On May 13th, 2016 I stood in a choir room beneath the stage at Trietsch Memorial United Methodist Church with a group of over forty students who were about to graduate from our Flower Mound campus. We read through Psalm 121 together, just as we had done every day during their Senior Theology II course that year. Then we prayed together, and I shared with them a traditional Irish blessing. (I’m not Irish, but the blessing is beautiful.)
Then I started to try to tell them how much they meant to me, and how much they had changed me for the better over the years, and how much my family and I will miss them. But as I started to speak, my voice cracked. So I tried again, reminding myself that I am not a crier. This time my voice didn’t crack, but instead it went high-pitched and stayed there until I stopped talking.
And then the tears came.
Humor is a great coping mechanism, I reminded myself. So I told them You did this to me! and we all laughed. And then we hugged and walked upstairs to begin the Commencement Ceremony.
I began teaching at Coram Deo in the Fall of 2010, and these were the first set of students that I had in class. As my teaching role shifted from year to year, I found myself teaching this same group in the 7th, 8th, 10th, and 12th grade. Many of them took one or more of our Friday Theology classes as well, which means that there is a small group of that class that I taught every single year from 7th-12th grade.
As every parent knows, something special happens when you spend significant time with students as they grow during these formative years. And whatever it is that happens, it is a two way street. It can be a frustrating, annoying, and confusing time, full of hurt feelings and unmet expectations. But it is also full of moments of joy, progress, and mutual encouragement. It is exactly the type of experience that shapes both parties for the better.
I share all of this for two reasons.
First, I share this because I am not alone in having these experiences. Most of our teachers who have been around for at least a few years could tell you countless stories like mine.
I also share this because I think it represents one of the wonderful things about our school that doesn’t fit neatly on a brochure. It is the type of thing that you can only really experience once you are here. It isn’t something that can be quantified or measured on a survey. But it happens every single day in a thousand tiny ways. And, as I have found, it is the type of thing that continues to happen even once our students and families leave the school.
The joy that I experience each year with the Seniors in the moments before they graduate only increases as our alumni head off to college, or take their first job, or start a family. The years spent with them at Coram Deo have a sort of ripple-effect as they continue to learn, grow, fail, and succeed. Reciting the opening lines of Psalm 121 with a student in the classroom is special. Texting those same words to them years later when I hear that they have experienced a loss, and having them respond instantly with the next line of the Psalm is that next step beyond special that causes me to thank God for placing me in a community like Coram Deo.
This community is not without its flaws. But year after year Coram Deo has proved to be a place that God uses to foster relationships between students, siblings, teachers, and families. I consider myself and my family profoundly blessed to be a part of this school.