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My Turn, Larry Efird: Looking for hope in a new school year

By Larry Efird

I saw a meme recently that had a teacher standing alone on a beach looking at a tidal wave that was ready to wash her away. It had the caption, “This is what the new school year looks like.” I don’t know any teacher or principal who hasn’t shared that terrifying feeling in the past few weeks.

It made me wonder where a teacher might find hope in a tangible way as this most ominous of school years is about to hit — in whatever form it takes, whether that is a virtual tidal wave or a virtual attempt to keep things as normal as possible for our kids. As teachers, that’s always expected of us, like parents, to assure the welfare of those under our charge despite the hopelessness and conflicting emotions we might feel regarding our own situations, along with the feeling that we have to look out for ourselves in the process. 

So, where does a teacher find hope at this point (when quitting is not an option)? We know it’s not going to be in  financial gain  or in common sense political decisions made on our behalf without party bias or allegiance. We still haven’t recovered from the tidal waves of the past decade that have hit public education in our state. But, thankfully, hope can be found in other places if we take the time to see it, though it’s much like “entertaining an angel unaware.” And what teacher couldn’t use an angelic visit at this point? 

I tried to think of some random things that have given me a sense of hope in the past few months. To no one’s surprise, watching the news didn’t make the list. And since physical hugs are few and far between these days, I’ve become more aware of the many shapes and forms hope can take. 

Hope can be found in the innocent eyes of a child.

It is often found in a garden of flowers or in a running mountain stream.

Hope can be seen in “the rosy fingers of dawn” over an ocean as Homer so eloquently articulated in the “Odyssey”.  

It’s the feeling of wearing new tennis shoes for the very first time-or getting a haircut after ten weeks. 

It can surprise you when fear has a stranglehold on your  thoughts of the future. 

Hope protects you from despair or from letting your mind run wild into a jungle of tangled emotions.

Hope is not a thing that can be conjured up at will; it waits for the perfect moment to get your attention.

Hope is beginning a new book that you know you’ll enjoy.

Hope is seeing a flock of geese who know where they’re going.

Hope can come in an unexpected visit with a friend.

Hope is knowing someone understands your rambling thoughts and continues to believe in you despite your own doubts.

Hope is also watching those you love get angry on your behalf when they feel you’ve been taken advantage of.

It is the reminder  that “grace will lead you home.”

It’s the feeling of an unhindered breeze on a summer day.

Hope can take the form of a  rock barn that has stood for more than 100 years. 

Hope is a gift that leads to faith .

It keeps you going when your fate is determined by those who don’t do your job each day.

It helps you focus on what good things are possible and not what bad things might happen.

Hope is found in the support you have from your fellow staff and teachers.

I don’t want to miss out on spotting any form that hope might take as I begin to navigate another school year. More than ever, teachers need each other, and many are facing the year alone in front of a computer. Though that’s the safest place to be, their heart is in the classroom with their students. And their hopes are that once the pandemic is over, they can all be reunited. 

Here’s hoping for a great 2020-21 school year. But if that hope doesn’t come in the shape of something we always thought of as “normal,” I hope we can feel  it  around us just the same. And if an angel of hope should pay you a visit, you’ll become that angel of hope for someone else. 

Larry Efird teaches at A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis.

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