I’ve been staring at this computer screen for an hour and I still can’t come up with the best way to open this blog post. So I guess it will just have to start there..with DANGIT. Because it’s happening. The day that we all knew would come at some point… the day that I’ve dreaded for the last seven years… the day that I have to say:
I’m leaving Springtown.
I feel like I’m graduating high school all over again. I’m leaving behind the place that has nurtured me, shaped me into the person I am, strengthened my talents, sharpened my skills, and walked with me through seven of the best years of my life. And when I say that about the place of Springtown, I really mean the people. The administrators, the staff, the parents, the volunteers, the students… Oh my gosh. My students.
*insert another long pause as I stare through blurry eyes and try to figure out what to say next*
Springtown I.S.D. renewed my contract another year. Nobody’s kicking me out. I have an awesome job working with some of the most creative and hard-working students in Springtown. I love my classroom. I’ve been allowed to decorate and do crazy things in here for years now. My boss is the BEST (I’m a Mark Wilson fan for life). I have some solid friendships among my co-workers. I’ve been awarded Teacher of the Year twice in my seven years there. I’ve had the support of my administration and have always been given creative freedom to personally grow myself and my students. My district works with me when I need off for author appearances and they’ve never told me NO when it came to an opportunity. All in all, I have it GOOD here in Springtown. I’ve put the time in and I’ve established good rapport in my job.
So why the heck am I leaving?
Because in the last four years, my teaching career and my writing career have grown in such a way that they are now in a stand-off with one another. Being an author takes me away from my students at times. Being a full-time teacher limits other opportunities I could have had as an author. Neither can flourish much more with the limited amount of time I have in a 24-hour period. I need more time to be good at everything I want to do. And God refuses to give me extra hours in a day. Instead He’s decided to move me out of my comfort zone and push me off a ledge to try out some newly constructed wings.
People always comment that they don’t know “how I do it” all the time with teaching, writing, ministering, traveling, and touring. Well, I don’t know either and lately I’ve found myself answering with, “Well, I’m not sure I’m doing IT well anymore…” I’ve learned to compartmentalize everything. When I’m with my students, I’m WITH my students. I’m not working on author stuff or writing. When I’m at home, I don’t grade papers. I try to be a good wife and spend that time with my husband or catch up on sleep. When I’m at church, I’m focusing on those teenagers, helping lead worship and teach bible study. When I’m commuting two hours a day, I’m listening to my Bible audiobooks and giving myself focused time with God. When I’m speaking at an author event or doing a book signing, I’m dedicated to meeting people and engaging them exactly where they are. And when I’m writing… well…
I’m NOT writing. That’s the problem. Not much new writing has taken place in the last year and a half of my life. And guess what? You can’t be an author – you can’t be a WRITER – if you don’t WRITE.
After praying for a couple of years about this, God has finally provided some answers. It started in the fall with this little word called OBEDIENCE. Yeah, most people don’t like that. But God was speaking and I was listening and obeying. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my adult life, it’s how to identify God’s voice in my life. And when He tells me to do something, I jump. Get your finances under MY control, Krissi. Cut out the unnecessary stuff. Now, I want you to give up your cute little house and find something cheaper. Don’t worry, I’ve got the home picked out for you. Just wait and follow when the opportunity comes. It’ll be hard, but if you want your life to change, you’re gonna have to make some sacrifices. Yes, Krissi, I know it’s only 600 square feet of home, but it will be your blessing if you just do what I say. Okay, now hang in there. You’re going to change publishers, release three books in six months, move to a new home, and now you’re going to leave the job you love…
Wait… what?! I can’t leave Springtown!! Can’t I just find a part-time position there? This is TOO much change, God. I’m only made of so much… remember that whole jar-of-clay metaphor you gave us in 2 Corinthians? Yeah, you nailed it. I’m nothing but clay and I will literally BREAK if you apply anymore pressure. Please don’t take away my support system…my comfort zone…my students.
But, no. I’m not breaking yet and I’m not looking back. Because, guess what? When you’re doing the right thing, there’s this strength and peace that comes with it. It’s the same feeling you get when you know you obeyed your parents and it pleased them and they looked at you with pride and joy in their eyes. There’s no greater feeling than living under the umbrella of a parent’s blessing. Multiply that feeling by 100 when your parent is GOD.
Even though I’d love to just become a full-time writer, that job is not lucrative enough yet for me to do so. I make no personal profit off my books, and whatever I do bring in goes back into a business account to cover all the other expenses – travel, t-shirts, marketing, publicity, etc – that are required to keep my author career going. Not only does the writing provide nothing financially, but I’m just not ready to give up teaching. I love middle school too much and I love the audience I write for too much to just quit. I’ve worked for seven years honing these skills and I’m GOOD at teaching. But I can no longer stay full-time if I’m going to make writing and touring a permanent part of my lifestyle.
