Working in a school, this time of year always makes me reflective. I’ve talked about how as an educator the year’s breaths are taken at a different pace. Our ‘ending’ is in the summer, while our new year seems to be in the fall. This week I find myself in the same mood. It is natural to think of our students as they commence into the bright, green summer light of their futures, but today I’m thinking of my colleagues, my fellow teachers at the Academy that for the last nine years have guided me, loved me, challenged me and lifted me, for which I in return have exasperated them on almost every professional and personal level imaginable.
Working with them I’ve come to realize a startlingly simple and insightful fact: Teaching is hard. Like in baseball, a week where you win most of the time is a triumph beyond words and slumps go as inexplicably as they arrived. You may know what I mean because you’re a teacher too. Our baptism is our teaching certificate. Of course, being baptized doesn’t necessarily promise a job at Oxford University or magically give you the ability to teach eighth grade algebra (I know I can’t!), but as parents or faithful servants of God, you know how to teach through example and word. The profession of teaching has always been important to the Christian community. Paul placed teachers third in the rank of important community roles in his first letter to the Corinthians, only behind apostles and prophets. He warned of its difficulty and heralded its importance writing, “The law is good, if one uses it lawfully, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions can be dangerous” (Timothy 1:7-8). James almost comically brings the seriousness of the profession to the point writing, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness”(James 3:1). Like I said, it is hard.
Yet, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention a very special colleague, one who made teaching look easy. So easy in fact it was a joy to watch her work, to learn from this great educator. I’m speaking of our Kindergarten teacher—Eileen Heffernan—who, after 12 long years serving at OLMC and several decades in education, is retiring. Her last kindergarten class graduated on Thursday and with their tiny diplomas and our large hopes moved up that big staircase to the first big grade. First Grade. I feel a little like them. I’m going to miss my kindergarten teacher, but I know I have the lessons that she taught me and with a little luck and a whole lot of courage we’re ready to face new challenges and learn even more. I’m so happy for her and her family who deserve to explore a new avenue of her life, but I think I’m just going to miss my friend. It was our pleasure, Eileen, to watch you work, love and serve our children. You were our master, our teacher, our talisman. You were our best. Godspeed and good luck. Thank you, thank you, and thank you again.
I’ll be seeing you,