Monday, July 11, 2011

I guess God wants me to be a teacher

I attended an unusual high school. It was a prep school for entering the ministry, so there were a lot of missionary kids from around the world, as well as Pastors' kids from around the country. I was a less common student, not having come from a start-up congregation in the middle of Zimbabwe. But like the other students, I did live on campus in the dorms.

We'd attend chapel twice per day, religion class three times per week, and mandatory choir and piano lessons. You never heard words like "evolution" or "democrat" in class. This was an environment where taking "one nation under God" out of the Pledge and "In God We Trust" off our money were considered serious grievances.

Being female, my option was to train for the teaching ministry (boys could be teachers or pastors). The natural path of the female prep student was to attend Martin Luther College and from there receive a divine call to teach in a Lutheran school. That's what all the cool kids were doing.

I'm not very cool.

Having had zero experience with anyone younger than myself, teaching little kids was definitely out. Kids scared me. So I expected to teach English to teenagers. I really didn't consider other alternatives. (I dreamed of being a fiction novelist the way other kids dreamed of being rock stars, so I never thought of that as a viable option.)

Looking back on the prep school environment, which I did love and do not regret, it was a bit culty. While I was one of the lucky kids who got to go home on weekends, weekdays were a kind of constant brainwash. Your school is church, your cafeteria is church, your bedroom is church. We were normal kids, definitely not saints, but we had zero doubts about God and faith and (for many) the paths we were on toward the ministry.

I did doubt whether I had the capability to teach. I knew I could do it, but could I be great at it? Would I enjoy it? The more I thought, the more I felt uncomfortable with the image of me in front of a classroom of teenagers. With my personality, I would have no control over these students. They would walk all over me and learn next to nothing.

I determined there were two reasons I could never teach: 1) I didn't have the strength to be tough with students. 2) I didn't have the patience to teach. I'd just hand over the answer and hope they understood it.

I didn't attend the Lutheran college and become a teacher. I didn't marry a pastor and play the church organ. I don't look lovely in an ankle-length dress. In fact, I barely go to church these days because it would interrupt nap time, and because chasing my lightning-fast boy down a church aisle while every muscle in my body tightens with stress is not, in my opinion, to God's glory.

Still, God is having the last laugh. I always knew that parents have to teach their kids things -- most notably how to use the potty -- but the extent of teaching didn't sink in until recently. I am a mother = I am a teacher. 

As I switch from moving his hand to his mouth as he forks up his scrambled eggs, to stopping him from trapping himself behind the couch, to mouthing words in front of his face in the hopes that he'll start to speak, I know it isn't just a few things along the way. Parents need to teach them EVERYTHING, at least during these first years. Some things come naturally or easily or even without prompting, but most skills are taught.

I thought back to my reasons I could never teach, realizing that subconsciously I already was overcoming what had held me back. I'm finding strength I didn't know I had, to be tough when necessary. I'm finding the patience I never had, because the reward is worth the pace and the work.

What changed? As with all things, the difference is love.


P.S. New blog design! Hooray! Exclamation point!

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