That’s why I am honored to announce that I’ll be joining a fabulously creative group of people in starting a new school! Sam and I are one of the founding families for U.M.E. Preparatory Academy – a charter school opening near DBU next year. It is a university-model public school, but operates a lot like a private school. While all of the details of my involvement with U.M.E. are still being finalized, I can say that I will still be working in a middle school capacity and be somewhat like a professor who instructs only 2-3 days a week. I am incredibly excited about the fact that God provided not only a part-time teaching job for me, but at a brand-spankin’ new school! If you know me, you know I love getting in from the ground up on things and building them into something special and unique. The fact that I get to help establish a strong foundation for a new school is extremely appealing and invigorating to me. There will be a new learning curve for me and a lot of new challenges, but I know U.M.E. Prep is an answer to so many prayers I’ve prayed over the last year. I hope that I can be an equal blessing to them!
And when I’m not teaching two days a week, I’m going to WRITE. I’ve got other writing projects I want to work on – a couple of which I started, but never found the time to develop. I want to give myself over to the creativity. I watch my students write so freely the stories that pop into their heads – and I’m jealous sometimes. I long to breathe again through the pages of a story only I can tell…
And I’m not doing this just for the writing… I need to be a good WIFE. God gave me this man who takes such good care of me and who supports every creative and dramatic bone in my body. He is so my perfect match in every way. And I need to start taking care of him too. I want to be in my home long enough to clean it. I want to be able to cook healthy meals for us, to take our puppies for walks, to enjoy the simpler things about our lives, lest these years pass us by in a blur of crazy activities. The future is exciting and scary and freeing all at the same time!
But the changes are bittersweet. And here I am with the dilemma of how to say goodbye to Springtown.
I’m currently gazing around my room as I write this. I don’t see a classroom with coffee shop-themed banners and movie posters on the walls and agendas on the board and papers to pass out. No, I look around this room and I see the faces of my students, past and present. Even when they’re not physically here. I see their light-bulb moments when something suddenly clicks. I see the laughter on their faces when we share a joke that will electrify the atmosphere in here and bring us one step closer to each other. I see the tears in their eyes – sometimes of pain and frustration, sometimes of shame and repentance. I see their yawns on days when they can barely keep going. I see their confident smiles when they’re victorious over new concepts. I see the anticipation on their faces when they come in for a new lesson with me, wondering just what I’ve got up my sleeve. I see them entering a magical tollbooth and scaling the Mountains of Ignorance and sipping drinks at Javahouse Friday and viewing microscopic blood infected with ebola in a Level 4 Biosafety Lab and questioning the motives of the people in Tangerine, Florida and launching paper airplanes and making trips to Mount Olympus and conquering their first thesis essays… All those adventures and more contained within one tiny classroom at the front of the 100 Hall.
But the four walls of a classroom are just that… just witnesses to the lives that merge together there for 50 minutes of their day. But those 50 minutes of each day have the power to shape our lives. I know they’ve shaped mine. I will always look back fondly on my time in Springtown. I know it sounds crazy, but I am confident I will continue to remain in touch with the students I had there… I’m definitely having a Whitnee/Krissi crossover moment when Whit faces saying goodbye to her campers in Watercrossing.
…my heart hurt knowing that this time where my life intersected with theirs was coming to an end. Living and growing together for this long had formed bonds stronger than normal relationships…
I don’t know how to say goodbye to the 7 years of 9 different graduating classes of students who have gone through my classroom. I don’t know how to say goodbye to my seventh graders who I only had for one year. Yes, they are crazy. Yes, they demand ALL of my attention and energy three periods a day. But they have also stolen my heart. I’ve always said and it’s still true… I like kids with spunk. And there was no shortage of that with this year’s seventh graders. They will always be the LAST class I had in Springtown. I don’t know how to say goodbye to what might have been…to those students I’ve been waiting on to move up into the middle school, the younger siblings of former students… the ones I’ll never have in Madame Dallas’s Cafe and Bookshop.
But I hope someday when they are faced with pursuing a dream and the sacrifices it might take, they’ll remember their old teacher… ol’ what’s-her-name with the tissue paper lights that broke fire code… yeah, her. I hope they remember that if I can find the strength to pursue a dream, to take a risk, to leap with faith at new opportunities, then they can do it too. And I hope they remember they’ll always have a fan in me. I’ll cheer them on, because I’ll always remember the ways they cheered me on. (And please don’t quit on me, yall. I will need your support and love even more as I move on in this phase of my life. It’s scary out there.)
I don’t know what awaits me outside the borders of Springtown. But I know I can’t find out if I don’t go.
I also know that I’ll never find time to write that series of books I already started about a magical classroom with a magical teacher and a quirky group of teens in a small Texas town called Summertown. Yeah. You think I’m kidding. *wink*
Always in my heart, Springtown. I love you – all of you. I’m proud to have been a Porcupine for seven years and there will always be quills underneath whatever I wear. But as I say every year to my 8th graders when they leave me for high school…
“Let’s not say goodbye. Let’s just say ‘see you later’ …and then make that a reality.”