Reflections

A Retired Teacher’s Reflections:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” John 13:7

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

I am forever amazed at God’s presence in my life and how He has guided me towards His plan for my life all along. My plan included going to Elon University, majoring in Religion, and then going to seminary to become a minister. In my mind, it was what I was supposed to do. So, I went to Elon, and graduated with a degree in Religion, despite God giving all kinds of guidance and direction that my focus, His plan was for something totally different. Let us just say I am very stubborn, and after 4 ½ years of college, and no job options, I finally started praying to God and LISTENING to His words. Through several experiences at church and college, the direction was always there and now as I look back, I realize all the times He tried to tell me He had other plans for me. After graduation from Elon, and Mike graduated from UNC, life took a completely different direction for both of us, and we moved to Chapel Hill. Mike went back to school, Nursing School, and I got a job at Blue Cross Blue Shield. As Mike was working on his second degree, God truly started speaking to my heart about what He wanted me to do, and teaching was the direction. My heart had always been sensitive towards children with special needs and after a lot of prayer, I finally realized that was where God was leading me. After Mike graduated from UNC School of Nursing (with honors), and after the birth of our son, we soon headed to Greenville, NC where Mike would become Chief Flight Nurse for Eastcare, and I would start school at East Carolina University. In 1987, I graduated with honors, and then my world turned upside down with Mike’s death. Once again, God’s plan for my life took another turn, because instead of immediately going to work I felt like my son needed me more, so I put teaching on hold. We moved to Greenville, SC to be close to family, and I decided to pursue my Master’s in Education at Furman University while Patrick was in school. Then life took another turn when I met Steve, we got married, and I was pregnant again. Once again, I decided my daughter needed me more than I needed to teach, so I stayed home with her and my three nephews until they were four/five and ready to start kindergarten.

Finally it was time for my teaching career to start, time for God’s plan to continue (because I know now that all of those turns and twists in the road were part of God’s plan!), even though it took me 19 years to finally follow God’s plan for me to become a teacher, I learned so much about myself through each change in life. I became stronger in my faith, I became more confident in my ability to teach, and because of all the twists and turns God gave me patience to work with students of such varying needs that I am sometimes overwhelmed just thinking about His gifts. Isn’t God amazing? “Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” John 13:7 I truly did not understand all the events I went through in life at the time, but now as a retired teacher I understand God’s plan and every stumble in the road I had to go through to get to this point in life.

So my reflections started a few days ago when I started going through my boxes of teacher memorabilia, and the memories of single moments in time through my 27 year teaching career starting overwhelming me and causing me to give my utmost thanks to God for my life, for all I have been through, for all I have learned and experienced. There were no mistakes in His plan!

I am retired now, but the memories and experiences of being a teacher for 27 years will never fade. There is so much that I miss, there are so many mornings that I think to myself I should still be teaching, I should still be in the classroom. There are mornings that I wake up and have to take a second or two to remind myself that there are no students waiting on me to come to the classroom, and that breaks my heart just a little. There are days when I wonder if I did all I could as a teacher to make a difference, to create relationships with my students, to encourage my students to always do their best, and just to be there for them. I love being retired with my husband, but I truly miss teaching!

I miss the planning for my students, knowing their needs, and the curriculum and what I need to teach and how I need to teach the material.

I miss the smiles I would see every morning when students would walk through my door. Believe me some of those smiles made me feel like a movie star, like I was the best thing they had seen in a long time. Those smiles would make my heart sing all day long.

I miss the hugs! Oh, the hugs from students that are excited to be at school, that are excited to be in your classroom, those are the best hugs in the world. They made me feel so special. I miss the hugs.

I miss the laughter of students, especially 5th grade girls. That laughter is the best in all the world. It took so little on my part to cause that laughter to happen . . . a simple change in voice, a soapbox session, a mistake on my part, and my stories always caused laughter in the classroom. Maybe the stories were the best and caused the most laughter because they were real, and I was being real when I told the stories – stories of my children, my life, my mistakes, and the lessons I have learned through life. Whatever it was that caused their faces to light up and the laughter to erupt, it was well worth the life experience and the willingness to share the story so my students could see I was telling my story.

I miss the conversations. Oh, the conversations to take place in a 5th grade class with 30 students or with 16 girls! Fifth graders are on the edge of becoming teenagers and they are so eager to share their thoughts and give their opinions. I remember being in fifth grade. I had so many opinions and thoughts. I wanted someone to listen. I loved listening and being included in their conversations.

