Sunday, May 19, 2013

Living and Teaching in a Small Town

Today I headed to a former student’s home for her graduation party. I got the chance – briefly – to see her brother, who I also taught. I had these two as fourth graders, they were ten. Now they are finishing high school and their first year at college. Teaching offers a unique perspective of time, you know how precious it is, how fast it goes, because kids grow up right before your eyes.

As I was driving home I thought of how grateful I am to live where I do. Illinois has its share of problems – two former governors are currently in jail, but I love my town. It’s small, just under 6,000 people. People come to visit and call it Mayberry, and maybe it is like stepping back in time, but I’m good with that.

We do have our share of problems – in a small town everyone tends to know what’s going on with everyone else. When you make mistakes, people remember – speaking as someone who has made many. And as a kid, I couldn’t wait to get out of here.

I went to college in a large town nearby. After graduation Chris and I moved to the Chicago area – just about as opposite as you can get from my tiny town. There are parts of living in a large urban area that I love, and I’m so glad I tried it out, because I learned where I belong.

I love teaching in my small town.
Students of my classmates from school,
Siblings in the same family,
My own relatives.

I love knowing everyone.
Running to the grocery store,
Knowing you will run into someone you know,
A five minute trip will take an hour.

I love going to the post office.
Talking to the folks behind the counter,
Asking how their children are,
Marveling at how fast they’ve grown.

I love summers spent at the pool.
Trying to read books poolside,
Constantly being dripped on by students,
Young and old,
Who come up to sit on my chair and talk to me.

I love the families,
That I become part of,
For one year,
And then for a lifetime.
Watching students grow before my eyes.

I love answering my door bell in summer.
Students standing on my front porch,
Books in hand, needed to return,
Or to talk about what they just read,
Or their trip to 4H Camp,
Or how their heart has been broken.

Living in a small town is for me.
My students leave me,
But not really.
We are all part of this community.
And for this, I am grateful.