The LORD will make good His purpose for me; O LORD, Your love endures for ever; do not abandon the works of Your hands. Psalm 138
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your Name give glory; because of Your love and because of Your faithfulness. Psalm 115:1
Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance. -Thomas Merton
So the older I get, the rougher it is to meet my standard of learning all of those kiddos’ names the first day. Part of it is that of course my hippocampus connections are just not as perky as they used to be, but also there is the other problem, that I have filled my brain shelves with so many names and faces and mostly the soul-wrenching images of eyes looking back at me, overflowing shoeboxes of them, so every time I stare Zack in the face, my mouth calls him “Eric,” because of another off-the-charts-clever-boy who also did not like to stay in his seat. So sometimes the little memory trick of association messes with the task at hand.
And that very first day one of my students had a very convenient name that I was able to immediately associate with her very loud and dramatic and aggressive self. No problem. I never ever forget it. And she is always late. And perhaps a cloud of weedy perfume trails along behind her, because that is the family business, running one of those medical marijuana shops. Except I think it is her foster family business. And she is as smart-as-a-whip but is always dragging not-so-cognizant students down her bunny trails and then they get lost in the woods and never seem to find their way back to the task at hand.
And there I was, just a few feet away from her, because of course she is sitting front and center so I can give her the stern look, shooting her hand way up high so we both know I see it. And really what I want is for everyone to begin working on the dry ice investigation lab procedures. That is what I really wanted to happen when I asked, “Are there any questions?”
And her question could be quite helpful and penetrating. Or it could be a plaintive complaint about the bathrooms being out of order once again. Or the ever popular, “Miss, what are we supposed to do? You never know.
So I called on her.
And she announced in her bullhorn blare, ”You don’t have to do this, do you, Mrs. Voelkel? I mean you could be doing any job in the world; you could do anything. You don’t have to be teaching us do you?
I just want to tell you that I appreciate that you are making me learn. Thank you.”
So I am packing off to Food City once again this morning. And I have my shopping list for Gatorade and canola oil and rubbing alcohol and Mentos and Sprite and lots and lots of dry ice.
And I have a sheaf of essays that show that the whole idea of citing sources is still as foggy as that mist pouring out of a bubbling graduated cylinder. But I have a whole year of again and again.
But I did dump the backpack of ahem, “Eric” upside down yesterday on a table and shake it several times and then we sorted through every single sheet of paper that literally has been crumpled up in his fist and shoved to the bowels of the bag since the beginning of school. And we pulled out his as-yet-unused brand new plastic folders that his grampa bought him since before the beginning of school and who know how long it will stick.
And "literally" is the word of the year, and I hear it a jillion times a day.
And Facebook reminded me that this battle is shared in classrooms across the world. Life is not for cowards.
And as I pulled into the parking lot, bright red claws ripped at the sky. Sailors take warning.
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your Name give glory.