          One example: Conversation from today while my students were writing . . . One of my girls raised her hand and when I called on her, she responded, “Mrs. Murrell, I am worried about you.”

Me, “Why are you worried about me?”

Student, “Well, I am worried about you when you retire. You have to admit Mrs. Murrell it is your students who keep you on your toes, who tell you when you are dressed cool like today, or who keep you from going crazy, because we keep you busy. Who will do all that for you when you retire?”

Me, “I am sure my husband and my family will keep me busy. I will be fine. You don’t have to worry about me.”

Student, “But Mrs. Murrell, I am afraid you are going to get old and frumpy like my grandmother. I mean, she is 64.”

(Me thinking to myself, yes, that is really old.)

I just smiled and thanked her for her concern.

          Another example: It never ceases to amaze me the thoughts and words that come from 5th grade students. In a discussion today about being able to go back in time, one of my girls said she would like to go back in time to see and talk to some of the great people from our past. People like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, and others. But then she said, “But Mrs. Murrell, I just want to ask them questions. I don’t want them to ask me questions about life today.” I asked her why. She responded, “Because I think they would be sad at the mess we have made in the world.”

Amen! From a 5th grader!

          There are so many conversations that I could copy and paste, and each one would demonstrate why I miss the conversations so much.

I miss the curiosity and the inquisitiveness of students in elementary school. Oh my, it knows no boundaries, and they have no fear of sharing and asking their questions. I miss their openness and their honesty so much!

          One example:  

Student, “So, Mrs. Murrell, I go home and read my Bible every night.”

Me, “Really?!”

Student, “And the Bible says, God don’t like no lying lips!” (Direct quote)

Me, “Really?”

Student, “That’s why I don’t lie to you, Mrs. Murrell, but if I do I go home and ask for forgiveness.”

Me, (trying hard not to choke and bust out laughing)

This is what we do! Teachers have quite a life! Would not trade it for anything else.

          Their honesty and willingness to share knows no limits or boundaries. They just want someone to listen. I miss being that person who is willing to listen.

I miss their excitement to learn something new. I miss their willingness to try something new. I especially miss the looks on their faces when you present them with a situation, they are unfamiliar with, like a pretend campfire when you are getting ready to start a unit in Social Studies on Westward Expansion. I just miss their enthusiasm.

I miss planning with other teachers to present the best, most excited activities for learning for all our students.

I miss the camaraderie between teachers, especially that teacher right next door or across the hall. Those relationships are so special. No one understands that relationship until you have been the teacher next door.

I even miss the professional development and the faculty meetings, not because they offered such great insight, but because we were all there together with the same thoughts and concerns. Just tell us how we can help our students succeed! That truly was the reason we were there. We did not want to hear all the things you thought we were doing wrong, we just wanted to hear some encouragement and some belief that we were doing our best to help our students succeed. We talk all the time about the self-esteem and self-concept of our students, but no one talks about the self-esteem or self-concept of our teachers. What a shame! I do not miss the blame, but I do miss the fact that the teachers came together and supported each other.

I miss the emails, voice mails, and text messages from parents asking me about their child. I miss them because they showed me the parents cared! I miss parents that held me to the boundaries or parameters of an IEP or 504 because I knew they cared.

I miss the letters from American Education Week because I would get the sweetest letters from past students.

I miss teaching lessons that were because my students needed them, not because they were in my lesson plans.

I miss teachers coming to me for advice or suggestions, as much as I miss going to other teachers for advice or suggestions.

But most of all, I miss the ‘aha moments’ for my students. Those are the absolute best. Those moments were why I wanted to go to school every day and teach my students. I longed for those moments in math and science especially when I was teaching all girls. Those moments when the light came on, and they understood the problem, oh my, my heart would just leap! Those were the best moments!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 Oh my heart! I trusted in the Lord and look at what He gave me. Students who placed their trust in me, parents who placed their trust in me! And look at the blessings! Students who remembered me! Parents who appreciated and remembered.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 I love God! I am so thankful for His plan for my life, and His guidance and wisdom in working towards those goals. Yet, I know that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

His purpose was for me to be a teacher. I finally became the teacher He wanted me to become. I received so many more blessings than I could have ever imagined, but He knew the blessings I would receive. Today as I read letters from past students, I became very much aware of His plan once more. I needed to become a teacher to fulfill God’s plan. I needed to go through all the twists and turns in life to appreciate His plan. I just needed to follow His plan from the beginning. Isn’t He amazing! I owe my teaching career, the relationships formed with students and parents, my life to Him! He is amazing!

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