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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Summer (the season) (07/09/09)

TITLE: No More Teachers' Dirty Looks
By Debra Martinez


“Thank you, Jody. I love vanilla candles!” I hug her to myself while placing the gift on my desk. Just yesterday, this child was shorter than my five foot four, but, oh my, she has caught up with me when I wasn’t looking.

The year has passed the same way. Somewhere in the middle of long division and kicking Pluto from the planet list, May has reached its end. Tests are over, the results sent home. Field Day has been run, and awards given. We wept over Dan and Ann in Where the Red Fern Grows. And Talisha almost learned to get along with Nathan. Almost. (The forced sitting side-by-side each day at lunch just about did the trick.)

And here at the final day of school are my twenty-three babies, about to walk out the door into summer, thrilled that the toils of our year are over. “No more pencils, no more books…” You get the picture. We desperately need the seven-week break, though breaks infer coming back together, and we will not.

My summer plans include three wonderful weeks at the beach: lying in the sun, reading at least five books, quiet time for Bible study and journaling each dawn, no rush, everything in my own time. Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it?

And I honestly require it. The ocean refreshes me. It rejuvenates me and gives me the energy to become excited about another school year. The sea, the sands, and the shells delight me. They encourage thought and inspiration.

Even at the shore, I cannot leave my babies behind. I find life analogies in the shells left behind by the waves. I see Jason in a broken olive shell, the troubled boy stretched among three homes, loved, but unsettled, with different rules in each. He rolls and crashes, and he bears scars, but he is so special, full of colors and contours, and he is learning to roll with the punches, just as the “rollies” do in the tide.

Do you see the sand dollar? It is almost whole, just a chip from one side. Will everyone pass it by? Or will someone give it a home, like the one that Shelby hopes for, now that her mom is in prison, and she is in foster care. Will someone really love her, or just keep her for a while? What does summer offer her? I am not there to see.

A Scotch Bonnet nestles in the sand. It looks perfect as I excitedly reach for it, but when I lift it from its place, I see that the back is crushed; its unique beauty is fragile. It makes me think of Latanya, who seemed so self-confident and whole, until the day that she broke down and spilled out the troubles she endured with her uncle. It is my hope that she will nestle close to the Lord, just as the shell did, and let Him provide her completeness as she heals from deep hurt.

Finally, I discover a few of my favorites: a baby’s ear, a tiny scallop shell, a kitten’s paw, and the more common cockle. The cockle is the sturdiest shell on the beach. Thick and white, it withstands the surf’s tossing and turning without breaking, and it populates the shore in great numbers. Yet, few shellers lean over to pick one up. Too common, too mediocre, they think. Yet, I thank God for them. The good old everyday shells make me think of the courteous and attentive “average” students who I have counted on each day. Do I overlook them, too? Take them for granted? Fail to really see them? I sincerely hope not.

Yes, another year has ended. These babies no longer belong to me. I will need the summer to be able to give them up, to become ready to accept my new heavenly assignment: mothering and teaching a new group of fourth-graders next term. Ah, the troubles this bunch caused, the laughter they inspired, the sarcasm I often swallowed, but sometimes blurted out! All of this must now settle into its place, giving me a chance to face it again, to do it better, to assist more babies into their fourth grade summer successfully. The ocean will help to wash away the hurts and disappointments as well as inspire me to reach higher.

And the babies that I give up today will go into my prayers: “Lord, let their new teacher love them as You do, just as they are. Amen”

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This article has been read 371 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Seema Bagai 07/16/09
I enjoyed the descriptions and analogies.

Just my opinion, but I thought the title didn't fit with the lyrical, sentimental prose of the piece.

This is a beautifully written piece and one, as a teacher, I could easily relate to.
Fay Ternan07/16/09
I so agree with Seema. There was such a heart in the teacher that the title was misleading.
Gregory Kane07/17/09
I enjoyed your shoreline analogies. Leaves me hankering too after a quiet week on the beach.
Josiah Kane07/17/09
I like the way you show that this teacher cares for each of her pupils uniquely, and notices each one. There did seem to be a bit of a jump between what she will do on holiday (thinking from the classroom) and what she is doing on the beach (present tense). However the running theme of caring doesn't really get jarred. Indeed It is particularly noticible that she, while on her heavenly holiday from school, is thinking about the children's individual streangths and hardships.
Mariane Holbrook 07/22/09
As a retired teacher, I LOVED this entry. It has a "user-friendly" feel that I find very comforting and inspirational. Good job!!