Today was the first day of the school year, the day when the hallways of our middle school are jam-packed with beaming 12-14 year olds. They are beaming with delight at being reunited with their old friends, beaming with suntanned faces full of braces, and beaming with shiny new school supplies, locker decorations, and fresh-out-of-the-box Nikes.
It’s pretty exciting, really, even for a guy who has socks older than these kids. The buzz is real. You can feel it all day long.
And on day one of school, it feels right and very innocent. Every one is curious all day, going from classroom to classroom, anxious to discover who they will be with all year. Teachers feel the same way about it, checking out the kids, seeing if we might know their parents or siblings. We are all trying to get a feel for what the whole year might become and trying to make the best of the fact that there is a year of hard work ahead. There is great hope that this might just be the best year yet.
I had that exact thought this morning just before school started. This might really be the best year yet, of all my 16 years attending the first day of school as a teacher. Then, just before the apex of this blissful moment, I was interrupted by the piercing bong of the PA system and an excessively loud announcement, which was irrelevant to about 998 of the 1,000 people on campus (myself included). I hate that PA. Buzz killed.
Then, just one minute after immersing myself in a last-minute task, I turned to see a student standing right next to me. I knew. I knew that he needed to talk. I knew that the fifteen minutes I had before class was to start was about to vanish. And it did. With not a minute to spare.
Interruptions. They just keep coming. They interrupt my happy thoughts. They interrupt my paperwork, which really is important and really piles up quickly. They interrupt my precious fifteen minutes of final preparations for class. They get in the way of all my plans. I hate interruptions.
There is a saying around the water cooler: “I could get so much done if it weren’t for all these kids.” I love that quote because it’s a whack on the head. It reminds me that these interruptions are often exactly what I need to be getting done.
Truth be told, I can be very task-oriented, and I can get a lot done in a little time, as long as I can do things my way and people will get out my way – until I need something from them. That’s all true, but it’s not The Truth.
The Truth is that I became a teacher to help kids, not to do paperwork. I became a father to put my imprint on the world by loving and training children, not to get housework and yardwork done. That’s the truth.
These kids aren’t in the way. They are the way. So, if I am going to make any difference at all, then I had better find a way to embrace the human interruptions. I need to see that it’s the paperwork, the yardwork, and the housework that are the interruptions (necessary as they may be) to the good stuff.
Honestly, now that I look back at my work day, one of the very best things that happened was my fifteen-minute conversation with that 13-year-old interruption. He doesn’t have many friends, but I think I might be one of them. I hope so.
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