Autumn’s Renewal
Sharon Gaskins


            In a teacher’s world seasons and years are marked by the onset of school. When school started that year, I was at the lowest point in my teaching career. School arrived, and I greeted students with an outward show of joy. The first week I had the dreadful car duty, smelly car exhaust fumes swirled around, and heat roasted my skin like a piece of toast. As I deposited cheerful kids inside cars with their cheerful parents, I reeled within: WHY AM I HERE?


             I reminded myself sarcastically, “Because my administrator put me here.” I thought back to the telephone conversation I had with my administrator on June 28 that put me in this horrible valley.  “You’re going back to the classroom. I’ll try to fight for you to remain as Parent Involvement Coordinator. The decision came from the Board.” I assured my administrator it was no problem and thanked him for calling to inform me before I heard it from the gossipmongers. But on the inside I was devastated. Well, at least I had a month to recover.


            Why? Was I not doing my job well enough?  There were others who could be moved; why not them? I questioned silently. I enjoyed, no cherished, the position of Parent Involvement Coordinator. For two years I worked with parents, getting them actively involved in school. The position required me to work with grades Pre-K through 5th.


            There I was having my own private pity party, no one else invited. At that moment someone crashed my pity party with a tug on my shirt. I looked down at this image: brown eyes, an olive complexion, a head full of soft brown ringlets. Autumn! Sheepishly she smiled and waved her tiny fingers. I squatted down, eye level with her.


            Autumn was the second child in a family with four children, ages five, four, three, and a six-month old baby. Mom was twenty-one years old.  Twenty-one years old with four kids! Mom strived to be a part of the children’s academic life.  However, life’s pressures hindered her from doing too much.  Dad left and returned; he squandered the money and just did not offer much support. 


            Every time I saw Autumn last year, her arms were crossed, and a gloomy look hung over her face like an ominous rain cloud. On occasion she wore oversized, boy clothes, and her hair was disheveled.


             I interacted with her regularly throughout last year, wanting to give her a reason to smile. On field trips, I walked with her; at breakfast, I spoke to her; you name it, I tried it.  Every time I approached her, she shied away. I could not reach her! School ended in that mood.


            When I squatted down and looked into those dancing brown eyes, she threw her little arms around my neck. In place of those sad brown eyes, I saw brown eyes. I had my answer to my question; God placed me back in the classroom so I could encourage the “Autumns” of the world, and they could inspire me.  It took one year for this child to open up. One year of consistent contact.

            Autumn is in second grade now.  Every time we see each other at school, we talk, and Autumn hugs me. That little girl has no idea how she saved me! Now when I am in a valley, I see Autumn pulling me up the mountain.