November 10, 2016

Counting Sheep and Weighing the World...A Teacher's Night

One sheep...Two sheep...Three sheep...

I crawl into bed, fluff the geriatric pillow into place and peck the on button for the alarm clock. Then I slowly try to shut-off the valves in my mind.  I think how I should have walked on the treadmill.  I think how I should have graded one more set of papers.  I think how I can fit onemorething on my plate.  I think and I think and I think...

You ask what keeps me up at night?  When darkness envelopes the room and moonlight creeps through the shade...when eyelashes slowly weave into one another and breathing paces a slow, peaceful rhythm?

It is me, asking why my alphabet was suddenly mixed into my numbers and being told to sit down and just do it.  It is my friend, being called into the office because he was chasing a girl who just didn't look like him.  It is my brother, surviving as a round peg pounded into a square hole. 

What keeps me up at night is what I see...snapshots of lives...vignettes of tomorrows shaped by todays...because as water shapes the rock, we shape the by and by of those who pass through our care.

It is my firstborn: smart, sassy, and a little smart-assy.  Graceful and full of God's grace, but not so great with ones, twos, and threes. Oh, but give her a pencil and witness the gift flow from her. Where does she fit in a world of AP and Honors?  When art is her language, but everyone else's tongue is data and algorithms and procedures, what future do we paint for her?

What keeps me up at night is the young girl swirling through life, grasping at willow branches, smiling and shining and singing and working and reaching and then...gone. Plucked from her day and herded and shuffled into strange places with strangers...strangers trusted with her heart and soul and safety...No longer the girl reaching and smiling, but a girl with a casefile and a social worker. Gone.

It is a brown-skinned girl rushing into the room, tears caught on the tops of her apple cheeks and eventually cascading down her face. Because someone called her black and black is ugly to her and she'd give anything to step out of her skin in that moment, but none of us can.  We can change our hair, our eyes, our job, our spouse, but we are forever in our skin and her's is itchy and uncomfortable at that moment.  

What keeps me up at night is greatness...greatness I was fortunate enough to receive and witness.  It was teachers giving and giving and giving of time and wisdom and energy.  Souls laid bare every day...sacrificing so much so I could arrogantly waltz through their classrooms stealing bits and pieces of their knowledge without so much as a thank-you.  

So, while others slumber and dream, I lie wistfully thinking and thinking and thinking about how I can sell the great dream of education and knowledge to children who are poor in love and short on time, about how I can cast the net farther than the last day, about how I can...So I check the alarm clock one more time and begin to count again until, finally, at last, sleep rescues me.