I'm struggling a little bit to reconcile not teaching in a K-8 setting this year. That has been such a large part of my identity for the past 14 years--probably too much of my identity, actually (see my last blog post for more about that.)
I dropped my kids off at school yesterday for the first day of school for the new year. It was really, really strange to walk through the hallways and see the place as "just a parent" now. Actually, the weirdest part was having so many of my former students waving with a "Hi Mr. Mulder!" or giving me high-fives in the hall; I even got a few hugs.
I was very involved in the life of school for years. In a lot of ways, I thought of myself as a "linchpin" member of the team--involved in many things, providing leadership in many ways, relating well with the kids, the facutly, the staff, the administration. Especially in my most recent role as Technology Coordinator, I felt like a critical piece, keeping everything moving down the rails.
But now I'm not there. At least, not in the same sort of role.
And you know what? The wheels didn't fall off. The train is moving down the track and picking up speed, and I'm not on it--not the engineer, not the conductor, not even a passenger, really.
I'm not a linchpin. At least, not anymore, if I ever was.
Causes me to pause, and reflect on just how important a role I played there. This comes out of a place of selfishness and self-centeredness, probably. Do I have an over-inflated sense of self-importance? (Very likely.) They say, "everyone is replaceable," and while I know in my head that is true, my heart sometimes begs to differ. My sinful human nature picks at me and makes me think I'm somehow irreplaceable.
But I'm thankful to see that things are working well without me there. My kids reported that the first day was a really good day. Many of my former colleagues' Facebook posts last night were celebrating a wonderful first day.
Actually, I'm thankful that it doesn't all depend on me. God has provided great teachers and staff members at the school. I was blessed to be a part of the team for eleven years, and believe I used my gifts and talents in useful service. I contributed to the Kingdom in large ways and small ways throughout my time there, both with individual students and teachers, with whole classes and the whole staff, and even influencing decision-making for the entire school. Maybe I was a linchpin team member while I was there, but God has blessed the school with new staff members to replace those of us who left this year, and He's raising up new leaders even now to continue to shape the direction the school will go in the future.
Today, I dropped my kids off again.
"Bye, Dad!" They jumped out of the van, and ran to meet their friends. They didn't look back.
But I did.
I looked back as I drove away. And I said a prayer of thanks for the school, for the place it has been and the place it is and will be.
Today at school, Christ's name is being proclaimed. Teachers are putting tremendous amounts of effort into excellent teaching, building community, and developing the Kingdom. Kids are learning--and not just math and science and music and the like; they are learning to be disciples!
Is school different without me there this year? Probably. But it's probably not different in any way that really matters, thanks be to God!