The Race Begins!
The first day of school was August 4, 2016. We moved to Panama from Iowa on July 20th so I literally had all of 15 days to prepare for my first experience as a Middle School Social Studies teacher. I knew that it was going to be a lot of work and I knew it was not going to be easy, however, it was a lot harder than I actually thought it was going to be. I think these past few weeks have quite possibly been the most stressful days of my adult life. Getting ready for the first day of school as a teacher is no small task, especially when its your first year teaching! Added to all of the stress of lesson planning, syllabus writing, and course mapping was the cultural adjustment that I am still experiencing. There were honestly several moments when I said to myself, “I can’t do this”. I felt too overwhelmed and I felt too much pressure and I didn’t see any way out of it.
In some ways, this feeling of frustration and despair reminded me of what it was like to be a student again. I remember a few times as an elementary/middle school student when I got so overwhelmed and stressed out because of a project that I had to finish. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing and I felt like there was no possible way I was going to succeed. That is not a good feeling to have, however, as I reflect on those feelings, I am now seeing that they are actually very healthy. How unfortunate would it be if we never allowed ourselves to feel those feelings? If we are not challenged and asked to do something that is hard, how will we ever grow and develop into something better than we are now? I have realized that those moments when I felt the most stressed and the least capable were the moments that were actually putting me in a position to persevere. Perseverance is a quality that is often celebrated in athletics. It’s one of those qualities that is easy to talk about, but not so easy to actually put into practice–this is because perseverance implies struggle. It implies that you are facing difficulties and that you refuse to quit. I am only one month into this teaching gig, I know that perseverance is necessary for me to make it to June 2017 without having a nervous breakdown. I know there will be lots of hard things that I face in this first year, but by God’s grace this year is going to build my character and make me a better teacher rather than a bitter one.
Small acts of kindness
One of the things that I have noticed in this past month is how significant a simple act of kindness can be. On August 17th I was struggling though my second week of classes. It was my very last class period and I was grateful that the day was over. I had the sense that I could have done things better in SO many ways that day. Then, as the last students were exiting, one of my seventh graders came up to me and gave me an apple. He told me I was a really good teacher. I was so moved that I took a selfie and posted it on facebook in a matter of minutes. If you know me, you know I don’t usually take selfies, but I was so thrilled and encouraged that I couldn’t contain myself! I remember I told another student who was there after the gift giver had left something like, “That is the first apple I have ever received from a student!” It’s almost like I wasn’t a real teacher until that moment, ha!
One of the things I have been so grateful for thus far in my experience at Crossroads Christian Academy (CCA) has been the administrative staff. One of the administrative staff members in particular has truly gone out of his way to encourage and affirm me during these last few weeks. It just so happens that his son is in one of my classes so he hears some first hand reports about my teaching! His emails and kind words have truly been like a drink of cool refreshing water in the midst of much toil. I hope that if you are reading this you are reminded of the power of simple acts of grace towards others. When we give unexpected gifts or words of affirmation to others with sincerity we are creating an opportunity for another person to experience the power of grace. This power ought not to be forgotten, because if it is allowed to work its full effect it will lead to transformation and flourishing, both to the receiver and the giver.