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15-Hour Work Days I'd Never Pass Up

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

From an outside perspective, the life of a first-year teacher might well seem predictable—regimented even. Let me assure you—it is anything but that.

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True, the skeleton of one's day follows a now-hardwired schedule, but the magic of teaching transpires between the class bell's tolls. Hours of dedicated preparation and masterfully enacted lesson plans seem perfect formulas to yield tangible student success, but it is in the simple, unplanned moments that I know God works alongside and within me. To fully appreciate this, I believe one must experience it; so please, walk with me through today—one unlike any other.

5:32 AM: My still weary eyes open, lamenting that my cold has most certainly set in. The temptation manifest in my symptoms nags—just hit snooze, roll back over, you need to rest. But sixty-one faces swiftly
surface to the forefront of my subconscious. They need me even more. There is cake to be eaten today! A universe to be unlocked. God's love to be shared.

6:25 AM: As I greet the crisp fall air outside, it is quite apparent that auto-pilot has only semi-successfully led me through my morning routine. Community coffee brewed, tie tied, breakfast downed (despite this morning's protesting stomach), and the door to our humble convent locked tight on my way out. A thirty-minute commute awaits me on my way to Richmond, a time of reflection and clarity I have come to cherish dearly. And it is here that my day turns.

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7:45 AM: My classroom now lies in wait for the students who will brighten it. Practice sheets, returned assessments, and reminders home sit organized and prepared to streamline the day's instruction. I triple-check that today's technology is bug-free, offering a silent prayer that cough drops might soothe my already failing voice. I head downstairs to the gathering point of our school's gymnasium and in an instant, the familiar flood of questions flows. I reassure anxious fifth graders that one late assignment will not destroy their grade, confirm with my seventh graders the exact location of this evening's soccer scrimmage, and share in the barely containable excitement of my sixth graders' home-baked models of the cell. As our school stands to recite our pledge and morning offering, I breathe in the goodness of this place, the hope of the community, and exhale any exhaustion that might oppose it.

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3:45 PM: For the first time since 7:45 AM, I sit in silence. My students love to point out that I never sit down, and my legs have long since joined in the aching of my throat. Today has brought a blur of beautiful progress, bitter frustration, and an ever-burning desire for tomorrow's continued improvement. Together, my students and I have comprehended the expansiveness of our observable universe, connected chemistry to the geological formation of caverns, laughed over lunch, decoded algebra, and enjoyed the reward of cellular baking. And just as I sit to plan still further ahead, my mentor teacher swings by unannounced with Ricola cough-drops and reassurance. She invites me to consider anew the work of this day, and find God there. She leaves me with this thought, but my wavering mind is already made. Tired can wait, I have a soccer scrimmage to attend.

will58:13 PM: The game is over and the All Saints Knights have narrowly prevailed. Twenty-two grinning faces gleefully acknowledged my presence at the pitch. Casual sideline conversations with parents followed with the revelations that several students I struggle to keep on task have proudly proclaimed my class to be their most engaging. After high-fives and congratulations, the commute home offers a chance to call home and unwind. And the instant I enter the door, my community members sit to intentionally ask me about my day.

Fifteen hours have passed since my head left the pillow. Yet somehow, head-cold and all, I am wide-awake with the week to come. Today was no piece of cake (though I did help myself to two), but it was unlike any other. Authentic teaching will never amount to a stilted routine of standards-based curriculum. For it is inseparably infused with the joy of simple, shared humanity and the overflowing love of Christ. Today was just one day in the life of one first year teacher, but God knows the work of a single day can set hearts on fire.