Thursday, June 2, 2016

Guest Post: The Tale of Three Wishes

The Tale of Three Wishes:
A Baccalaureate Speech 
by Samantha Thompson

Once upon a time, a long time ago, when my cheeks were far chubbier and I was about three feet shorter, my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Gromer, gathered us around to read a story - and stories were my favorite. The class grew quiet as Mrs. Gromer's voice began to bring the words to life -

A woodcutter is granted three wishes. He rushes home to his wife. While eating their meager soup, she wishes she had a sausage. And a sausage appears! Angry at this waste of a wish, the woodcutter wishes the sausage would stick to her nose. And it does! They pull and prod and tug, but no use. They must use their third and final wish to return their life to what it was before.

The class erupted in moans of disapproval. “What a ridiculous story!” I thought, "If I could wish for anything, I'd FIRST wish for more wishes! Then I’d wish to be a ballerina."

Fast forward to the summer after I completed second grade, in the chilly ice cream shop on the corner of our street. My dad told me something I just couldn't believe - we were moving. Moving away from Bloomington, Indiana; away from my school and my neighborhood with the creek where we’d catch crawdads; away from my best friend; away from my home. It was the first time I had ever seen my dad cry, making me cry big crocodile tears. Deep down in my heart I wished; I wished that we didn’t have to move away from everything I loved. It seemed like a fair wish to make, but it didn’t come true, and we moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where I started third grade at Christian Academy, so no, I am not, in fact, a lifer to many people's surprise.

My third grade year quickly flew by, and I joined the Southeast softball league. Full of athleticism, style and poise... coach, Kelly Brown, wisely positioned me in right field where no balls were hit - ever. Oh, but I wanted to play infield! That’s where the action was. I wished and wished that I’d turn into a superstar first baseman. That wish didn’t come true either, but after hours and hours of practice with my dad, Coach Brown gave me a chance, and for that I am grateful.

In fourth grade I got a little lackadaisical in Bible memorization, and consequently failed three Bible tests. You could call it a bad case of 4th grade-itis. 

I had made it my life’s wish to keep up with Katie Amin academically (impossible, I know, but wishes are supposed to be magical) but now I was facing an impending C and possible loss of Graeters ice cream. I wished Mrs. Webb would give me extra credit, or give me a do-over, or something! There was nothing wrong in wishing for an honor roll certificate, after all. But wish as I might, that C stuck, and I had to spend the next seven years learning how to study, pay attention, and actually memorize those Bible verses.

In middle school, my wishes turned into prayers. Although now I know that God isn’t some sort of fairy Godparent, I believed then that if I disguised my wishes as prayers, it would have some extra oomph.  

Dear God, please let me pass this test. Dear God, please let me hit a home run even though I didn’t practice all week. Dear God, please let me get an A on this monster of a paper for Mrs. Rogers. 

Now I just wish that no poor child would be sentenced to the complete awkwardness that is middle school.

On to Freshman year - I wish I had paid attention while reading Animal Farm. Sorry, Mr. Rice.

Sophomore year - I wish art class was all day instead of just one period.

Junior year - I wish I hadn't used passive voice in that paper for Mrs. Case.

Senior year - I really wish I didn’t have to stand up here and give this speech. 

But now, as we come to the end of all we’ve ever known, and the beginning of our future, there are so many things I want to wish. And yet I know that sometimes the real magic happens when our wishes don't come true.
I wish I could hold on to the people that have become so dear to me through the years upon years at CAL. But I know that God will scatter us into the world to meet new people, love all people, and share just some of the lesson we learned here. 

I wish things would never have to change. But I know that God can be the change through us, and that every new experience or person we encounter along the way will bring us closer to Him.

I wish all our dreams would come true. But I know the plans God has for us will be even better than we could ask or imagine, so I pray that we keep our hearts and our passions open to His call, wherever it may lead.

And finally, as we take on this next stage of our lives, I wish for more wishes, and that you all will keep wishing, too.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Firsts and Lasts: Thoughts on winning the teacher lottery

Tomorrow is my daughter's last day of high school. It's a bit mind-jolting because I still remember her first day of kindergarten so vividly. She waited to board that big yellow bus with her best friend, Jillian (they are still the best of friends, despite moving states away from each other in third grade, and are planning a mission trip together this summer), clutching roses for her teacher. Mrs. Gromer, who stood all of 4'6" tall, and who through movement, dance, story and song made learning the best kind of fun.

First day of Kindergarten. I swear this just happened yesterday.
From the beginning, relationships proved centerpiece to learning. In first grade we needed to arrive at school 15 minutes early so Sam could hug no fewer than 11 teachers and staff members, culminating with her beloved teacher, Mrs. White, who didn't bat an eye when Sam stood, jiggled and swayed while doing her seat work.

Phonics gave her fits in 2nd grade, as it became apparent she had difficulty with auditory processing. Mrs. Spurlock encouraged my visual learner to improve her reading by illustrating the sounds. "Don't worry, she loves stories. When it clicks, it'll click big."

It clicked in third grade with books by Lemony Snicket and encouragement from Mrs. Antle. "She's definitely an out of the box thinker," confirmed her teacher.
In fact, let's PAINT the box
and turn it into a Viking ship!
KUNA 2016
She was a little nervous about Mrs.Webb for fourth, as she had heard rumors she was tough. And she was tough, the best sort of tough - the kind of tough that taught her artsy brain how to study and organize, while at the same time nourishing her love of stories and missions. Fifth grade sparked a delight in music with Mrs. Cabal, who sang her class through the curriculum.

Middle school was awash in challenging, encouraging teachers who helped grow her up in wisdom, stature and favor with God and man. Homeroom with Mrs. Crawford, who encouraged her interest in Spanish, Hispanic culture, and breakfast treats. Mrs. MacDonald, who taught my skinny, lanky girl to play the giant double bass like a boss. And what joy when the school changed the scheduling to allow students to take both art AND orchestra. Art with Mrs. Davis EVERY DAY? Please and thank you!

Her high school teachers continued to nurture her creativity, passion, and desire for class t-shirts that were on point (thanks, Mrs. Wiley). Hanging out int the art room until past midnight with Mrs. Cusick, ostensibly finishing her AP portfolio; arguing the nuances of history and government with Mr. Ashcraft; discovering the perverse pleasure of rewriting again and again until the essay sparked with je ne sais quoi with Mrs. Hubbard, Mrs. Case and Mr. Rice. She even survived AP biology and honors calculus thanks to the patient, precise guidance of teachers like Mrs. Sitlinger, Mrs. Riley, Mr. Neyhardt and Mrs. Wilson.
T-shirt logo for the spiritual retreat conference,
the designing of which took considerable priority
over mundane issues like homework.
Mid-way through junior year I needed something from her locker. "I don't use my locker," she said, as if I had suggested something ridiculous. Rather, she camped out in J-Hubb's room like some sort of miniature graduate assistant.

It is these teachers who challenged her, respected her ideas, treated her like a friend, that clarified what she wanted in a college - a place where professors and students dialogue complex issues over dinner. That's what she had come to know, come to love. It is not lost on me that Sam won the teacher lottery, and for that I am forever grateful.

"When you study great will learn much more from their caring and hard work than from their style." - William Glasser

"...The great teacher inspires." - William Arthur Ward