Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. – Exodus 18:20
It’s late summer, so everyone I know has been posting photos of their kids and grandkids heading out for the “first day of school”. For Beks and David, it’s 3rd and 4th grade at the elementary school in Miami, going “in-person” for the first time since February of 2020 (they completed the entirety of 2nd and 3rd virtually, via ZOOM!)
Here is the classic David and Beks image. But I have another “first day” photo to share and it’s our global citizen children in Bahrain. That’s right, Andrew and Alicia get to have their very own, “Aw mom, do you have to take another first day of school picture?” moment.
It’s a great story:
But it’s a great story, and if it has to begin anywhere the genesis is 1980 and the crazy summer I spent driving around Atlanta in 110-degree heat trying to secure my first job with a psych BA from Stetson University. Rebekah was a grad student and I just wanted to earn enough to keep us afloat.
Eventually I took a part time position as a discount store cashier, where I kept my mind limber trying to beat my register to the total (including tax) every time I hit “sale” and pulled the handle.
Then one fateful day a teacher’s aid (paraprofessional) job opened up at the elementary school near Columbia Theological Seminary. The position was reserved for “the wife of a divinity student”, and the principal didn’t know what to do when a man showed up for the interview.
Those kids wrestled my heart to the ground:
From the moment I started work the relationships I built with the kids and teachers quickly turned into a calling. I’m not sure if it was sweet Shantae or petulant LaSonya or quirky Anthony or lovable Rudolph who sealed the deal, but between them these challenged children wrestled my heart to the ground. I sensed immediately there were classrooms full of students out there who needed someone like me.
And so, including my time in Atlanta, I spent twenty years in exceptional student education, helping unsettled children find a sure footing and unsettling some of the systems that had consistently let them down.
One of the first things that got me into trouble was keeping three-year-old “Charlie” – an autistic student – after school a couple of times a week, so he could drive home with me and play with our son, Andrew. The socialization was wonderful, and Charlie’s positive progress encouraged me in my commitment to work toward mainstreaming wherever possible. I often wonder if it was then, working as my three-year-old teaching assistant, that Andrew’s first spark of pedagogy was kindled?
Yes, I am proud!
Andrew has always been – as the Brits would say – “brilliant” with kids. He volunteered in the church nursery, he babysat for children who needed extra special care, he worked his way through his first couple of years of college as a nanny, and he got on board with various youth initiatives in Europe while working for the U.S. Government overseas.
Then, having given up his career in Government Service to travel in support of Alicia’s calling as an international educator (Tashkent and then Dresden) Andrew completed both a masters’ degree in Public administration and his teaching certification. The stage was set for our world travelers’ first dual assignment as fully qualified international teachers.
Hence the super-cool graphic at the beginning of this post.
I am all kinds of proud; and I know I join a throng of voices lifted up in prayer (especially all those teachers at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon) that both Andrew and Alicia will experience all the riches of God’s grace and wisdom as they find their feet in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
In love, and because love is the power behind everything good – DEREK