Whitefield Academy Blog
FOMO at IHOP: Ten Years at Whitefield
Last January, I found myself at a notable “international pancake restaurant” with three other teachers and our soon-to-be-graduating senior class at about eleven o’clock at night.
It was an unusual night. Our Winter Retreat had been cut short by incoming weather. If you had upper school students, your carefully planned date nights were abruptly cancelled.
There was discussion among the teachers about what the seniors wanted to do and whether anyone was willing to take them up on their invitation/begging and go along with them. Although everyone pretended to be reluctant and tired, like adults always do, we also know that many of us secretly have enough fear of missing out (also known as “FOMO”) that it was a foregone conclusion that this was happening. If one of us was saying ‘yes,’ we all were.
Choosing Whitefield As a Teacher and Parent
This year’s first day of school was a special one for me.
It was my tenth first day of school at Whitefield.
But it was also my first first day of school as a Whitefield parent. I brought my firstborn, Calder, to his first day of Kindergarten. As we took pictures before getting in the car that morning, I reflected on how ten years ago, I responded to a voicemail right after mowing my grass, and was walking through the doors at Whitefield less than an hour later.
I came to Whitefield purely as a career choice, in the pursuit of being the best teacher I could be in the best community of teachers that would have me. But for the last few years, as my children have gotten ever-closer to kindergarten age, I started to think about what it would mean to be a teacher and parent. Not just things like “how to take a five-year-old to work every day,” but what does Whitefield offer my children?
Fortunately, I’ve known my kids’ future teachers for years. I may have been conducting the most thorough vetting process of any prospective parent ever. So after ten years of seeing Whitefield from the inside, why do I want my colleagues to be my kids’ teachers?
Why I Trust My Colleagues to Be My Children’s Teachers
Just like me, I know all of our teachers have a special affinity for their subject matter. Whether it’s math or science or music or kindergarten, it’s what we were trained in; it’s what we love.
But we aren’t enthusiastic about our subjects because they are the most important thing. We don’t teach because students must complete the curriculum. We love our subjects because we know that our students will become fuller, richer, more complete people if they embrace what we have to share with them! We know their quality of life will be greater if they have art and music in their lives. We know their thoughts will be deeper and more satisfying if they have humanities and logic in their minds. Like pulling a deeply loved book off the shelf and telling a good friend, “I think you’ll like this,” teachers get to do this all the time.
But as much as I trust my colleagues to share wonderful things with my children, I also trust them to love my children even more than their subjects. I trust my colleagues to stop teaching subject matter when the moments present themselves (and they do often) and speak to my children’s hearts, to minister to them, to talk about important matters of life.
There’s another way to say it – I trust my colleagues to treat my children as whole people. I know that my children are going to be surrounded by adults who are interested in their souls more than their brains. In the midst of receiving grades, they will be first taught to not gauge their value and worth on their performance. My boys will not leave school being trained only to be little cogs, but to be great men.
I trust my colleagues to be, in a way, my children’s parents in my place during the school day.
Back to the International Pancakes
Strangely enough, the “tired” and “reluctant” teachers beat all the students to the internationally known pancake restaurant. The three of us sat at a table for twelve, wondering if we had been punked.
But an hour later, I looked around the table as memories and laughter were shared. Teachers recalled stories from their own inglorious high school years. All of us had shared similar late nights at similar internationally known pancake restaurants when we were eighteen with similar groups of friends.
But not once were any of us adults joined by our teachers. Never had it occurred to us to invite our teachers because that would be really weird, right?
And in that moment it struck me yet again just how unusual our Whitefield community is, how impossible I find it to adequately describe my job to people because it isn’t just “teaching.”
There are so many of these kinds of moments throughout the year; moments that teachers aren’t compelled to participate in but want to create with students. They are the moments we genuinely don’t want to miss out on. Those moments happen when an ordinary class hour unexpectedly turns into a much bigger conversation. They happen on ordinary days, or during games and prayers at retreats, or just in the hallway or auditorium.
I don’t ever expect that it will be a part of a teacher’s job description to eat pancakes with a senior class long after bedtime. That would kind of defeat the point anyway. What I think is happening is that as a community, we gladly do things today that we hope will continue with the Whitefield of the future. I have great faith that Whitefield will continue to be a community where teachers will speak into my children’s lives at important moments, who will write on their math tests that they are loved, who will share laughs and tears with them, who will minister to their hearts. I want to get a call someday from my boys that they will be out late because they are eating pancakes with their classmates and teachers.
Just as I believe those things will happen, I have great faith that through the inevitable uncommonness of this year, a great deal of ministry and transformation will happen in hearts all around our community.
After we had sat together at the restaurant for two hours and were finally on our way out the door, one Whitefield Spanish teacher texted to see if we were still there.
Like I said, fear of missing out.
Terrific post Matt.
I finished reading this blog in tears. Yes, we are truly grateful for WA…the teachers, the staff, the students…everyone!! And, we’re grateful for all of the memories being made, moment by moment! Thanks be to God!
Thank you so much for sharing this, Mr. Appling!
Matt, wonderful post. Thank you for taking the time to write and share this.
Matt, I could’ve have said it better!! So glad Whitefield has you as a teacher. and now as a parent. Have a blessed year.
Welp definitely teared up! I have told so many people that I still can’t believe so many of my closest friends are my kids teachers. So thankful! Great job on this post!
As if the picture alone couldn’t do it, your words had me in tears! Beautiful post. Thanks Matt. We are truly blessed and better for having you a part of our community.