Where I teach, this is a season of great appreciation as we feel the nearing completion of another year of working together. The season itself seems to celebrate the growth and learning; all that has been created, all that has been shared. Students who are preparing to leave us and move on to continue their education in a new setting are particularly engaged in this articulation of what the experiences have meant to them, what they will take with them on the next stage of their journeys. In our weekly Meeting, we have heard the most eloquent and tender expressions of gratitude for the encouragement and nurturing that has been offered over a span of many years. Some of our students have been attending this one school for fourteen years – they sometimes have a hard time imagining what life will be like when they in fact move on from this family they have known for so long. I am also engaged in a process of dialogue with these departing seniors in an intentional process of listening to what they would like to share with the institution before they leave us. It is both rewarding and always interesting to hear the many perspectives that are brought forward. Among the important themes that students seem to want very much to express is the sense of how important the care and attention have been that they have received. If there was ever any doubt whether or not the time and energy spent in this work of serving as educators makes a difference, one would need only to sit and listen for a few minutes to know that it has been deeply meaningful. How very fortunate we are to have the opportunity to serve in this role, to be present for all that happens in the relationships along the learning path. Watching the unending change of the seasons and stages, we can appreciate things just as they are.
What is it we most appreciate about the places where we teach and the experiences we have had? How does this practice of giving time for gratitude, pausing to reflect on what we have been offered, shape the experience of being a teacher?
The warm weather and flowering oaks also take me back out into the field as we move through lilacs and viburnums to the full leafy branches of a returning summer. Last weekend, I drove with a friend to the pine barrens of neighboring New Jersey. We sat out under the tiniest sliver of an April new moon on a sandy lane alongside a series of cranberry bogs. The green branches of low shrubby blueberries lined the road and the cranberries were adorned with their tiny white hanging urn like flowers. The air smelled like warm pine and butterscotch, and the night was loud with an unceasing chorus of spring peepers and carpenter frogs, accompanied by whippoorwill calls and toad trills. I love the seasonality that accompanies the teaching year, the way each thing follows the next, both familiar and unpredictable, not entirely unknown, and still not the same.