On Fridays around noon, you'll find me eating lunch with my students. Our "cafeteria" is actually a second-story, open-air thatch-covered veranda filled with picnic tables. One can get an amazing view of the Indian Ocean from up there, and the breeze blows away the humidity (but not the crows, unfortunately).
Friday is chicken and chips day--standard Tanzanian fare, and the most popular menu item of the week with our students. I usually arrive around the time of kindergarten lunch, which means as soon as I sit down, I am surrounded by small children like bees to a flower. They politely push to get the seats next to me, and the ones that don't make the cut lean over the table with big eyes, shoving fries into their mouths while all talking to me at the same time, and whatever they need to tell me is very important.
I put on my interested face and try very hard to follow twelve conversations at once, all while intermittently exclaiming, Well, isn't that funny! and Wow, that's amazing! and You can go as soon as you've eaten two more bites of chicken and Please don't hug me until you've washed your hands.
It's a highlight of my week.
I've been staring at my computer screen a lot this weekend, trying to work on a resume. Gil has already sent out about 50 resumes, so I guess it's about time that I start too. The internet says that my resume should only be one page long, which means that this principal job gets one paragraph. And I stare at the screen and think, How can I possibly describe this job in one paragraph when it takes me three paragraphs just to write about lunch on Fridays?
This job is the hardest and the best thing I've ever done, with the exception of raising my own children. The load of this job sits on my head and my stomach like a boulder, every single day, a physical weight. It has stolen many, many hours of sleep, and each of those hours has a name and a face of a struggling child, a hurting teacher, an angry parent. "Responsibility" is my strength but therefore also my burden, because I just can't let any fall through the cracks. I do anyway, of course, because being responsible for so many is impossible, and each problem I can't solve, and each child I can't help tears just a little more at my sore muscles that strain under the weight.
It's been almost exactly three years since I was offered this job. Gil asked me recently after one particularly difficult day, full of exhaustion and stress and tears, "Would you have said yes to this job if you had known how hard it would be?" Ah, ignorance is bliss, isn't it? How many of us would choose to step into the right, but hard choice if we knew in advance how incredibly difficult it would be? Marriage, raising children, adoption, missions--all are much rosier before we actually start living them out. God is merciful when he keeps us from knowing how hard things will be. We gravitate towards comfort, so think of how many amazing things we would miss if we chose only what is easy!
Yes, of course I would have said yes. It was obvious it was the right time and place and I was the person who needed to say yes. The strain builds muscle as well, of course. I was always one who ran away from confrontation, hating the hard conversations. I still don't like them, but now I've had so many that I'm not afraid of them anymore. I was just an ordinary teacher, and an ordinary stay-at-home mom for so many years. I look at myself now with a sort of wonder. Who would have thought I would be filling out performance reviews? Who knew that I would become adept at conducting interviews and offering job contracts? That I would get experience in writing MOUs or coordinating a Christmas production or analyzing curriculum?
Honestly, I don't think I realized I had it in me. Which, in itself, has been a lesson for me. Because just as I now look back with gratitude for those who believed in me, I too have the privilege of doing the same for those I work with. I've experienced the joy of giving a job and saying, I believe you can do this! And then being a cheerleader when they succeed.
True, many days I look forward to that day in June when I finally am able to release this burden. I will be choosing not to continue in school leadership for this next season of my life. But the stretching of my abilities, the relationships, the invaluable life experiences--I would never trade them for an easier three years. And I'm confident that as soon as this burden is gone, it will leave a hollow hole I will feel for a very long time.
This job is sacred to me. So it almost feels sacrilegious to condense it down on a resume to "Responsible for hiring, training, and performance feedback of staff, curriculum development, admissions, student discipline, and professional development." I'd like to add, "Engaged in twelve simultaneous kindergarten conversations on Fridays at lunch." Because that's just as important.
|Our lunch time view|