoons at the pool, and daily Mass. I get to have lunch with my kids every day. It is sad for me to be without them.
3) My kids are getting older. The years with my children have flown by. I have one more year until my oldest, a senior in high school, goes off to college. Each back-to-school time brings my family closer and closer to life-changing moments. This year holds a high school graduation and First Communion for us. Exciting rites of passage like these begin with the start of a new school year.
4) I get to meet a brand new batch of students with whom I will fall in love. As I entrust my kids to other teachers, I am able to pay it forward. I can express my love for my own children and give it to the children of others, if at least just from 8:00 am until 3:00 pm.
5) The most important thing that all this means is that I understand my vocation best at this time of year, even more profoundly than at any other time. I realize that God placed me here to care for others. My job is to help them all grow in one way or another—intellectually, physically, socially, and, most of all, spiritually.
My own children are a part of me. I am given by God a great responsibility as a mother to help them become what God has intended. I lead them in the ways of the Church; I nourish them with food and spiritual nourishment. I love them and educate them. Back-to-school for us as a family is a natural progression of life. It signifies the process that God has put in place, the passing of time and the movement closer and closer to Himself. My children are a true extension of myself and the older they get, the closer they are to God’s purpose for them.
As for my students, I am fortunate enough to teach at a Catholic school where I am always able explore the spiritual side of myself and my students. Back-to-school as a teacher enables me to move further and further outside of myself. It means I get to influence, and be affected by, a hundred different souls every year—some of these years better than others, but all of them a part of God’s plan for me.
Back-to-school is bittersweet, but oh so very necessary in what I call life. God gives me an opportunity to extend myself further and further through my own children and to those whom I “mother” at school. The excitement of a new school year is my opportunity to develop grace and bring myself closer to my purpose.