by Bethany Golding
“a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” Ecclesiastes 3:4
As I write this letter to you, you are beginning the first day of your new school year. I am about two months away from giving birth to my first biological baby. I say first biological baby, because all of you were my babies before I conceived this one. My baby girl will come into the world with around 40 older brothers and sisters that she might not ever get to meet. I had the privilege of teaching about 20 of you at a time over the last two years. I always knew that whenever I became a mom, I would stay home to raise my baby. What I didn’t know was how much I would miss you guys when I didn’t get to see you at school every day.
Two years ago when I started my first year of teaching, I also knew all of the things I was ready to teach you. Sure, I had the curriculum, rules, and procedures all ready to go, but I also knew that I wanted to teach you life lessons as well. What I didn’t know about was all of the lessons that you would teach me, and wow did I learn a lot from you little people over the last two years. My first babies (as I refer to you guys), you prepared me to be a mother in so many ways. I learned how to dry tears, counsel hard situations, clean up some nasty messes, tend to boo boos, and all of the things that any mother has to know. However, I also learned some extremely valuable life lessons from you as well.
First, you taught me to mourn. I felt a distinct call to teach in inner city Memphis during my freshman year of college. I thought I knew what to expect starting my first teaching job in an iZone school in the heart of Memphis. However, the reality that so many of you live in shook me to the core, and I will never recover from it. You’ve been through things that I will keep private in this post that brought your teacher to tears many days. I was not prepared for the amount of tragedies I would walk with you through during my first year of teaching. I stayed awake at night wondering about many of you. Were you safe? Who was feeding you dinner? Who was washing your clothes and helping you with homework? The questions haunted me. I remember feeling shame that I had been living in Memphis for 10 years at that time and had been so oblivious to the needs of my neighbors right down the street. I saw the injustice you were faced with day in and day out. I mourned over the poverty in our city and how it affected you as children. I will never forget your stories. I will never stop mourning the hard trials you face.
Second, you taught me to fight. Alright this may sound strange, as you know that I taught you guys to work things out with each other using your “get along” skills instead of physically fighting. However, I never wanted to take the “fighter” out of any of you, and I’m so glad that I didn’t. Some of you had extremely rough things going on at home that I never would have imagined a six-year-old having to deal with. Some of you got yourselves up and dressed and walked yourselves to school everyday without the help of a parent. You walked into a school with a lack of resources and were constantly told by your surroundings that you were not worth anything better. Even all of these circumstances didn’t keep you from coming to school and trying your best. I learned that if you guys had that much fight in you as a six-year-old, then I had to fight even harder to make sure you got your shot at an excellent education. I may not be your teacher anymore, but I will never stop fighting for you.
Last but certainly not least, you taught me to dance. With so many odds against you and endless trials to face, my favorite lesson that you taught me was to dance. You showed up to school with a smile on your face and a dance in your step that was contagious. You taught me that even when life is hard and circumstances aren’t fair, there is still plenty of joy to be had and plenty of reasons to celebrate. You figuratively (and literally J) taught your teacher how to dance in life, even when things got hard. And my babies, I know that one day down the road, when I (hopefully) have several kiddos and am in the throes of motherhood, I might look around our messy kitchen, ignore the pressing to do list, look over the hard times that will always inevitably be there, scoop my babies up, and teach them to dance. Teach them to dance through life even when it’s hard, because we have a very good God who scoops us up out of our mess and teaches us to dance during even the darkest of nights. He whirls us out of the present troubles and even delights over us with singing. That is my favorite lesson that you taught me. I can’t wait to tell my baby girl all about the babies I had before she was born. And I hope that I can teach her to dance as well as you taught me.