Tomorrow is the last day of school, and with it, Ryan's first year as a teacher comes to a close. There aren't words to express how proud I am of him....how proud I know his mom and dad would be had they lived to see it. Because for Ryan, teaching isn't just a job. It's a lifelong dream, a career, a calling -- something he was born to do. Something he had long given up on.
Because, when you've found a way to provide for your family, and all your time, effort, and energy are spent on keeping that thing afloat, how do you ever find the time and effort and energy to find a way out? Hours roll into days, and days roll into weeks, and weeks into months and years, and suddenly you're 37, and you've spent nearly two decades in survival mode, unhappy in your profession, just trying to pay the bills. Why would anybody take a chance on you?
But they did.
On his application, the question was asked: "Are there any skills/abilities or other information you would like to mention?"
Ryan answered: "While my work history is unusual, I have a lot of experience dealing with high school students as employees. I would love to use my degree to educate them."
There's so much wryness in that response. Or should I say Ryness? Either way, I wouldn't expect anything less from him.
We've learned a lot in Ryan's first year. For instance, did you know that the kids in this generation don't use the word "sir"? They say, "mister." "Mister, can I go to the bathroom?" Just an observation. :-) Ryan says it bothers me way more than it bothers him!!
For the first time in our 17.5 years of marriage, Ryan has been home every night and every weekend, for nine months straight. That is huge for us. It has been amazing in every way. Our quality of home life has improved by leaps and bounds. We don't know what to do with all our time together!
For the first time since he's had a cell phone, Ryan doesn't dread texts or phone calls. The very sound of his text notifications used to make him feel sick to his stomach with impending doom. Did the auditor show up? Did the health inspector show up? Did somebody call in sick? Whatever it was, it was his responsibility to take care of it, no matter the time of day or if it happened to be his scheduled day off. So the sound of a text equaled negativity.
In fact, it took him about a month into the school year before he didn't feel stressed when another teacher called in sick. They didn't have many subs at first, so teachers were asked to cover absent teachers' classes during their planning periods. Ryan's managerial experience sent him into responsibility mode, and he'd be trying to figure out how to shift things around to fill the gaps when he finally realized his job was to teach. The Administration's job was to coordinate the coverage. A load was lifted. He could certainly step in and help where he could, but it ultimately wasn't his responsibility.
The most incredible thing I've witnessed this year is Ryan's revived love for reading and discussing philosophy. When I fell in love with him, we were "deep-thinking" college students who loved to let our random thoughts work their way into a semblance of meaning. Our first date was spent discussing a book, and having been friends for quite awhile, I had already fallen hard for the unique way his mind worked. But in the face of jobs, bills, and a child to raise, the 18-year-old version of ourselves faded. It was still there, but it was buried by our 20s and then our 30s, by life itself. And watching the Ryan I first loved come back to life has been my greatest privilege as his wife. He read more than he has in years. He studied methods and came up with projects and assignments and lessons. He led his students into Socratic discussions about Greek and Roman literature, about pride, about belief, and about the meaning of our existence. He challenged his students to read and to think.
"My worst day teaching is 10 times better than my best day in restaurant management," he said.
I don't think he expected to love his students as much as he does. He genuinely cares for their well-being, is concerned for their future, and will miss them as they move on to 10th grade, other schools, etc. And I'm pretty sure they love him back. :-)
It is pretty bright....and shiny! And he's so handsome. :-)
This is a tribute to his parents that Ryley and I made for him at the beginning of the year. His mom taught math and was the Indiana State Teacher of the Year in the '70s. His dad taught science for years and made the newspaper when he opened a planetarium in the high school. He has a great legacy!
When Ryley was in kindergarten, she was tickled pink that her school uniform was the same as her daddy's work uniform for Panera. "He makes bread for all the peoples," she used to say. Little did she know that someday she would become a "TK," when her daddy was given the opportunity of a lifetime -- to live his dream.
Congratulations, Ryan, on an incredible first year. I am so happy for all that you have accomplished and learned and become. I am thankful to God for opening up the opportunity for you, and I am thankful to the administration for taking a chance on your "unusual work history"! And I am so, so glad those lucky highschoolers got the opportunity to be educated, taught, challenged, led, and impacted by you.
******Addendum as of 5/29/16******
I wrote this post about Ryan in all gratefulness for God's goodness in opening up the perfect opportunity to become a teacher. But even as I wrote it, it turns out I didn't know the full story. We've learned some new information in recent days, and I want to make sure I share this extra piece as the full story of what God has done!
Two days ago, Ryan ran into the woman who replaced him as general manager of his restaurant when he resigned. He hadn't talked to her in eight or nine months. As it turns out, she no longer works for the company. And as he pressed further, he learned that she quit in February when things became too stressful and intense after their boss was fired, and their boss's boss was fired. We're not sure what went down exactly (both of them seemed like upstanding people, and Ryan's direct boss at that company was specifically very fair and integrous). But there was suddenly a ton of upheaval and change and stress, and as a result, many of the managers at other locations either quit or were fired.
While we have no reason to believe Ryan would have been fired had he stayed, we also know that those situations are extremely stressful, and he would certainly be working even longer hours and desperately trying to find a way out, if he even still had a job at all.
As Ryan recounted his conversation to me that evening, I started feeling that familiar heaviness I used to feel when he would come home from work weighed down with unhappiness, fear, frustration, you name it.
"Wow, even as you're telling me this, I am having flashbacks to what it was like....to that heaviness..."
"Yes!" he answered. "I started getting stressed out just talking to her about the whole situation!"
We are completely awed. Not only did God piece together a series of situations and miracles to open up a place for Ryan in education, and not only have we been enjoying our new quality of life and been living with the benefits of him feeling like he's actually making a difference in his career, but unbeknownst to us, God also reached down and lifted him out of a situation of impending doom. He saved him from it. He knew something bad was coming, and we didn't, so he divinely stepped in and just removed Ryan from the situation, with five months to spare.
Here we've been praising God for this amazing first year as a teacher, and we didn't even know the full story. But God did! Now we're praising Him for delivering Ryan from that former position too.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." -- Romans 8:28
"You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you." -- from Psalm 91
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