Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Lessons and Limits

You may have noticed that the blog schedule has been a bit sporadic since the school year started. There's good reason for that. One, the school year represents a really big change in schedule for our family - we're very school-year centric here - and I'm just not good at change. It takes me a while to get into a new schedule (in fact, I'm not even there yet - notice this Tuesday morning post is coming out on a Wednesday).

The other reason is that I got called to sub on the second day of school. I was a substitute teacher, when I could, for half days last year (while my daughter was in school). With her starting Kindergarten this year, I'm available for full days (when I'm available), but I never expected to get called the first week (teachers tend to want to be there to get the year started well). One of the local schools has a teacher out on maternity leave and they were having trouble finding a long-term replacement and needed some extra help in the classroom.

It was great - same kids every day for a couple weeks - students I had subbed with pretty frequently last year. Smooth sailing. Then the school went through two long-term subs in about four days without much hope on the horizon. I got offered the chance to take over the class for two months, so I thought I'd give it a go.

Listen, I only signed up to sub last year because they were short. I wanted to fill a need and help the public school system, which has become the community space our family is pretty heavily invested in. I've served on district committees. I try to make most school board meetings. It makes sense. I knew the kids; I'm ok with seventh grade math. Shoot, I've lived with a middle school teacher for more than a decade.

Despite having lived with a middle school teacher for more than a decade, I just simply had no idea the skills and abilities one really needs to teach. I don't know many people who have more respect and admiration for public school teachers than me - but I gained a whole lot more over the weekend. Trying to get a handle on everything required to even take over a class for a few weeks was literally overwhelming. I couldn't sleep,
riddled with anxiety (not something to which I'm prone - it took me some time to even realize what was happening).

I also learned the difference between someone who can teach and a teacher. I've done Sunday School classes and tutoring - I've even taught actual classes in the ministry training program on two districts. It's a lot different getting a class of kids through the day and being a consistent,
positive presence there with everything on your shoulders.

I knew this. Of course I knew this - but knowing something intellectual or through observation is a lot different than knowing through experience.

I'm a wimp, for the most part. I don't tend to attempt things I'm not certain I can complete. Risk is not my thing. However, when I'm pretty convinced something has to be done, I buckle down and do it. There aren't a lot of things in my life that I've attempted and failed. Yes, that's because I'm cautious, but it's also because I'm a pretty quick learner and I'm good with systems and organization.

In the end, I probably could've done it. I could've taken my lumps, endured sleepless nights, learned from my many, many inevitable failures and possibly survived. My sanity might not have been intact, but it could've technically been done. I opted out though. There's a sense of shame in that. One, I don't like to admit defeat. I've gotten less obsessed with winning over the years, but I'm still darn competitive. This feels like a loss to me, and that's a big ego hit. I also feel like I'm letting people down who work hard and a tremendously difficult job. My not being there created extra work and more headaches for people who have an impossibly tough assignment to begin with. That stinks.

It was a good lesson in limits, though. Just because I can do something or something needs to be done, doesn't mean I have to do it. I probably should've known this was a bad idea from the beginning. I'm not a teacher; I don't really want to be one. I can fake it through a day or two -
which is really useful and helpful in its own right - but that's about it. So many great people have a passion for it, and skills to be really good - and, despite my close proximity to one of them, I'm not sure I ever truly appreciated that, certainly not as much as I do now.

My life is not where I thought it'd be. I'm not upset at all; I really like my life. It's just that I don't really have a job description.
I find great joy in being "of use," although I never know from one season to the next exactly what or where that will be. I keep trying to jump into new thing where I'm needed, but I learned over the last few weeks that perhaps a little more self-reflection might be important in figuring out where that is.

Even more so, other people might have a different perspective of what I am (or should be) capable of doing. I need to trust myself a little more. It's a difficult balance between challenging one's self (or accepting the challenge of others) and knowing one's self well enough to say 'no.' Hopefully I got a little better at that this week - and maybe it'll mean I can make more of a difference in the right places moving forward.

Anyway, we should be back to a better posting schedule now - at least until basketball games start November 15th.

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