This morning at church our friend Daniel preached about leaving work unfinished. Often we grieve or feel guilty that we have not accomplished what we set out to. We focus on the result. Daniel reminded us that we need to focus on the process of our work, rather than look for an end to it.
Teaching is a process. We are one stop along our students' paths and we may or may not find out where they end up. August is not the beginning of something new as much as it is a continuation of what came before. June does not bring an end to our work. It is merely a pause in the process.
I am fortunate that my position allows me to follow students through their elementary years and see how they grow from chubby kindergartners to sophisticated pre-teens. I can follow their progress throughout the year, wish them well for the summer, and welcome them back in the fall. Eventually they move on to middle school, but the work has not ended. The process continues.
We started camping again this summer. We took weekend trips, slept in a tent, cooked over a camp fire, went to bed shortly after sunset and rose shortly after sunrise. I left my e-reader on my nightstand and read "real" books. On a couple of the trips I even left my phone at home. I floated in a lake, sat in a camp chair and watched the flames dance in the fire pit, gazed at the stars, and enjoyed the sound of the crickets.
I allowed my body to set the schedule on these trips rather than the clock. I enjoyed sitting and doing nothing. I disconnected from the world and reconnected with my family and myself. I didn't worry about what had to get done. I left things at home unfinished and was okay with that.
Daniel's message was exactly what I needed to hear this morning. I needed the reminder that I will not get up tomorrow and every day after and go to school to finish my work. I will go to engage in a process that is valuable, if sometimes not valued. I will not see the results of my work in a few days or weeks or months and that is okay.
And I needed to remind myself that it is okay to take the time to recharge and disconnect, to withdraw from the process briefly so that I can more fully engage in it when I return.
Isaac is excited about going to school. He wishes he started tomorrow rather than next Monday. I may not be able to muster the same level of excitement. It would, after all, be nice to be back in the tent tonight listening to the crickets with my alarm clock far away, able to wake up with the sun, not before it.
But I will get up in the morning and I will get ready for the work ahead. I will remind myself that my purpose is not to be finished at the end of the day, it is simply to be ready to keep going. It's true, you know, "a teacher's work is never done." Daniel reminded me this morning to be thankful for that.