"Petals of Thanks"
(By: Kristin Spengler Zerbe)

10-1-03 Church Within SOW Seeds Service - Story #260

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Greetings my Dearest Sisters and Brothers, and welcome again to Church Within's Story of the Week ["SOW Seeds”].

This week's SOW Seeds Story, contributed by: Patije

Story of the Week
Petals of Thanks
(By: Kristin Spengler Zerbe)

One of the most difficult realities about the teaching profession is that we seldom know if we have made a difference. When I become frustrated with my job, my students or myself, I often think back to one particular day of my teaching career.

My first year of teaching was almost over. I taught junior English at Milford High School on a one-year temporary contract, and I worried that I would not be able to find a job the following year. However, I had a bright and conscientious group of students that year, and I was grateful for that. I made it clear to them that they were special to me and that I would never forget them, my very first students. However, as the end of the school year drew to a close, my students continually asked if the regular teacher would be returning. I answered professionally that, of course, she would be back next year as planned. I tried to respond with little emotion, regardless of their reaction. Deep down, though, I was more bothered by leaving than I admitted.

Inevitably, the day came to give my last final exam. The exam was to begin at the start of school and last the whole morning. I passed the office before the bell rang and saw a couple of the students from my class, and I thought how difficult saying good-bye would be. Theirs was a group with whom I could joke, have fun, share ideas and be serious, all within one class period. Teaching them was a pleasure, and we all had learned a lot that year. But, as successful students do, they were moving on to twelfth grade, and I doubted they would remember much about me after a few more years of their academic careers and busy lives.

Just about this time I was on hall duty outside my classroom, and I noticed the crowds thinning out and classroom doors shutting. I looked in my room to find only two students in attendance. When I commented that it was awfully strange that their classmates were so late, they agreed and then quickly asked to get a drink from the water fountain. Naturally, I allowed them to go since I needed to wait for the majority of my class to arrive. I looked at my watch and was upset when I noticed the time. A teacher across the hall asked, "Aren't your students there yet?" When I relayed the situation, he shrugged his shoulders and went back into his own classroom. The hallway was awfully quiet, and I was eager to give that final exam. I walked down the hall several times - to no avail - to see if anyone was coming. My stomach was turning when I thought about what could have happened. 'Was there an assembly I had forgotten about? Were they watching a fight somewhere that none of the teachers could hear? Did I have the right exam time?'

Before I could run back in my classroom to check my schedule, I heard footsteps coming down the hall. I was annoyed that after such a great year with these kids, I would - on their last day with me - have to give them a lecture about responsibility. I sighed and then observed how peaceful the steps were coming toward me. There was no commonly heard loud conversation or resounding laughter. As they rounded the corner and came into sight, the kids were in single file, "shushing" each other with their hands behind their backs. They looked at me with purpose, and then, as they turned to enter my classroom, the first student handed me a single rose. And then the next student did the same. And then the next, and the next, until each student walked into my classroom for the last time.

Attached to each long-stemmed rose was a personal message and the signature of that student. Messages said things like: "Thank you for teaching me so much this year," "I'll miss you," and "You're the greatest." The roses were all different colors: red, yellow, pink, and white hues. I was having trouble holding so many individual flowers, but the last student silently offered me a large basket and a card signed, "With love from your fifth-period class," and then she went into the room.

I stood alone outside my classroom and tried to wipe the tears from my face. I had to express to them how touched I was by this wonderful gesture, but I did not want to cry in front of my students. It took me several minutes to compose myself. Nevertheless, I took a deep breath, walked in my room and put the basket of roses on my desk without looking at any of them. I knew they were waiting for my reaction, but I also knew that if I had tried to say anything, I would not be able to hide my emotions.

At last, out of the silence came a meek voice, "Are you mad at us, Miss Spengler?" With that, I looked up at my class and surrendered to the tears streaming down my flushed cheeks. My students bounded from their desks and surrounded me with hugs and praise as I tried to voice my thanks through sobs.

When I catch myself thinking that teaching is a thankless profession, I recall those students and their roses. Though they gave their gratitude in silence, that "thank you" was the loudest and best I have ever received.

The Prayer
Dear God,        
        Thank You for being my Favorite Teacher!

You ALL are Within the Infinitely Loving Embrace of our Universal Parent,

The Creator's Eternal Love to all of You,
Pastor Daniel

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