Sunday, March 6, 2011


I've heard it said that you explore topics that are most relevant to you.  A great example of this, for me, was when I finished my bachelor's degree in psychology.  I never really had any other interest in school at that time other than psychology.  I think I briefly considered music therapy but quickly brushed it aside for theorists and research and brain function.  Why was it so important to me, at twenty or twenty one, to understand psychology?  Because I was exploring myself--trying to figure out who I was and how my pieces fit together.  I didn't finish my bachelor's with any sort of wonderful GPA, but I did finish it with a much stronger understanding of who I was.

My search to become a teacher was much longer and more frightening, to me.  My mother had always said "Don't be a teacher!"  She had been forced into the career by her parents, and while she excelled at it, it didn't make her happy.  I'm quite sure she was a kind teacher, the type of teacher I would want my children to have.  But she didn't want either of her children to have to deal with the politics and red tape involved in teaching.  The last few weeks in our country--watching extreme budget cuts in education, seeing the extremely wealthy criticize educators for not wanting to sacrifice any of their salaries (which, by the way, are one fifth the amount or less of those criticizing), and recognizing the devastation lack of funding will cost our children, has reminded me of my mother's words.  Anger doesn't begin to cover my feelings regarding politics in our country today, and knowing that teachers will be blamed and penalized when test scores drop next year frustrates me even more.  Teachers will make up the loss from their own pocketbooks in many cases.  Why?  Because we don't go into teaching to get rich.  We go into teaching to make a difference for children.

When I finally made the decision to go into teaching instead of social work, I felt as though I had walked into my own skin.  As though God had called me home and would walk beside me to ensure my success.  And when I graduated successfully and received my first public school job, I was positive this was the right path for me.

And then, as the year progressed and I got a taste of reality--starving children, children without coats or socks, children with so much rage they would throw chairs or tables or even shoes, children with no books to read, no science materials, no math manipulatives--I questioned myself. Was I really meant to be a teacher?  God said yes.  And inside, I knew the truth was that I could do it.  But maybe my calling wasn't right here.  At least now right now.  I spent years stewing over leaving my first assignment.  When my principal--the same one who placed new tables in the lunchroom along with TV sets tuned to Scooby Doo at lunchtime instead of purchasing books and other materials--received a 25,000 award from a private organization, I seethed.  How, I asked God, is this fair?  Do you know how much I could do with 25,000?  I'd like to say God leaned down and said "Don't worry, Michelle...she's got it coming."  But he didn't.  Instead he continued to give me great coworkers to learn from, wonderful classes to teach, fantastic children and students to learn from.  And sure enough, ten years later, she got what was coming, through several news reports in the local paper reporting massive cheating on state tests.  And she was removed from her position.

My husband and I moved to Oklahoma the June after my first year at that school and shortly thereafter became the custodians of two children.  Had we been married just three months later we would not have qualified to care for the children.  I applied for one job that interested me and received it, at a pay rate higher than advertised.  In my mind, these "coincidences" are proof that God exists, that He answers prayers, and He guides us daily.

Children have an innate sense of wonder and curiosity of their world.  I believe this brings them closer to God. They see the miracles of life that adults have become oblivious to, the miracle of a flower in bloom or a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.  They watch the vegetable plants they have tended grow into full plants that will feed them.  They see trees with leaves and flowers and bark that we look past every day.  The gifts that God has placed all around us are present in our children.

Maybe you're not a believer in God, or you call God by a different name--Allah or even Higher Power.  As adults we face problems that seem insurmountable; our logic tells us it's impossible to cross the river or climb the mountain.  But if you watch carefully, a child will try.  Why?  Because he has faith in himself.  He hasn't yet experienced the limitations of humanity.

That faith in action, watching a child who tries yet again, is a blessing from God himself.  It's a reminder of our humanity and the possibilities this world has to offer.  As for the principal I referred to earlier?  A strong reminder that God has His own plan, and it doesn't necessarily mean it's the same as mine.  And looking back, as much as I am saddened by the ten years of children who were affected by this principal's choices, I am pleased with the outcome.  God is good, and I trust that whatever happened at that school after I left had to do with lessons that others needed too.

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