Good Sunday afternoon, reader.
A hearty welcome to any new readers, and a giant, warm hug to those of you who have, like me, been hanging around this blog for over a decade. I don't spend as much time here as I once did and certainly not as much time as I would like, but I still love her very much and, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see so clearly now the ways she shaped me and directed me both personally and professionally over the last decade.
It has been a few sleeps since last I blogged. I am happy to report all is well in my world. Yes, war is waging in Eastern Europe, and yes, the price of gasoline and everything else continues to cause alarm, but I am thankful to have healthy kids and a wonderful husband and a job I love; my kids and my job keep me incredibly busy, and this is why I have not blogged in some time, and it is also why I don't sink into a pit of despair about the state of things in this nation and around the globe.
I sat to write today because while composing notes on the life and work of Jane Austen, notes I will share with students this upcoming week, the Lord willing, I was struck with a thought that continues to niggle me. In my notes I explain to students that Miss Austen is responsible for many of the tropes that continue to dominate literature, particularly romantic literature as well as romantic films. Anticipating questions, I then inserted a link taking students to an explanation of several common tropes. A trope of course is a plot device. Common romance tropes include two people forbidden to each other (Romeo and Juliet), people trapped together for some reason who sometimes endure a tragedy or hardship, people who initially despise each other and then fall in love (Mr. Darcy and Lizzie), and a second-chance romance that occurs when two people who once were in love are separated for some reason and then, after a few plot points unfold, they are thrown back together and must decide if what they once had is worth revisiting.
I am experiencing the career equivalent of a second-chance romance. As I told you was the plan last May, I have spent the last few months back in the high school classroom after a three-year stint away. I do not regret leaving when I did, and I think I needed to do so. I needed my kids to grow and mature a little bit, and perhaps I needed to grow and mature a little bit. I am happy to report that my return to the high school classroom is going exceptionally well. In a romance novel, you know the couple will fall back in love; in life things aren't always that scripted, and I didn't know what to expect when I returned last August.
I am thinking a lot about my students right now because it is April, and when you are a senior in high school the countdown to the end begins in early April, not in May. Their last day of school is Friday, April 29. We have four Mondays left together. Most of the senior year is the equivalent of a roomful of bridesmaids tittering about, putting on makeup, taking pictures, and enjoying the slow process of preparing for something important. April is when the moment nears; everyone is dressed, the last swipe of lipstick is applied, a hush falls over the church, and the doors are thrown open for the seating of the grandmothers and mothers. No one is exchanging vows yet, but that moment is imminent. Every emotion imaginable thickens the air; I love them, I am proud of them, I am grateful they've been entrusted to me, I don't want them to go, but I understand it is time, and I pray they are ready. Brides are always told to savor that walk down the aisle, to look up and around at the smiling faces in the room, to take deep breaths and live in the moment; do the same, high school seniors. Make amends now if they need to be made; be kind; be grateful; don't wish time away; finish strong; say Thank you and I love you.
I always give thought to what I cover with students in the classroom, even in August when it feels like I have all the time I will need with them, and how I cover it, but this year our school is in the midst of the accreditation process. We will have visitors on campus tomorrow who might totally ignore me, or they might visit with me and ask me questions about the choices I make daily. My school's motto is, in my opinion, the most perfect motto, and it is this: Preparing Youth for Time and Eternity. I realized a month or so ago when I sat to think about this that, if asked, I could absolutely explain how I prepare youth for Time and Eternity because I have discussions with myself about this constantly. In fact, I feel since I teach people who're legally adults or on the cusp of legal adulthood it is incumbent on me to explain to them why we cover what we cover.
To prepare someone to live in Time is to prepare them to live in this temporal, tangible world we inhabit. It is to increase their vocabulary, to teach them how to express themselves in writing, to teach them the value of reading and sitting with the thoughts of those who've come before them. It is to prepare them to succeed beyond the railroad tracks they've crossed a thousand times coming to and from school. Time is life; time is college and career, yes, but it is also marriage and babies and struggle and strife. Time is everything that comes before Eternity. To be prepared for Eternity is the goal, obviously, but no one wants to see their own child or a student they've taught struggle in Time, in this life, and often if you can prepare them to succeed in Time, you will simultaneously prepare them for Eternity.
I told students in January when we read Lewis's The Screwtape Letters that if they remember nothing else from that book or from this, their senior year of English, I want them to remember these two things: Their time is not their own, and their body is not their own. Both are a gift from God, and both should be used in His service; remembering those two facts will go a long way toward ensuring students are blessed in both Time and Eternity. I have come to realize that you cannot adequately prepare students for Time without also preparing them for Eternity.
On that note, I obviously don't have the time to blog as often as I'd like; I don't have the time to read fiction or to write fiction as often as I'd like, and that is okay . . . because my time is not my own. The great thing about teaching is you are also teaching (and reteaching) yourself.
Oh, seniors, may these four weeks left to us be weeks we all recall fondly, weeks of a little bit of work and a lot of laughter. I don't know if you're emotional, but your English teacher is, so bear with me, dears. We have no choice but to be what our Creator wills: mortals who are, for now, trapped in time, but you make this temporal reality an exquisite joy. I love you.