I used to teach with Sonja Tiedman in Forest City. Sonja recently retired, but I remember her as such a vivacious teacher, always showing such love and care to her students. She also had a great sense of humor and found joy so easily. One winter morning she listened as one of her students described the bad roads on the way to school in the bus. Sonja responded, “I know! On my way to work today, my roads were not very good either!” The first grader looked at her quizzically and then asked, “Where do you work?” Sonja chuckled inside and then said, “I work here. I work at your school.”
Of course the connection had not been made in the young mind of that first grader that their teacher, this icon of learning in their lives, was here because this was her “job,” her “work.” Surely school should be the place where teachers would want to spend the greater part of their lives just to impart knowledge in the students who saw them as larger than life! Could it be possible to these young thinkers that teachers teach not for work but as a way of living and loving life?
The author, James Michener, wisely said, “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.”
I hope those who enter our school instantly feel that the staff doesn’t make a distinction between their work and play…that they are doing both. Michelangelo, the legendary sculptor said, “When my nostrils are caked with marble dust, that is when I breathe the best.” Perhaps that is the time when we know we are living our calling, when we breathe the essence of loving what we do.
Never will I forget the first time I heard my husband’s Gospel quartet sing “Here I Am Lord.” I just cried as the words rang out, Here I am Lord, it is I Lord, I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, where you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.
That is calling. It is for others that we are called. Mrs. Tiedman taught for the students’ sake, Michelangelo’s masterpieces for the people’s sake… for whose sake are you called? Perhaps by focusing on others, we come closer to what Michener was describing, one who masters the art of living. How have you found that you can breathe best?