During the last 24 hours I have been reminded once again of how truly blessed I am.... and these reminders could not have come at a better time. Lately I have been drowning in my own pity party as I continue to check things off my "I am moving to another country and leaving everything and everyone I know" list. Yes, I am so excited to get to my new home. Yes, I am so ready to be with Mads each and every day. And yes, I am prepared for the changes I will experience as I transition into this next chapter of my life. But in the midst of all of that excitement and preparation, naturally, there is sadness. However, in the last 24 hours, in the midst of this profound sadness, I began to feel the peace....and I have a feeling that by the time I make my final exit out the doors of Lowery this Friday, that peace will have grown even greater.
It all started with my lunch date yesterday with Michelle and Sophia.
Michelle and I started together at Lowery...she as a House counselor, and I, as a House Principal and over the last five years, she grew to become so much more than just my colleague and fellow "Activist to save all the teens"... she became a dear friend. When she left education last summer to stay home as "Sophia´s mom", I was so proud of her, but I wondered, because we are so much alike, how she would adjust to "not going to school everyday to save the world"! Well, seeing Michelle and Sophia yesterday did more than answer my wonderings about "life after Lowery". Seeing the two of them together gave me peace as I was reminded of what I am moving TOWARD, rather than just focusing on what I am moving FROM. Michelle´s eyes sparkled with every story about Sophia and I knew that she was still "saving the world"... she was just doing it on a smaller, more personal level as she transitioned into this new chapter of her life.
I left my lunch date and headed to On the Border where the staff was congregating to say farewell to "Uncle Pat", a man who I can say has been one of the greatest inspirations to the Lowery staff in the nine years our campus has been open.
Words do not do Pat justice because the descriptions I formulate in my head just seem too simplistic. I guess the best way to describe Pat is to talk about the number of students that return each and every year to visit their 9th grade English teacher. They have been known to show up college acceptance letters in hand that they attribute to his influence on their lives. They have been known to show up with a handful of haiku, hoping he will display them on the classroom refrigerator door. They have even been known to show up with a can of sardines that they convinced their parents to purchase on a family vacation because "I just have to bring this to Mr. Hardage." And finally, they have been known to show up in his classroom on a random day, years after they have passed freshman English just to hear him read aloud to his students, even though secretly they are hoping to catch him without a book in his hand so they can earn that soda that has never been won by a student yet. I have seen his influence for years and I will continue to see it in the fire he kept going inside of me and in the eyes of Stephen, the newest member of our family. I first met Stephen in 2005 when he was crawling in through Pat´s window.....4 years after he had passed the class, but something about this "Teacher Man" was drawing him back. Pat empowered Stephen as a freshman boy, and I get to see the fruits of that in the eyes of his 21 year old young man each and every day. Thank you, Mr. Hardage.
a little more peace...
The only people who can truly understand what I am talking about are those that have had the distinct privilege of being a part of the Lowery Family. I attempted to explain it to the staff in a letter today. A letter I started a month ago, but kept putting back in the Draft folder because I could not get it to convey the message to these people who had been so important to my life and to my development over the last five years. Well, around 11am today, I finally finished it and sent it to the staff. I wanted to get it sent before the lunch hour because I was "supposed" to meet the 2 Nancys, Dawn, Jackie and Robbin for lunch before Robbin, our "desert rose" had to catch her flight back to New Mexico.
LETTER to LOWERY
Well, the letter was sent and I headed to Brio, the newest restaurant in Allen, where Robbin and Dawn were waiting for me at the front door. They said our table was ready so we made our way to the back of this fabulous restaurant. A set of double doors were opened and I was greeted by a majority of our staff, all applauding me as I entered. I was stunned.
My heart began to race and the tears welled up in my eyes. Truly, I was stunned. I soon found out that Nancy had orchestrated this whole thing, including secret notes and meetings to get the word out to everyone, and the fact that it was done during the time of Robbin´s visit made it even more perfect. Everyone settled in and began to order while I just looked around that big room... catching the eyes of these precious people that I have had the honor of working with all these years. I felt completely surrounded by love and support. And even in the midst of the racing heart and the tears, my peace continued to increase.
Then I was handed a scrapbook that I found out later, Nancy had been working on since February. Pages were designed by different staff members with personal messages and photos from them that reminded me of so many incredible things that we had all experienced together. My precious and creative friends created for me a book of memories that I will treasure for many years to come. I cannot wait to set it out on my coffee table in Herning so that my new family and friends in Denmark can see what an adventure I was allowed to be a part of the last five years.
Nancy had asked me a while back about planning a time for us all to get together before I leave but I told her it was not necessary. I just did not want to take time away from the staff right now, during exams, when they needed to be grading and packing up their classrooms. But I am so glad she did not listen to me because this day was a complete blessing. The gathering of the scrapbook pages and photos, the personalized messages she got the staff to write, and the orchestration of this luncheon took a great deal of time, I know.
But as I sit here tonight in my pajamas in my nearly empty apartment and reflect on this afternoon, I know this is a day that I will not ever forget. The laughter, the tears, the hugs, the memories and especially, the FELLOWSHIP with these precious people gave me just what I needed to prepare to leave my 15 year career in education... reassurance that we are all going to be okay because of the time each of us has been a part of the Lowery Family. Take a look at these incredible, lifelong friends I have.
Robbin, our desert rose, who left us last summer to move to New Mexico, but we have proven over the last year that no matter what time zones we live in, our friendship is the kind that lasts forever.
Whitney, our dance teacher, who has brought her dreams and visions to Lowery and found new places for our kids to shine and be recognized. LDC Rocks!
Kathy and Natalie, our artists. I am not only in awe of their talent, but of their ability to pull hidden talents from every child that walks into their classrooms. I cannot wait for winter to come in DK so I can wear the scarf they made for me!
Lawrence...not only one of the friends I know I will see again (since his passport already has more stamps in it than anyone else´s!), but he is that teacher that you could sit in his class and listen to him teach for hours. He makes geography come alive in way that I have never seen before and every child that has him for a teacher leaves in May in awe of how much they learned.
I have no doubt that Texas´ teacher shortage could be solved very easily... by making sure that every school in every district had a staff like this one. They are not only committed to taking care of our kids, but they take care of each other.
Remember Pat? Well, this is my gift to take with me to Denmark from him... he is not only a teacher, but a Scout leader and Pinewood Derby afficianado as well. And he made for me, my very own Pinewood Derby car, made with the design of the Danish flag. But the most precious part of the car is where you can see him pointing... that one strip of wood came from a Sycamore tree...but not just any Sycamore tree. It came from the one in the front of Lowery.
And finally... Nancy, the one that created this day for me. She had help from so many staff members, but I know that this afternoon was possible because of Nancy. I have been the blessed recipient of many things throughout my life, but I can say that nothing quite matches how I felt when I walked through those doors today, into a sea of smiles and applause. Nancy and I have worked closely together each of these five years--we have survived literature protests, digitizing videos, TAKS tests, benchmarks and having too few rooms for the team of English teachers and I can say that the one thing that never wavered was her generous and giving spirit. She always went the extra mile to make things better for those around her... and today, I was the one on the receiving end of it, and it felt amazing. Thank you, Nancy.
still, a little more peace....