Learning from Teaching

What a year. Like say it loud for the people in the back. I have a hard time looking at this past year with open eyes, with understanding and compassion. This year while ultimately good came out it, leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. And that’s just looking at my personal life. The world at large, it makes me glad I trust in a loving God, though that seems like such a brave act of late.

But today I’m going to keep it fairly simple and talk about my experiences. Teaching is hard, I know that now in a deeply personal way. Teaching is also pure joy and goodness, because I don’t hate teaching when all is said and done. I don’t think teaching in this context is what I want to do, it’s hard to teach those who aren’t opting in who find you and your job irrelevant.

But oh I’m deeply convinced I love and have great patience for teenagers. I appreciate their hearts, their passion, how formed and yet unformed they are, their dramas, what delights them, how easily they call out hypocrisy and injustice that us cynical grown ups overlook or figure there’s nothing we can do about it anyway. And I deeply remember those days, the drama that was constantly going on in my head, the immediacy of all my emotions, how confident and passionate I felt about changing the world and making my dreams come true.

But despite this goodness, it was still one of the single most challenging years of my adult life. I remember college being full of anxiety and stress and those months right after I graduated, oh yes, that’s when I had to say God, I’m all in. Whatever you have for me. There is no way I can figure out the rest of my life. I need you. And over and over again He has loved me and shown me the way to go. Still though that stress and anxiety seems like nothing in comparison to this school year.

I did get some validation from all this stress and anxiety and intense growth. I had my end of the year evaluation and my supervisor told me I should be proud of how I had grown over this year. She wrote about me:

“Ms. Cox is exemplary in the Communication and Openness sections of the rubric because of her ability to consistently seek feedback for instruction or interactions that she felt could have gone better. Even in difficult situations, Ms. Cox requested additional supervisory check-ins to debrief a lesson so that she could make adjustments as needed.”

My strengths were seen and helped me to succeed and do well in my job. It means a lot to me to have that validation after all the thoughts and insecurity and anxiety I felt.

If I had any desire to work there again they would happily re-hire me. Feels good even though I am grateful to close that door. So now I’m on break until the start of summer school and I’m looking for my next opportunity. I grew a lot this year, professionally and personally. My marriage survived (dare I say it, thrived) through all the crap I was going through. And I can look back at this year and mostly think it was worth it.

I didn’t have many great teaching moments or even just good, after the learning curve softened mostly I just learned how to get through the days and create meaning in the rest of my time. I focused a lot on my friendship and family and have been deeply blessed by my relationships this year. I focused a bit more on my art and writing. I spent so much time with my cat, he’s a very good cuddler and listener.

I did learn and gain some things from my students. I learned how to manage relationships better. I learned what set a kid off, I learned how to ask questions before jumping into discipline and consequences. I found what got kids responded to and did it again and again. I learned to observe and not always take what they say at face value (they did enjoy being in my class sometimes). I learned not to take things personally. I developed a decent poker face (how much can change when you give a teen a blank face and say “this isn’t funny”). I learned more about these teens and their lives. I learned about the challenges they faced. I learned I can care about kids I don’t even really like. I learned that God is bigger, more creative, and more loving then I fully comprehended.

It wasn’t the year I was expecting when I dived in eyes wide open, excited (so wildly excited) to start out my year as a full time tutor. But here I am a little stronger, a little wiser, gained some skills and understanding. Now I’m ready for what’s next, wasn’t the worst foray into full time working life. My supportive co-workers, supervisor, and family (the people in my corner, not just the people who are obligated to love me), helped me to keep pushing.

It’s okay anyone else who is in my shoes. It’s okay if you’re not finding much meaning in your job. It’s okay if you’re sticking something out that just feels like hard, unsatisfactory work. Sometimes life is like that. And there is something in your life that gives such rich meaning and beauty to your life, I’m sure of it. Besides it won’t last forever and when you’re ready to leave, go. There’s always another opportunity, I’m convinced of that.

 

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