“God did not call me to be successful. He called me to be faithful.” ~Mother Teresa
“You have to have faith in something” ~ Annie Minerva Pugsley
School and education have always been a huge part of my life. As many of you know my mother was a teacher who began her career in a one room schoolhouse on the West Brook flats. She spoke fondly of that time and I never travel that stretch of road without thinking of her and her love of the profession. Actually, it is one of my favorite places in Nova Scotia due to the fact that my father was a little boy growing up in that same community.
Teaching has a way of controlling your life. The calendar and the clock are your constant companions. It’s not a job for the faint of heart. In fact, in so many ways you lose your heart and your life’s balance around mid- August to the following June. You give up very large pieces of yourself when you become an educator, particularly in the public school system, and boundary lines between home and work become very fuzzy.
This week my colleagues and I have taken on the incredible job of meeting our youth at the door as one of the largest returns to normal human functioning in many parts of Maritime Canada since March. My faith lies heavily with all PRHS staff and students and with the many parents and people who know what it means to be a front line worker, because that is what we have become, front line workers.
And my faith also lies with the learning process which we know to be anything but linear. I do not know about you but I have learned or relearned some interesting things during this pandemic. The proper way to wash hands being one, the real reason behind donning a mask another. Even the whole notion of social distancing (now referred to as physical distancing) has evolved for me over the past few days. Most importantly, I have learned that I do not need to have all of the answers to this process upon returning tomorrow, but the fundamentals are important in order to build on that all important foundation.
I hesitate to bring this back around to grieving but for me learning is circling back around to what I know. Grieving isn’t linear either. It’s like a messed up map without any arrows to follow. I even said to my more than capable administrator last week that this whole scenario is morbidly fascinating, not unlike the grieving process. Although stressful and overwhelming it’s become this somewhat incredible process where you discover hidden thoughts, behaviors and ideas you never thought possible of having. I guess what I am saying is I have faith that each and every one of us, including myself, can associate with this feeling of the unknown and the unpredictable in some way, which means we can contribute to making this work for ourselves and our students.
So when I travel that beautiful stretch of fields and highway tomorrow morning which Cumberland County residents refer to as “the flats”, I am going to look for the Dickinson’s sunflowers and the Pugsley family homestead and the converted schoolhouse where my mother taught, to strengthen my faith. I also know that my husband’s spirit is with me and my daughter, as are the well wishes of so many friends and family who know what a big deal this is for so many of us.
I am going to think also of Saint Teresa of Calcutta. I know it’s no coincidence that she came to me in the form of a mini rug the other day to help me process this incredibly unique event in our lives, while I hooked.
Did you know she lived much of her final life in doubt of her service to God yet continued to help the poor and suffering without receiving any sign or affirmation from her beloved God? How human and full of faith is that? She has been referred to as a saint of darkness due to her feeling of abandonment by God. In my darkest of nights I too have felt abandoned, and I have felt the absence of support from those in government as well, who have seemingly distanced themselves from us during this time, and show little regard for what we do as educators and humans.
But I also know that tomorrow we are going to stand at the door in hope and anticipation to greet those sweet people we have not seen for over 5 months, and I cannot wait. We will direct them, wearing masks that may cover our smiles, but not our love and kindness. And we are doing this not because of our elusive government policies, but because of our strong commitment to our kids and our profession and each other.