My passport came in the mail today. Strangely enough, this is the first time I’ve ever actually needed a passport. As a child I stood on the Mexican border, gazing across the Rio Grande into a foreign land so close I could probably hit with a rock if I tried. Likewise, I once marveled at the most powerful waterfalls in North America, glimpsing across a border into another foreign land, yet never setting foot upon that which my eyes had touched. My first ever international plane ticket will be a one way.
The reality of that last statement is still setting in. It’s made all the more real by the conclusion of this school year. Last night was awards assembly, tomorrow’s graduation, and all that is left is a week of inservice. I have such different emotions from at this time last year. I was overjoyed on the last day of school. I had endured a hard year with some difficult coworkers and some very difficult students. However, this year as the hallways grow more and more quiet with each final exam completed, I am very sad. I hope to keep in touch with many of my students, but in all reality, last night may have been the last time I will see some of them. David and I are both so excited at the opportunity that awaits us now in just over six weeks. It is bittersweet, though. We are sad to leave behind many things.
The other night we were talking about what we would miss most, and somehow it morphed into a top ten list. So in true Letterman style, here is the official “Top Ten Things Mr. and Mrs. Hall Will Miss about Teaching at Bethesda” list.
10) WORKING WITH ONLY A WALL IN BETWEEN US
David has joked all year about our need to learn Morse Code so that we could tap out messages to each other throughout the day. Seriously, working together at the same school, teaching the same students, making that long commute all the way from Dallas together … these have been incredible blessings. It makes me sad to think there will probably come a day when I don’t get to go to work every day with my husband. Thankfully, we get to enjoy the same blessing for at least the next two years, although we may never again share a wall …
9) PMD (PARENTS MAKING A DIFFERENCE)
The PTA-esque Bethesda group goes out of their way to make teachers feel appreciated. From birthday and Christmas gifts, to special luncheons, to sweet notes and cards, the thoughtfulness of these parents brightens up many days.
8) INCREDIBLE COWORKERS
Students are not the only ones we’re sad to leave behind. We work with some amazing people who love the Lord, love their students, and love us. We have found such rich support and encouragement from among our coworkers at Bethesda.
7) THE SENIOR RETREAT TO THE STATE FAIR
David and I got to miss a day of work to go hang out with this year’s seniors at the State Fair of Texas. We ate Fletcher’s corn dogs, watched pig races, and took pictures with the not yet incinerated Big Tex (may he rest in peace).
6) FINE ARTS EVENTS
For being such a small school, Bethesda has an unusual proportion of exceptionally gifted students. David and I have loved going to the school’s band and choir performances. We appreciate those students who extend personal invitations to their events, and it is a treat to get to see them exercise their gifts.
5) ATHLETIC EVENTS
We wish we had lived closer to the school because attending games and meets was such a blast. We tried to make it to at least one event per sport, although we did miss out on Cross Country (sorry, Natalie). Our favorite outing was this year’s state track meet, where we got to watch a handful of our girls place and medal in several events.
4) THE TAPPS STATE ACADEMIC MEET
For those who don’t know (and I didn’t before this year), TAPPS stands for the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools and is the organization through which Bethesda competes in all its events, from fine arts and athletics to academics. David and I were asked to serve as sponsors and judges for this year’s state meet, and it ended up being one of the highlights of our year. We loved getting to spend time with students outside of the classroom and a few of our coworkers in a different context. Our team did well (4th place out of 30+ 3A schools), and one of my freshmen girls won 1st place in Prose Interpretation. Such a proud moment.
3) THE QUESTIONS STUDENTS ASK
One of my favorite quotes that I’ve heard attributed to Abraham Lincoln (although after a quick internet search, I’ve realized more likely originates with Voltaire) is that one should judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. I love that, and in the awards I gave out in my classes at the end of the year, I recognized several students with the “Insightful Inquiry” award. David does such a great job of creating a safe environment for students to ask tough questions about the Bible, and he does his best to respond without offering simple platitudes that they’ve heard dozens of times. Oftentimes this only sparks more questions. We’ve tried to encourage students to realize the value of good questions, and they have certainly impressed us and kept us on our toes with some difficult ones throughout the course of the year.
2) THE FREEDOM TO TEACH
Again, this was a night and day difference for me from last year. I went from a “you teach this lesson on this day, and every teacher is teaching the same exact lesson in his/her classroom” approach to “here is a course of studies that you should use to guide your lesson planning, but use your own creativity and ideas to best teach these concepts to your specific population of students.” As the only 9th and 10th grade English teacher, it could be a little intimidating, but it was also gloriously liberating. I was a teacher, not a robot. David, likewise, had a lot of freedom in how to present the portions of Scripture they slated to study. Neither of us were perfect, certainly, but the lows of our “dud” lessons were nothing compared to the highs of our successes … we hope. 🙂
1) STUDENTS LIKE …
A couple of weeks ago David and I received a letter from a student that we’ll probably keep forever. This student recounted the ways in which we had influenced him as well as what he would take away from having us as his teachers. His letter made me cry … and laugh hysterically when I read the following: “…thank you for giving me hope that I can get married to Taylor Swift since Shakespeare married a 26 year old when he was 18. That was very encouraging.” I know that we will have wonderful students wherever we teach, but there is something special about this year’s group. I find myself almost begging students to keep in touch. I want to know where they end up in life. I am so thankful to have been a part of their lives, if only for a brief year. We have taught exceptional students.