Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Final Walk

Today I take my last laps through the halls of my school. 
I have walked hundreds of miles down these short halls. 
Some steps feverishly fast, others slower, hand-in-hand, keeping the pace of little legs.

As I do, I think about one of my first visits to this school, a second home with teachers and students who I will always remember as family. I have spent more time within these walls than I have the walls of my own home. We are a family. Some teachers have taken on the role of the nurturing grandmothers, others are the crazy aunts, some are the wise uncles who speak softly, but their few words speak volumes, and some are the cool older cousins who have it all together that us younger folks to aspire to be just like.

On that early Saturday morning visit, I participated in a prayer walk with some church and community members. But the one that walked with me was Mr. Linton, one of my best friend's grandfathers. We stopped at each door, called each teacher by named, and prayed for him or her and each of the students he or she would encounter that year. We stopped at the lunchroom and the library and the counselor’s office. When we got to mine, Room 48, I collapsed at the door, warm tears falling from my eyes onto the newly laid yellow and gray carpet. The task of even walking in seemed too great. That year, I had been asked to teach inclusion. Mr. Linton crouched beside me, and with my class roll in hand, we called each of my twenty-four students by name. With strength from above, I stood up, opened the heavy door, crossed the threshold, and walked to the desks I had carefully organized in cooperative learning groups. We touched each desk, each chair, each wall, each table, each computer, the bookshelf, and even pencil sharpener. All places that would be touched by small hands throughout the year.

 Hands searching - for knowledge, for instruction, for acceptance, for love.

Each of my students held a special place in my heart. I remember sitting with a friend one night at dinner about midway through the year, with a particular dark skinned wheelchair-bound sweetheart on my mind. The one that every morning, when the intercom sounded, would gracefully leap from his chair and do his best to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t think there was a morning that I said the pledge without my voice quivering, as I admired his strength and determination and respect.  I told her, “I have fallen for these children. I think God is preparing my heart for something...” And the words I didn’t say, but felt God saying to me as a single salty tear fell on my cheek, “I think God is preparing me for a child with special needs.”
And while that thought would resurface occasionally, it was crowded with other thoughts. Although, from  that year, that wonderful experience teaching students with different abilities, children with special needs have had an extra special place in my heart. That thought never left.

The year finished.
The  year finished well.
My first year at Cook in the books. Keys had been relinquished, report cards distributed, final teary goodbyes said. I walked through the same halls I did that day with Mr. Linton and my Jesus, and I prayed again. For those same students. That during the summer, they would have food to eat, that someone would take them swimming, that they could enjoy a cold popsicle on a sweaty summer day, that they could attend a neighborhood VBS, that someone would read to them using silly voices, that I had made an eternal difference in their lives.

Today, I pause at various places in the hallways. As I do, I think about the faces of eager kindergarteners with a zest for life and learning, I think about the corner where I stood and greeted students with an eager smile every morning, I think about the fifth graders who came as small children and left towering over me, leaders in their own way ready to make their mark, leave their legacy, I think about the teachers who I call friends. The ones that prayed with me and me with them, sharing loss and hope and love.

To my school family, I love you all. I took a final prayer walk today and prayed over your classrooms, the students who would be coming to you in August. I prayed for your hearts and theirs. I prayed for strength, and renewal, and perseverance, and encouragement, and teaching and learning. And from a teacher to a teacher, I know sometimes we have great plans to teach, but walk away learning so much more than we could have taught. Thank you for making me a better educator, for preparing me to become a mommy to my sweet Baker, for allowing me to work at a job that is my life’s passion, for loving and supporting my family.

As I leave today, I also pray for Baker’s teachers. 
He is mine, and I pray that you will love him like I do. I pray that you will see the spark of determination, which sometimes hints at frustration, but that leads him to be successful in overcoming difficult tasks. I pray that you will make learning fun. I pray that you will have patience with him. He may not learn things as quickly as the other children, but my sweet boy can learn, my sweet boy loves to learn. I pray that you will nurture his love for learning. I pray that you will smile at him, and tell him “Good Morning” every day. I pray that you will challenge him. I pray that he makes a difference in your life, as I know you will make a difference in his. I love you already, because you are you. The job you have chosen, to teach children with special needs, is difficult, that I know. But I also know, it is extraordinary, unique. Every single day, you have the privilege of molding the lives of children. For that, I am grateful. For teaching mine, and molding his, I am forever indebted.

To teachers everywhere-
Be blessed.
 Every single day.
Be blessed and be strengthened and be encouraged.

All my love.


  1. Beautiful post my friend. I knew for as long as I can remember that God was calling me to adopt a child with Down syndrome. Then surprise, surprise I gave birth to one! I knew this was God's way of preparing my heart for Neely. We experienced none of the typical range of emotions as do most parents of babies with special needs. For me it was immediate acceptance and the ability to see God's plan for our lives. What a blessing! Now we ARE adopting a child with Down syndrome! God is so good!

    1. I adore your heart! I would love to meet your growing family soon!

  2. Weeping...weeping at this post. Looking forward to seeing how the Lord continues to use you!

  3. Jennifer, I don't know how any teacher or mother can read this post without shedding tears. You are an amazing mother, teacher, peer, and friend. I have loved your sweet Brian for many years, and I am so grateful that God gave me the opportunity to know and love you and Baker. Y'all will be missed!!

    With prayers and much love!!
    Lisa Rector

  4. Jenn, God is preparing you and your family to do great things! You have already inspired many to challenge themselves to be more, do more, and love more! Can' t wait to see what He has in store for your little family in Tuscaloosa!!!

  5. Hi, your blog has been such a blessing to my life. It makes me cry, smile, and rejoice in your story. We were blessed with our second child, David, 8 weeks ago today. Twelve hours after he was born he was diagnosed with a heart defect and Down syndrome. We were surprised about both, but not disappointed. We spent 5 weeks in Lebonheur children's hospital. David had surgery when he was 9 days old and another surgery will be scheduled. We are a 31 year old couple and I wonder "why" sometimes, but I wouldn't change David. He is "fearfully and wonderfully made," perfect just the way he is. Baker is adorable and makes me look forward to the future.

    Good luck with your move and keep blogging! If your interested you can see David at sunshinesacran.com

    Your Mississippi Neighbor,

    1. Oh Abby, what blessings you have in store! I cannot wait to visit your blog and meet your family! Please email me ANY time. I will respond with my telephone number and would love to visit! Much love, friend!!