This story happened to me several months ago; for some reason I wrote it all down. I am still not quite sure why, but as time has passed, I understand that I needed to revisit the experience by reading it over to myself. I thought I would share it.
I really try to refrain from complaining– too much anyway– but I had to let this all out, a catharsis of sorts. I am a high school teacher and end of the year events, though exciting, are the most stressful of the year. Baccalaureate Mass was Wednesday, I had been trying to rein in restless ninth graders all week, just finished organizing and putting on the Junior/Senior Prom the weekend prior; Thursday, I put on a barbecue for 200 eleventh graders and chaperoned a movie night the same evening. I had pulled my back pretty badly the afternoon before and could hardly sit or stand without it hurting. So, I’m overworked and in pain. Did I mention the stacks of grading and cleaning my classroom? In addition there were lots of little minor things that happened in regards to the big things. You get the idea.
At Baccalaureate Mass, the seniors did a video tribute to the teachers. I had a few kids thank me—sweet, heartfelt messages, but let’s just say comparing myself to others muted those messages in my mind. All I could think was “Why am I killing myself? They don’t even notice or care.” I am a really good teacher. I really am, but aside from academics, I also nurse broken hearts, help kids with other classes, open my room for lunch, write numerous college recommendation letters, work through my own lunch and prep time with kids, among other things. I felt so deflated. Obviously, I don’t do this for recognition and this was a lesson in humility for me, but I was still a bit heartbroken. Remember, my back was killing me and I’d been sitting on bleachers for three hours. Thursday morning I was hurting badly but got through the school day and barbecue. I came home and broke down. I was sobbing and uncontrollably crying. (Thank goodness my parents had taken my young daughter to dance class for me, but my teenage boys got to witness “my crazy.”) I cried on my husband’s shoulder for awhile, talked with him about maybe changing careers. Remember, I was feeling dramatic and emotional. Then I got it together, stopped at Starbucks then went to chaperone movie night.
When I got home late Thursday night, I came across my favorite Psalm; a Face Book friend posted the last few lines, and I decided to read the Catholic translation before I went to bed. I went to work Friday, thankful it was my last day of full classes. My first class came and went, I let them watch a movie and draw on the board, since we were finished reviewing for exams. Then my first junior class came in. One of the girls handed me a big stack of notes and letters. I started to read them, and each one told me how much he or she loved the class, how prepared they felt for their national exam and how grateful they were to me, and what an impact I had on their lives. It was so incredibly surreal, and I started to cry. They too watched a movie; I put the notes away so my students wouldn’t notice my tears. Another class, then lunch, then my second junior class came in– same thing, a stack of notes and cards, and more tears. Then one of the moms came in with a huge container of lemonade and nachos for the class and a bouquet of bright yellow daisies and mums. I was just beside myself. I asked one of them, “Did my son tell you I was a little stressed (understatement)?” She said, “No, Mrs. Smith, we just ‘know’ you and we could tell something was bothering you.” I cannot even describe how that made me feel. Last class– my tough class– watched a movie and drew on the board. They were actually pretty well behaved, and they each hugged me as they left the room. These were my BIGGEST challenges this year, and they were so sweet and loving to me. I turned on the lights (remember, movie) and I went to erase my chalkboard. It was COVERED with little “I love you” notes and hearts and flowers and “we will miss you” and “you’re the best teacher ever…” all from my little crazy freshmen. I have no idea how this all happened to me!
It gets better… There was a knock at my door and it was a former student of mine who is currently in the seminary. I was elated to see him, and we talked for quite awhile, until he said he had actually come by to thank me. He had discerned the priesthood as a child and tried ignoring it in high school (when he discovered girls). He remembered my (and another teacher) telling him that I thought he would be a magnificent priest and he should discern the vocation; I remembered that vividly. He graduated and tried engineering in college and hated it. He talked to a deacon and he listed pros and cons of different vocations and realized his calling. It was beautiful! He said he was so grateful because he never forgot my words and it confirmed what he felt all along. That was the end of my school year last year.
I believe God gave me a calling to be a teacher, and He sent me signs that day. I hadn’t been listening well, so He screamed them at me, and I am very grateful.
Here are the Psalm verses I prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139: 23-24