Sunday, November 2, 2014

why I decided to teach.

For the past ten weeks, I've been a fourth grade teacher at Pleasant Prairie Elementary School. That sentence is something I never imagined myself saying. For those of you that are just joining me in this journey, let me catch you up.

I attended Carthage College for three and a half years and graduated with a degree in Elementary Education. Long about the end of my fall semester junior year, I knew that I didn't want to teach. I planned to finish my degree in education with no intention to use the degree for it's intended purpose. Here's why... I fell in love with Young Life Camping. I spent two summers volunteering and working at Young Life camps and it become one of the strongest passions I ever encountered in life. So I decided to shift my career goal from teaching to ministry, thus eliminating student teaching from my college experience and going straight for a diploma in hand. And it worked. I graduated a semester early, was a nanny for a short time, and then moved to Colorado to work full time at a Young Life camp.

But while I was there I felt a little nudge to get back into education, and then I felt a push, and then a shove. I did something I never thought I would do. I e-mailed my academic advisor at Carthage, and told him, "You were right. I am gifted to teach and I want to teach. Will you help me?" It's not that I didn't like working at a Young Life camp anymore or that my passion for it faded. What happened was my eyes were opened to where my gifts are.

I believe we're all given these gifts, born-with-it gifts. They're not something we learned to be good at gifts, or gifts you practice to make perfect. They are our God-given gifts. And mine is to teach.

In the midst of doing ministry. In the midst of shoveling snow for another retreat. In the midst of feeling freedom on a mountain top... It became clearer to me that I was trying to ignore my gift. I was telling God, I know you've equipped me to do that, but I'm going to do this instead. The Lord gave me a car and I was choosing to walk up hill both ways instead. It wasn't that I was disobeying the Lord; I was still going where he wanted. And it wasn't that he didn't join me on the journey; he did in so many ways. But it was that I was ignoring my God-given ability to teach.


Fast forward to today. I now have ten teaching weeks under my belt. And although the biggest reason I decided to teach is because I have a gift for it, there are a few more reasons why I love my job more than I ever imagined.

1: Breaks. I'll just tell you this one first because I know you're all thinking it anyway. Summer vacation. Two weeks at Christmas. Spring Break. Yes, these are fantastic, but not just because I don't have to go to work. They're fantastic because we need this in our lives. When you teach you go hard. From the minute I wake up to the minute I go to bed, I'm thinking school. I'm thinking the kids and how to love on them. I'm thinking best teaching strategies. I'm thinking what to do in the computer lab. I'm thinking how we're going to fit in another assessment. And so I'm learning that breaks are heaven sent. They are little snippets in our teaching lives to set aside school and focus on refreshing ourselves. We all need this, not just teachers.

2: Hands raised. There are a few different kinds of raised hands. It happens in every classroom, even yours 15+ years ago. There's the subtle elbow on desk hand raise. It's the I'm not really sure about this but I'm going to raise my hand anyways. Then we have the arm straight up hand raise. This is the I know the answer, I've known it for months, confident hand raise. And then we have the hand shooting up and arm waving like crazy hand raise. This is the one I love. It's the I just figured this out hand raise. The one that includes an aha moment. And I love it because it means this child just made a new connection. Learning happened. That's what we strive for every day and it gives me such joy when I see it in a child's face and the extreme hand raise.

3: Community. Although we teach standards upon standards, there is also so much more to teach. One of them is community... loving your neighbor, giving a helping hand, picking someone up, encouraging each other, supporting your classmates, respect, trust, character. The list goes on. These are hard things to teach sometimes, but when the kids get it and put it into practice it makes my heart jump. Just the other day, I sent a student after another boy who lingers in the bathroom. He has some hard stuff going on at home and sitting in the bathroom proves to be an escape from reality for him. As they came around the corner from the bathroom, his friend had his arm around his shoulder and was telling him it was time to come back to the classroom. I almost started tearing up. He got it! He got what it meant to love a friend in need. He got what it meant to support his classmate. That is what it takes to change the world and that's what I want my students to do. When they are surrounded by a community that loves and supports them, they have the freedom and power to make the world a better place.

These are just a few of the reasons I decided to teach. There are so many more and I imagine the list will keep getting longer as the years go by. But for now, I'm enjoying living in my gift. I'm feeling freedom in doing what I love, not because I practiced it to perfection but because the Lord has given me the ability and grace to teach. 

knowing your students think the world of you,
will also get you up at 5:15am every day. 

The Lord has given you a gift too. I pray that you are finding that gift, living in the freedom of it, and praising God for it.