The clock in our basement just struck one in the afternoon. Last year at this time I would be in fifth period, grappling through another brutal fifty minutes with 22 seventh graders. I would most likely be discussing the themes and motifs of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, or perhaps I would be trying for the thousandth time to get them to grasp the concept of a complete sentence. Either way, it used to be my least favorite fifty minutes of the day. Seventh graders are unusual and difficult; I very rarely was able to dig up enough of my patience to actually enjoy their class. However, this afternoon, as my son sleeps in another side of the house, I ache for just fifty minutes in front of a group of students, even seventh graders.
I rarely think about my time as a teacher. It feels like a lifetime ago; I don’t have anything left of that life. The only relics I have from my years as a teacher are 4 totes stored under the stairs and a collection of pictures, notes, and memories from my students. It is in the past–I have made the incredibly wise decision to quit and devote my life to my children. I have never and will never regret that. Being a parent is a God-given opportunity and we are to embrace every moment of it, thanking the Lord for allowing us to watch over his children. However, there is a piece of me that will always be Mrs. Kranz. Because I know this, I never let myself think about it. If I did, I know I would realize how much I miss it, and this would make me feel guilty. I should enjoy being a mom, thankful that I have this opportunity while so many working mothers would kill to be in my shoes.
Today, I let myself think about it, for just long enough to realize it is not as far in the past as I would like it to be. I miss greeting each one of my students as they would walk into my classroom: some would sheepishly smile back at me; some would continue to stare down at a cell phone, headphones in their ears, unaware that I had said anything at all; some would enthusiastically high-five me, asking me how my day has been; some would ignore me completely; some would bravely make a smart comment to me, again bringing up a mistake I had made weeks ago when entering a grade. There were certain students that were predictable, always smiling or always brooding, but usually I would get a wide range of greetings from the same student, depending on the day. It was never boring.
I’m bored right now. I have taken my son to playgroup, gotten groceries, cleaned the floors, started laundry, fed my son, read my Bible, put him down for a nap, picked up his toys, eaten lunch, baked banana bread, and washed the dishes. I’m bored. As a mom, I don’t get bored very often, but being a teacher was never boring, literally never. I wasn’t always thrilled to be in my classroom, but I did know that each day would be exciting. Each day, I could count on them to make me laugh, make me yell, and make me grateful. Right now, I want to be laughing with my students; I wouldn’t even mind yelling at a student or two. I want to be sitting at my desk looking out over a full classroom as they take a quiz, wondering what each of them will accomplish one day, worrying for the ones who seem motivated to accomplish nothing at all. I want to be sitting on my stool at the front of the room detailing yet another story of my dog’s antics, making them smile and laugh, and giving them a small but longed-for glimpse into my personal life. I want to be holding up their vocabulary flashcards, creating ridiculous strategies to help them remember the definitions. I want to be creating a grammar rap, dancing and rhyming about semicolons as my students roll their eyes, pretending they are not amused. I want to be kneeling down at a struggling student’s desk, looking into his eyes, talking calmly, just trying to get him through the day without a behavioral catastrophe. I want to be lecturing about Elizabethan England, watching their faces contort as I explain sanitation in the 17th century. I want to be changing them, molding them, laughing with them, creating memories with them.
I have not forgotten the frustration of a career in education. I have not forgotten the disrespect or the naivety with which a teenager views his life. I have not forgotten the hopelessness I felt when a senior would hand in an essay that contained only one, painfully long and pointless sentence. I have not forgotten my dismay as I wrestled with those children who could not see past their own stubbornness, choosing to fail rather than make themselves proud. I have not forgotten the number of times I had to repeat the page number before I could get even half of my class on the same page, nor have I forgotten the number of times I had to say, “Times New Roman font, size 12, double spaced, MLA format,” only to receive several papers far from these guidelines.
I will always remember these things. I will always have the ability to commiserate with a frustrated teacher; I often was that teacher. However, what I will also remember is the light in a student’s eyes when she finally realizes she can succeed. I will remember the students that came to me asking for help unrelated to my classroom. I will remember when they begged me to go to their games. I will remember when they raved to me about their karate, livestock, dance, even a book they had read. I will remember watching the minutes of my free period tick by, full stack of uncorrected essays in front of me, as I visited with a senior about his goals or listened to the shrill sound of a group of freshmen girls, standing in front of my desk and competing for the last word.
Shortly after I graduated from college, I had a friend ask me how I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I had nothing more to say besides, “I was born to teach.” In the three years I spent as Mrs. Kranz, I experienced a lot of failure and frustration, but this belief never left me. I was born to teach. I have not been in front of a classroom since April of last year, and it will probably be many more years before anyone calls me Mrs. Kranz again, but I will never stop missing it. Not completely anyway. Most of all I miss the way I felt when I was a teacher. The nervous energy that never failed to rise up inside of me minutes before the first bell would ring, signalling the beginning of another day. The simple joy of just standing in front of them feeding them brand new information. That is what I miss the most.
Despite my passion for the classroom, staying at home with my son was an easier choice than obtaining a degree in teaching; however, it is not as easy to explain this choice. In today’s society, it is certainly not popular to give up a career for your children; not only that, for many, it is not even an option, usually due to finances. I respect all women who continue to work and raise children, mostly because I am certain I could never do it. Being a stay-at-home mom was an unplanned event for my life. Very unplanned. I didn’t know I wanted to stay home until my son’s first breath was six months away and it occurred to me that I could not and would not leave him. I knew countless working moms and always assumed I would be one. I heard them say that it was not easy to leave their children at daycare, but it was necessary. I understood and accepted it. However, I felt the strong and unmistakable call of God to get off that path. I heard Him say the necessity of working was a lie. He began showing me the indisputable benefits, lost in a sea of society’s fight for success, of having a devoted mother at home. He showed me how the rewards will outweigh the sacrifice. As hard as I tried, I could not ignore Him, and He would not relent. Then, one day, as I stood in front of my students, it occurred to me that I would not be with them for another year. It was clear as day, and it became my reality. I never questioned it; I never wondered if it was right; it just was.
Since this decision, I have looked back on my career many times with nostalgia. I have worried I will lose my passion for teaching, and more importantly, my talent as a teacher. However, I have never looked back with regret. I am confident that the Lord’s will for my family is that I give of my time and my energy every day for my children and my husband. I will commit my life to teaching a boy to become a man who is passionate for the Lord’s will. One day, I will get to explain to him that mom used to be a teacher, but he was far more important than that. I will not work on curriculum, nor will I work to correct a pile of research papers, but I will work to devote my life to raising children who know God. I will lie on the floor for an hour in the afternoon while he crawls all over me, and pulls my hair, just because we have nothing better to do. When I itch to teach a classroom full of students citations and sentence structure, I will, instead, sit down and teach my son the ABCs. This will be enough for me, because God has asked me to do it.