Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Man I Was Meant To Be

I've been mulling the metaphor of teachers being rocks in a river. If you stay in one place a long time, the river passes around you and as it does you shape the river, but over time the river, in turn, shapes you.

After this week, our final week of the school year, there are many incredible people who are leaving my life forever: I'm talking about both children and adults. We intend to stay in touch, we might try a few times, and it will be fun to accidentally bump into them three years hence, but the end of our time of shaping one another is impending.

When last I wrote on this topic, I said that as a young man I thought I needed go out there into the world if I was going to have a positive impact, but I've come to appreciate life as a rock in a river, shaping and being shaped by families who come together, in goodwill, to make a cool place for their kids to play. I'm proud to have found myself at the center of a purposeful community like this, people raising their kids, face-to-face with other families of goodwill, year-after-year, the river flowing through my life. Some of these families are with me for a decade or more, but it's in the nature of a river to inevitably move on.

So, there is always an undercurrent of melancholy, which is mitigated by the celebratory nature of having completed a school year together. We've done it! We've had fun! I love my job, but there is nothing like the feeling of the last week of school, you've done your best and now school's out for summer! It's a joyful countdown, one I don't necessarily want to rush through, but one that nonetheless makes me smile when I remember it.

Rivers rise and fall with rain and the melting of snow pack. Sometimes the rock might even be fully submerged as the river rushes over it and other times it might stand dry for months on end. To all things, not just the ebb and flow of daylight, there are seasons and seasons come in cycles. This is part of how the river shapes us: each time through the cycle we gain wisdom about ourselves and the universe. And that shapes us.

We are shaped by the children who teach us the lessons that only children teach and the parents who share their knowledge and abilities, collaborating to make our school something better than it was when they arrived.

Yesterday, our 4-5's class presented the play they have been working on since January. Traditionally, this marks the end of the school year, complete with a pizza party, even as we will come together one more time today. Nearly the entire parent community turned out for the show, including grandparents, aunts and uncles, special friends, and alumni. I said a lot of goodbyes, always with the stipulation that we would stay if touch. Many of the families will return for a session of our Summer Program. For those folks, I saved my goodbyes, putting them off until they're inevitable.

Most of the kids won't remember me as they grow older, at least not with their conscious minds. Sure, they'll have pictures around and their parents will tell stories of their time in preschool, but humans don't typically retain concrete, sequential memories from before they were five. Someone asked me yesterday if that was a strange thought for me. It is, but I'll have to be satisfied with the knowledge that I have, in my small way, shaped them nevertheless, just as they've shaped me.

It is a river's destiny to flow onward. It is a rock's destiny to stay in one place. Summer is a time of ebb, when the waters flow more languidly, without the rush and crush of the regular school year, but come fall the flow resumes, filling the riverbed to the top. For the rest of this week, I'll let myself feel the bitter-sweetness over things that have passed, but there will be no time for regrets because the river, as they tend to do, is still flowing, shaping and being shaped, always making me into the man I was meant to be.

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1 comment:

Debbie said...

Well said! Thanks! I'm approaching my last year before retirement and many friends are retiring now. This beautifully sums those feelings up too. I won't be doing my same job just moving to a different place in the river.