Passing the Torch: A Letter to the New Teacher

Dear friend,

img_3794You don’t know me and I don’t know you. I don’t know your name yet, but you might hear mine in the weeks to come. We’re participants in a relay of sorts, working together yet separately to make a difference in the lives of students. As teachers, we have the privilege of partnering together to cultivate a lifelong desire to learn in countless lives. We will likely never work in the same space together, but we’re partners in carrying out a mission with a common goal.  I’ve passed the torch on to you and you’ll be responsible for carrying it until it’s time to hand it off again. It’s not easy to give it away and entrust it to someone else, but it is necessary nonetheless. Carry the torch with pride.


You’re entering a classroom I love dearly. You’ll be working closely with one of the best teachers I’ve ever known. And the kids who will populate your work week—and nestle themselves deeply in your heart—are precious to me. I miss them every day and as the beginning of a new school year rushes in, I hope with all my heart that you find the same sense of belonging in the classroom that I did. I hope you are stretched and taught by the littles who will call you Teacher. I hope you learn how to be the best teacher you can be. Your lead teacher truly is the best. Soak in her knowledge and compassion.

We haven’t met yet, but I hope we eventually will. In the meantime, here are a few things that you should know about your new work home:

*Expect to be surprised—you never know what nuggets of wisdom are going to come out of the mouths of the littles in your care.
*Don’t be afraid to be real—your students are human; they know what it’s like to be frustrated or tired, or upset or happy or afraid or excited—and you can tell them when you are (in an appropriate way, of course). Let them know if you’re having an off day. More often than not, they’ll offer a bit of innocent advice that will turn your day around. They’re young, but wise.
*Be silly—they need to see that it’s possible to have fun without getting out of control. It’s up to you to model that for them.
*Say yes—when there’s free time and someone asks you to read a book to them, say yes whenever you can. Be animated, use voices. Show them that reading is fun. This is one of the things I miss the most.
*Be present–There will always be something to plan or prepare. I get it. But sometimes those things can wait. Sit with your students, talk to them, find out what they love and what they don’t—each of them is quite an individual. As the year progresses, the shy ones will come out of their shells, the talkative ones will inform you about all kinds of topics, and you will have an abundance of stories to carry with you.
*Remember those “hope moments”—write them down when they happen, because (trust me) you probably won’t be able to recall them when it comes time to share at the next faculty meeting. Those moments will help you through the hard days, which will inevitably come. They’ll remind you precisely why you do what you do.
*Don’t mention the subject of mice in the presence of your lead teacher. The trauma from past experiences is real. (You’ve probably already heard the story…or will as you prepare the classroom. And I’ll probably get in trouble for mentioning it here!)
*Enjoy your time in the white house—it truly is a fantastic place to work.

There are so many more things I would tell you about this place and this job if we were sitting down for coffee. I’ll admit that I’m a little jealous that you’re there and I am here. Picking up the white house torch six years ago was the best decision I could’ve made for that phase of my life. The lessons I learned in that space were invaluable and I carry them with me still. I don’t know what the white house will teach you, but I know you’ll walk away a better person for having been there. I did.

Here’s to your first year in the white house.  Enjoy it and have fun!

Passing the torch,
Ms. Ticcoa

Being Still

Last week, I stubbed my big toe on a dining room chair. It hurt, but I didn’t think much of it…until the next morning. At 4:30 a.m. a throbbing in my foot woke me up. My toe was swollen, red, and tender to the touch. Walking on it was painful.

I’m stubborn, so I went to work anyway. But I spent most of the day sitting. It was a busy day, and I felt bad about not being on top of my game, but every time I tried to get up and hobble around to do something, my co-teacher commanded directed me back to a chair. After one such exchange, I caught myself looking at the bookcase and filing cabinet that were within reach. I stopped, looked at my co-teacher and said, “I am looking for something to do. I can’t just sit still. Obviously, I need to work on this.”

Being still is hard.

Frustration overtook me quickly. I don’t do “still” well.

But sometimes, that’s what we have to be—more often than we would like to admit, I’m sure.

Still.

Be still.

I was reminded of Exodus 14:14:

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

At this point in scripture, the Israelites were trapped: “The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea…” (Ex. 14:9). There was nowhere for them to go, nothing for them to do to save themselves from imminent capture and death. And we see in Exodus 14:10 that they were “terrified” and desperate, asking Moses, “What have you done by bringing us out of Egypt…It would have been better for us to serve in Egypt than to die in the desert.” They wanted a plan of action; they wanted answers.

But Moses asked them to be still, to stand firm and wait for the Lord’s deliverance.

Being still doesn’t mean “do nothing.” Far from it. When the enemy shows up on our doorstep, ready to overtake us, we can act. The type of action we take is what matters. The spirit in which we take action matters.

When we’re faced with hardship, the Lord asks us to be still and allow Him to fight the battle for us. When we abide in His strength, we are equipped to stand our ground when the enemy knocks at our gate. When we rest in His peace, we are less likely to turn and run from the fight. Instead, we can face it with His strength.

  
Sometimes there’s no amount of doing that will result in a solution. Sometimes (most of the time), I have no control over outcomes. Often, I just have to sit still and wait. And I don’t like it. Did I mention that I don’t like to sit still? I’m a compulsive fixer/doer. There’s a problem? I’m determined to find a solution. But sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I have to be still and wait for the Lord’s deliverance.

 

While my foot was out of commission last week, I could still check papers, explain concepts to students, send emails, troubleshoot technology issues, and even teach from my seated position. But I also had to relinquish my frustration with not being able to do everything I normally do in the classroom. I had to get over the guilt of putting more tasks on my co-teacher. I had to be willing to ask for help, willing to let others serve me.

And when life gets rocky—for me or for my people, near and far–there are a few things I can always do.

I can pray.

I can speak light and truth.

I can be present.

I can be still.

Still faithful.

Still prayerful.

Still truthful.

Still hopeful.

I can still be.

 

 

How do you practice being still in the midst of the storm?