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It started with me coming to the end of myself.

I fell apart in September, overwhelmed by the weight of transition and exhaustion, and most significantly, responsibility. I went from being responsible for my four children and some various volunteer projects to being responsible for 18 staff and 148 children (while my own four still very much needed me).

Missionary schools usually have a high turnover rate, but this year was particularly high. Four out of my six classroom teachers were new to their position (though not new to teaching), and the remaining two both went on maternity leave this year--which meant we needed two long-term subs. We also had a new occupational therapist, a new music teacher, a student teacher, and two new teaching assistants in elementary school.

It was the most intense year I've ever experienced, hands down. For one of the only times in my life, I will never say, "Wow, that year sped by." I look back on last August and it feels like an eternity ago.

I kept thinking, Once International Day is over, then things will calm down. But there was always something else. Once kindergarten admissions is over....once the education conference is over....once report cards are done....once Book Week is over....once SEW week is over.....then things will calm down. But now I get it--things don't calm down until the year itself is over.

I had to come to grips with my limitations. I am a bit of a perfectionist and an over-achiever, and I wanted to do everything, all at once, and I wanted to do it brilliantly. I wanted to be good at my job from the very first day, when the reality was that there was no way I would get good at it until I allowed myself time to learn. Dealing with the difficult child, writing the sensitive email, delicately intervening in a staff conflict--all were things that I was thrust into, but no book could have prepared me for. I made a lot of mistakes, but I had to give myself grace--and time--to learn.

Paradoxically, I also was surprised to find out that I was capable of more than I would have predicted. All of that fear I experienced at the beginning--that I can't handle it all, that I'm going to fail and let everyone down, that I can't do this job and be a good mom--none of those fears materialized. There is a blessing in how God has wired us for routine and habit. Doing things over and over makes them easier. Yes, I was exhausted many days, but I still (usually) made dinner, the homework (mostly) got done, bedtime stories were read, I made it to (almost all) sports events. Gil was a huge support, of course, as he took on more than he had in earlier days, and my trustworthy helper, Esta, kept the house clean and the laundry washed. Life didn't fall apart.

Yes, it was incredibly intense and overwhelming. Taking responsibility for 18 staff and 148 children meant that I took on many of their burdens as well. Children struggling through divorce or dyslexia, teachers struggling with homesickness, morning sickness, or sick family members a continent away. Sometimes it felt crushing.

But we were in it together, my staff and me, and we held each other up and prayed for each other and laughed (and laughed!) together. I was overwhelmed by their grace and encouragement and perseverance, their dedication to HOPAC and to God, and their commitment to excellence.

Overwhelmed by the job, but mostly overwhelmed by joy.

HOPAC Primary School 2017-2018 Staff

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