finds goodness in everything.

Ashley and Jennifer

Band and orchestra teacher from my old school on the left, art teacher from my old school on the right. I miss them.

Over the weekend, I heard the U2 song “Grace” and it’s been in my head ever since. I also saw my awesome friend the band and orchestra teacher at my baby shower on Sunday, so maybe that was part of it. I always think of that as her song, even if that is a little bit cheesy.

I have never worked in an elementary school, so there are times that I have felt overwhelmed with the incessant need for band-aids, the untied shoes, the tears, and the constant questions. I am more used to sarcastic humor and squirmy sixth graders than I am the sincerity of a first grader who says that I am the best library teacher he has ever had. The trade off is, of course, the constant hugs I receive (along with having my belly rubbed and/or my baby squeezed, but we won’t talk about that), being called “Library Girl,” and extreme excitement about books.

My coworkers at the middle school taught me about humor, about loving difficult kids, about the importance of a good beer on a Friday afternoon. They taught me what it looks like to pour yourself out for a kid, to love until it hurts, and to get up and do it again the next day. I could never have considered going On Beyond Zebra without them, never would have won any kind of award if they hadn’t shown me what that kind of love and hard work looks like. My coworkers at my new school are teaching me that, too, even though it looks different in elementary school. We have more hand holding and nose wiping and fewer tough talk come-to-Jesuses. I am paying attention, from sitting on the floor to help with the kid having the meltdown in the hall to the good humor and patience needed to handle a second grader who might be overreacting just a little bit. And all that belly rubbing. Don’t forget the belly rubbing. For me, all of those things are the embodiment of grace, of people doing good work, loving when it’s hard, and teaching kids how to overcome. On an even more personal note, the fact that I can keep a calm voice in the middle of 27 freaked out first graders in the computer lab makes me feel as if I might actually be able to be a decent parent one day, which is a small grace I appreciate in these changing and uncertain times in our lives.

It is hard to be a teacher, to pour yourself into a lesson that ends up being mediocre at best. It is hard to expect a lot of a student who doesn’t deliver. But when a lesson hits a home run, when a student suddenly starts talking in class, when it all magically comes together, those, for me, are holy moments of grace. I am thankful to have a job that challenges me to go beyond myself and discover those unexpected, undeserved gifts

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