I’ve had this on-going conversation with a friend for several years — it goes like this:
“I hate my job.”
“No. You don’t.”
“My students make me crazy.”
“You love them.”
“They are a mess.”
“God put you there to bring order to their chaos.”
I usually come in from the ledge at that point — but I do so grudgingly. I never thought that pursuing a career in education was akin to ministry, but there you have it.
To be honest, I never wanted to be a teacher. Ever. I wanted to be a writer and imagined myself living as some bohemian artist in the East Village. Whatever. Like you didn’t want to be a fireman or an astronaut, right?
What I never expected was that my dream would be so closely tied to my career.
It has become painfully evident to me that God has called me to this place, and to my shame I have come kicking and screaming. I know my fault; it is the same one I’ve struggled with my whole life. I want to serve God, I do…according to my will, not His. Note to self: God is all-powerful and all-knowing and patient. Really really patient. The moral of the story? I never stood a chance.
So I resisted. In my resistance I missed a little detail. I am a writer. In all those years I’ve pursued my dream, writing on scraps of paper and filling notebooks, I’ve also been carrying over those skills into the classroom.
God married my avocation to my vocation. I am slow to see these things.
The realization, though, doesn’t make it any easier to bear. The modern classroom looks nothing like the textbook scenarios I encountered in my methodology courses. I am sure those model classes exist. I am equally sure that I will never witness them.
Recently, The Chronicle of Higher Education published a commentary piece by an adjunct professor who vented about those very things I face in the classroom. The article has gone viral, no doubt because of the writer’s naked honesty and frustration. It is mine.
But my friend’s comments ring loudly in my ears. God has placed me here to bring order to their chaos.
The adjunct’s vent complains but doesn’t offer solutions — just a vague call for reform. A reform, by the way, in a system that is bigger, but weaker than the sum of its parts. A system where the best change is done one person at a time.
Of course, it requires my abandonment to God’s will, which is easier said than done, for me, anyway. And then I happen across St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, and have to come to terms with this reality:
But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.
Really?! Fulfill your ministry? These are not words I want to hear. It is hard. But I come in off the ledge and go back to the classroom. God’s plan placed me there — let me work it to His glory.
I find comfort in St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers and journalists, but also teachers. He said, “There is nothing which edifies others so much as charity and kindness, by which, as by the oil in our lamp, the flame of good example is kept alive.”
His use of the lamp and flame delights me because I am always drawn to the imagery of light in scripture. I just now made the connection with the lamp of learning so often used as a symbol for education.
The call to the light, and a desire for charity and kindness have always been a part of me. And I’ve always brought it into the classroom, even when I wasn’t aware of it.
I told you I was slow.