In 1992, I went back to teaching after being at home for almost five years with my son. I had taught at two middle schools in the same district previously, and now had two position offers in that same district. I was offered the choral position in the middle school where I last taught, and offered the same in another middle school where the choral program had sadly deteriorated for lack of stability.
I could have chosen the program I had already built back up, but if I had to step back into the classroom, I wanted to help build another program in desperate need.
I love a challenge, and boy was this ever a challenge.
I can honestly say I had never been around so many needy, unruly, and disrespectful students, especially my 8th graders. They had pretty much run over the last two teachers (both in one year) who had graciously stepped in to keep the program afloat. Not all, but some thought they ran the show, but little did they know that by the end of that first year, those who chose to stay with me, were on their way to being a part of something they could be proud of. It was a very tough year, but we made it!
It probably helped me in that I was flexible and could work with pretty much anybody. The first four years I taught, I never had the same principal two years in a row. Every year I had to learn a new personality, each arriving with their own ideas of how to teach and reach the middle school child. The next three years proved to be the same. Three more principals in five years. What had I gotten myself into? But by the end of that 5 year span, the students were loving chorus and together we had built a choral program to be proud of.
Today, unexpected affirmation of making the right choice all those years ago showed up on my front doorstep. A former Assistant Principal from this particular school had called earlier to see if he could drop something by.
Now this wasn't the first time I have seen him since I left teaching. He actually returned to the classroom when my son entered middle school. Turner had the privilege of learning in his science classroom all 3 middle school years because each year, this incredible teacher followed them to the next grade level to teach the same group of students science. That unique bunch of kids adored him and not only took away great science knowledge, but learned a lot of life lessons from him. They were such a tight knit group that he and his wife invited this crazy crew to celebrate two big birthdays with him. One of which we hosted at our home.
As we sat in my kitchen, he told me about the very rough spell he went through during his time as Assistant Principal. Some of his story I knew, but not everything. He shared that many in the education field changed their demeanor towards him, but that I never did. He said I continued to be myself and accepted him with all of his faults and flaws, and for that he was truly grateful. I knew he loved the students and that they were his heart. I just tried to show the love of Christ to all I came in contact with.
I have always thought of this AP as one of the smartest persons I've ever worked with or known, and I was truly honored he took the time to listen to me as a teacher who wanted to reach the students who seemed unreachable. He even told me of how he observed my response to other teachers when they complained about the "noise" coming from the chorus room. He said I never responded negatively. I just got in there and did my job well in a rather terribly challenging classroom set-up.
He's always called me Mel, but today, he called me friend. He said I've always been a good friend to him, and his gift was just his way of telling me how much he appreciated me sticking by him through the years, especially during the really hard ones.
Many times we don't know the whys about when, where, and how God directed us, but sometimes He gives us these special moments, precious glimpses into His plan as to how He used us. These glimpses into what lies behind strengthens our faith to move ahead with the confidence that we can trust He will direct us to the right place at the right time.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)