The Teaching Torch


My daughter, Sarah, is teaching fifth grade this fall. She will be in the same classroom I was in last year. I am passing on the torch – giving her my teaching supplies that I have hung on to “just in case” I decided to come out of retirement. It feels final – this giving them away, like the quiet shutting of a favorite novel.

I remember saying “yes” last fall to teaching in this very classroom – indeed coming out of retirement for twelve weeks to cover a maternity leave - and falling in love with the school, the staff, the students, even this room. Now this will be Sarah’s world.

We marvel at the sovereignty of God who planned all this.

My husband, Nate, muscled cabinets into place under the windows. These old bank cabinets had been in a storage garage – now redeemed and donated by the bank to the school. They fit perfectly under the windows as if made for this spot.

We marvel at the provision of God.

“Don’t you just love the windows?” I asked my daughter. Two full walls of the classroom have windows to the ceiling. “Best classroom ever.” I sighed.

“Yes!” she responded as she looked out at the distant woods and nearby hydrangea bush peeping through the glass.

We marvel at the beauty of God.

What was this aching of the heart? This homesick feeling that went with passing the torch?

I glance around the room remembering former fifth grade students from over the years. I smile. They are tucked now, in corners of my heart.

That reading nook feels so familiar, like home, with its blue rug, an odd assortment of chairs and bright pillows. My memory is so strong that is causes my soul to ache as I see ghosts of my former students rummaging through the book nook containers that my mom and I had artfully decorated and labeled with scrapbook material. That was the last time I had done an art project with my teacher mom before she went to heaven. Her hands had been fragile and withered like old leaves, yet they had happily cut and pasted. That memory is priceless to me now, reminding me of the days I used to beg her to do art projects with me when I was a child, and when she was beautiful and twenty-five. She had taught first grade before she married, and she knew children loved art. She had 53 first grade students her first year of teaching. 53!

Later, when I was a middle school student, I would walk to my dad’s school to help him grade papers, put up bulletin boards, or design a cool igloo reading nook out of geometric shapes. Now I am in my daughter’s classroom doing the same thing. It feels so achingly familiar and bittersweet.

That artsy barstool in the front of the room – how many discussions did I lead from that chair?

Those bins to turn in papers – how many papers did I grade?

“You could hang Chinese lanterns from the ceiling over the reading nook.” I suggest. “I might be able to find the ones I used. And I have blow up planets, like beach balls, to hang for your space unit in science.”

“I have the reading nook covered,” my daughter smiles as she answers. “This cool project – a variation of the piñatas we used to make with you when we were children, Mom. The students will paper mache string over balloons and then we will pop the balloons. They are really cool! I would love to have the planets, though.”

We discuss bulletin boards. “I have a take-off of your Curious George bulletin board where you had the kids write questions they had about fifth grade, Mom. Mine is based on a pun. You know how I love puns. Oh, and I want to do this cool recipe bulletin board that includes a great first day of school snack.” She doesn’t need my ideas. She is creative and amazing, and she will be such a fun teacher.

“Thanks for helping me, Mom,” my daughter smiles and her blonde ponytail bops as she moves desks around and inspects materials.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” I say. “My heart is bursting with the happiness of knowing what joys she has in store for her because working with children is the very best job in the entire universe.

I remember my dad helping me in my classroom. One year, he came in for a full day each week to help with break out reading and math groups for a classroom that had many needs. I remember thinking how much fun he had that year – another chance to teach after retirement.

And now that is my role -retired teacher helping in my daughter’s classroom and subbing in my daughter’s school – another chance to teach after retirement, and it is so much fun!

I marvel at the grace of God who gives such good gifts.

And I ponder. What an amazing family legacy. Children are precious – precious!

And I think of Jesus who said, “Let the children come unto me.”

And my heart resonates with Elizabeth Speare as I read her novel THE BRONZE BOW (A young adult book, of course - my favorite genre – and I tell Sarah – you need some more novels in this classroom library – I will hunt some down for you.):

“Jesus won’t even let them send the children away when they’re a nuisance. He insists on talking to them, and finding out their names, and listening to their foolishness. It makes some of the men furious- as though Jesus thought children were important.”

And this family, we get to be like Jesus – loving the children – calling them by name – and listening to their stories.

We marvel at the love of God.

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