She is still my mentor

When I was a young teacher (entering my eighth year of teaching and my third school), I was enveloped in care and compassion by the high school librarian. She was simply marvelous.  She had an easy laugh, a gentle heart, and an avid eye.  She still does. 

She knew kids.  She got books in the library that would speak to all students long before it was a thing to do.  She just did the right thing.  Over and over and over.  She knew teachers.  She was present without being interfering and she was the first person a new-to-the-building-person could safely reveal ignorance. 

She created home.  When I left that school to go to my children’s district and share their calendar, it is at her dining room table that the key relationships established continue under her abundant and beautiful southern hospitality. 

When she retired, she was at the top of her game.  Again, books on topics that soooo many forces are currently challenge were part of her unabashed offerings.  She stood for something.  

And she revitalized the entire library, getting a new user-friendly computer system that gave greater and easier access to all.  It wasn’t a small undertaking.  It was HUGE.  And the work was completed before she headed out the door in the pre-retirement years that many people put up their feet and coast. 

She was my mentor.  I told my husband that I wanted to exit the teaching field like this lovely, lovely mentor, Cara: I wanted to leave still innovative and engaged and essential. 

The first time I really got to know Cara was at a fellow colleague’s party.  Cara told me about the serendipity adoption of her son, Jonathan.  It was a story of love and grace and luck and destiny, and her face shone.  She was blessed to be a mother. 

Two weeks ago, I was thinking about Cara (as I do so often these days) when I walked the lake’s shoreline and listened to the shards of ice clang.  The music the ice sang was varied and striking.  

And it reminded me of how Cara told me of the wind chimes’ calming effect this summer as she was by her son’s deathbed.  And it reminded me of the weeks after, when she and her husband came home after wrapping up their son’s estate and noticed John’s, her husband, nausea.  Grief?  No.  Pancreatic cancer. 

In November, I attended a funeral for this lovely woman’s son and husband.  Lines from her husband’s obituary shine: John “felt the important thing in life was to love others and be loved and respected by others. His keen intellect, compassion, and sense of humor put others at ease. His kind heart welcomed everyone into his life with love.”  Cara is not only an amazing librarian, but a darn good writer.  I had the intention of asking John to think about mentoring the local robotics team this season.  John was a special human.  Their marriage was admirable.  The loss is staggering. 

And so Cara’s world mentors me again. 

What are my priorities? 

Teaching exacts a cost on a whole family, to be honest.  I have been an educational leader and noteworthy teacher pretty much all of my career.  I note the impact on both my physical and mental health.  And I notice when the weight and worries I carry of my students impedes the attention I can devote to my family.  

Time is short.  

For as long as I am teaching, I will not fail my students.  I will not let them down.  But I am not responsible for much of what I carry and it is time to put that burden down. Time with those I love is too precious.


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