Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New beginnings: a look into my past, present, and future

Today it was back to work -- a new teacher orientation meeting at my new/old school. I use the term new/old because it just so happens that my new place of employment is the school I attended from 5th-12th grade.

Me in 8th grade -- the very grade I'll be teaching at the same school I attended

Part of today's orientation was to take a tour of the entire campus since it is quite large -- encompassing a K-12 school as well as a Catholic parish. As I entered both the church and high school today, I was struck by how true it is that scent is the sense that is most closely associated with memory. The smells in both of those two buildings were exactly the same as they were twenty years ago. Immediately and like a bolt of lightning, the memories came flooding back. As I walked through the church and down the main aisle, I saw myself walking down that same aisle at my 8th grade and high school graduation. As I walked through the high school gym, I smiled at the memory of cheering for varsity basketball games. But more importantly, I recalled with great fondness how much this school felt like a second home and helped give normalcy to a childhood and adolescence that was fraught with angst and family issues that, upon further reflection, were much bigger and grown-up than I realized at the time. My teachers, friends, and school community helped give me the faith and stability that I needed, and for that I am forever grateful.

So it was with both a heavy and joyful heart that I wandered through these buildings today. For the other new teachers, it was likely just a routine tour, but for me it was where my past and present suddenly crashed in a head-on collision.

There are moments in your life that happen and you say to yourself, "This feels right. This is where I'm meant to be." Today, I say those words wholeheartedly. I knew it from our opening prayer to the time the meeting was over and I drove away with a huge smile on my face despite the raging headache that was wreaking havoc with my ability to do anything productive and caused me to leave before I could do any work in my classroom.

I end this post today with the way our meeting began, with a beautiful prayer and reflection that speaks so much to the heart of a teacher.

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is the Lord's work.

Nothing we do is complete.

No one sermon says all that should be said.
No one prayer fully expresses our faith. 

No one reconciliation brings perfection.
No one program accomplishes the mission.
No one set of goals and objectives include everything.

This is what we are about. 
We plant seeds that one day will grow. 
We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's
grace to enter and do the rest.

And although we may never see the end results,
we remain workers, ministers, not Messiahs. 
We are prophets of a future that is not our own.

Adapted from A Future Not Our Own by Bishop Ken Untener


  1. What a lovely piece. This is certainly a Slice of Life story! You are so right about smells. That experience must have been jarring and comforting all at once.

  2. Welcome to slice! I actually wrote about the smells of memories today as well; it's an incredible thing. Best of luck with your new career, and welcome to an incredibly supportive community. I've been here a week, and I can already tell you that you're going to love it :)

  3. Thank you for sharing this with the slicing community, and I hope that you will continue to share your stories. I really enjoyed this and am excited for you to be at right where you are. Last year we moved back to the county where I grew up and I am teaching where I went to college. I can relate to your experiences of going back to a flood of memories and excitement. Here's to your present!

  4. Amazing how the twists and turns in life bring you right back around. You were meant to be there. To make a difference. To be there for those students. Enjoy your new/old school! What an amazing journey!

    Also, welcome to the Slice of Life community! It's also another great second home on Tuesdays! Looking forward to hearing more about your adventures this year! Best of luck!

  5. I only slice occasionally but it's a wonderful community! I love that you wrote about the smell of school and how that triggers memories. I still remember my very first orientation day walking into the high school building where I taught for 5 years and being overwhelmed by school smell and all the memories that came flooding back. So glad you feel that you're in just the right place. That's a good feeling.

  6. Welcome to the SOL community! It is a great place to be on Tuesdays. It is amazing the how the sense of smell can bring back memories. I could so relate with how your memories came flooding back. My favorite line in the prayer is "Nothing we do is complete." No matter what grade, level, or content we teach, we do the best we can and send them to a new place in life. Great first slice. Thank you for sharing.