Sunday, May 15, 2016

my last sunday night


Every teacher dreads Sunday nights.

We love our jobs, we love our students, but we hate Sunday nights.

The weekend always goes by too fast, and we never get through all the work we bring home in our giant, teacher bags that will most certainly lead to massive chiropractic bills in the near future.  We pack up lesson plans, papers (both graded and ungraded - oops), quarterly awards, Cheerios for math lessons, juice and cookies for writers' celebrations, newsletters, data spreadsheets, teacher manuals, curriculum maps, books and more books and probably a few more books, and get to bed before any of the good shows come on because 7:45 AM is so sticking early to be standing at a door, happily greeting small children.  We usually feel better by 8 AM Monday morning and are back in the groove by 8:15, but oh, Sunday nights are the worst.

Tonight I have a different kind of dread; the kind of dread that comes with change and good-byes, the kind of dread that comes when you're terrified but confident all at once, the kind of dread that comes when facing a week filled with last times.

Tonight is the last time I'll sit up on a Sunday night thinking about my school week ahead.

After 12 years in education -- about 480 Sunday nights -- I have resigned from my job.

I hope that one day I will be back in the classroom, but for now, I am going to be staying home full time with my darlings, and I am thrilled. 

But, oh the feelings.
All. The. Feelings.


*****


In early August of 2008, my mom drove with me from Chicago to Connersville, Indiana, a small rural town in what I would describe as the middle of nowhere. I've heard people call it a "city," but they are really playing fast and loose with the word "city."

Stephen and I were weeks away from moving from Chicago to Ohio for Stephen to begin a doctoral program in clinical psychology, and I still had no teaching job. As the sole bread winner for the family and with elementary schools starting in ten days, I had past desperate and was pleading with the Lord for any job, any grade, anywhere.

A few days earlier, I had received a call from Fayette County Schools in Connersville inviting me to an interview.  They were unable to tell me what school or what grade they would have openings.  (What? Didn't school start in two weeks?!?!) I was told I would have to wait until after registration day. (Registration day?  In August?!?!) After teaching in a school district where we had class lists given to us in May, I was confused by terms like "anticipated enrollment," and "possible teaching opening."

But as I said, it was the ninth hour.

As my mom and I drove into Connersville, I fought back tears. The town was so different than anything I'd known, and let's face it - different is scary. There were couches on front lawns, abandoned buildings, more pick-up trucks than I'd ever seen (some adorned with Confederate flag bumper stickers), and a lot of country roads - like the kind with no lines down the middle. I knew there wouldn't be a Trader Joe's for miles.

Three days before school started I was offered a job as a first grade teacher at Eastview Elementary.  Whew. Stephen and I would get to buy food and have heat that year.

The night before school started I was (frantically) working in my classroom when a shirtless, shoeless, and nearly toothless man knocked on my window, inquiring about who his son's teacher would be this year. I proceeded to dialog with him as I crouched down to a small opening in my window, and if I can be vulnerable here, I'll admit that every part of me hoped I wasn't his child's teacher. Fear and pride can bring out the worst, and I was consumed with both.

About ten minutes later I saw this same man and his son in the building (need I again emphasize the shirtless, shoeless part?) and was relieved to know he'd found his teacher (and it wasn't me). I remember thinking in that moment, "Surely, this is not the place for me.  But just one year.  One year, Joy. You can do this for one year."

Fast forward seven months to spring break -  a week I had set aside for job applications.

I sat in our little apartment with my resume opened on my laptop. I began searching for job openings in local school districts, but after about ten minutes, I wasn't feeling it.

Close laptop. Try again tomorrow.

The next day I again started browsing through local school listings. I still wasn't feeling it.

Close laptop. Try again tomorrow.

By the end of spring break, I'd applied for zero jobs and hadn't so much as updated the address on my resume.

It wouldn't be so bad to stay in Connersville one more year. The forty minute commute was tolerable, I liked my partner teacher, and the idea of being the "new teacher" again was exhausting. Surely, I could manage another year.


Eight years later


I guess it would be fair to say I fell in love with this little town of Connersville. (I still can't call it a city.) I never ended up applying for any other jobs, and even once Stephen finished school and the opportunity to stay home full time was available, I didn't jump at it.

I love my job. God made me to be a teacher, and there is great pleasure in doing what you're made to do. Personally and professionally I have been stretched, changed, and knocked upside the head as I've become part of a community so different than any I'd known before.   

How foolish and arrogant I was to think Connersville wasn't the place for me? 

And now I am sitting here, on my last Sunday night, dreading tomorrow. I just want the week to start so it can hurry up and be over - so all the lasts, all the good-byes, all the blubbering as I throw out old committee binders and science units can just be over.

But then it's over, like really over.

You can only imagine the tears I am unashamedly weeping right now. But these tears should not be mistaken for doubt. I am confident about this decision, and the Lord has affirmed it over and over in so many ways.

I'm just also really sad because I love my job, I love my people, and I'll miss it so much.

And now I have to eat lunch with toddlers. God help me.




P.S. Prepare yourself because in about four days, an incredible sappy (but very true) post 
about how teachers change lives will be coming your way.

6 comments:

  1. Joy, I can certainly relate to your feelings about Sunday nights...that is one of the best parts of retirement! I am so glad that you were a part of the Eastview staff when I became the principal. You are right..you were born a teacher and became an amazing one. But, that will not end. You will teach your children and their friends every day. You will never regret spending this time at home. You are right though. Things will change and you can never go back to capture what was, but you will always keep this place, these experiences, thesepeople in your heart for now they have become a part of you. Godspeed my friend and enjoy every minute as I am sure you will. Blessings to you and your family.

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  2. Joy, I can certainly relate to your feelings about Sunday nights...that is one of the best parts of retirement! I am so glad that you were a part of the Eastview staff when I became the principal. You are right..you were born a teacher and became an amazing one. But, that will not end. You will teach your children and their friends every day. You will never regret spending this time at home. You are right though. Things will change and you can never go back to capture what was, but you will always keep this place, these experiences, thesepeople in your heart for now they have become a part of you. Godspeed my friend and enjoy every minute as I am sure you will. Blessings to you and your family.

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  3. You were created to be a teacher... And you've certainly taught more than 8 years of first graders and a year of fourth graders... But you've taught adults... Heck... You've taught ME more lessons than you'll ever know. God is using you to teach. That's the truth. And it doesn't end here. Charlie and Andrew are so lucky to have you as their mommy. And we're all so lucky to learn so much from your teachings. Enjoy your week, friend.

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  4. Love your heart, sitting here at my computer attempting to start my work day, now bawling like a baby! Can't wait to see what God does with your next adventure!

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  5. Joy, Thank you for sharing. I have been through Connersville and know the interesting nature of that area. Thank you for serving them faithfully for so many years. Enjoy the teaching of your tots, for I know that is a great calling as well. Matthew Marcum

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  6. Well goodness -- I'm sobbing! Excited for you, and mourning with the students and co-workers who are taking a huge loss. But rejoicing with your kids and Stephen who are winning! huge! Now I wish we were closer, so we could hang out -- and I could pay you for some cooking lessons! :)

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