Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Student is The Teacher

“Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love." --David McCullough

The quote above sums a lot of what my story is about and that is finding my passion in work. I still don’t know what I want to do. Well… if I were honest with myself, I probably do know. I just don’t feel at peace with it yet. I still can’t believe that I am suppose to be a teacher. Most people would say that this is noble profession and well-appreciated. On good days, I feel that way. On bad days I say to myself, “I could be making so much more money and still get the same amount of job satisfaction.”

I think I am a teacher because of a combination of my personality, my God-given gifts, and my environment. On good days, I am thankful that God made me who I am. I can’t imagine being anything else. On bad days, I wish I had the creative gifts to be an artist, jewelry designer, or even a gift shop owner. Those jobs just sound more fun to me. How cool would it be to wake up each day and create a necklace or painting? The problem - I lack the gifts and personality to make it happen successfully. Instead, God gave me humbleness, patience, understanding, empathy, knowledge-seeking, and problem-solving skills. Great, these are perfect for a teacher. So, why can’t I be at peace with this?

At the root of the problem is probably my upbringing. No, I am not going to blame my parents. They were fine. The problem is that I grew up the majority of my life in an upper-middle class neighborhood where people looked at houses, cars, and clothes. They were important and reflected status. We always belonged to a country club. My sisters and I knew how to behave in social settings. It was important to make a good impression. Parts of my family are still this way. I am not this way anymore. It creates too much drama and makes me discontent with what I do have. Also, being a teacher doesn’t allow for much of this.

How does this relate to me not knowing what I wanted to do when I grew up? Because I spent the majority of my young adulthood not focusing on what I was good at or trying to find what I was good at. Instead, I spent the majority of my time thinking, “What could give the most money? How can I maintain the lifestyle my mom and dad gave me?” Instead of taking liberal arts classes, I would take business classes. I hated them. I hated economics, finance, business math, and accounting. I hated going to school. I did poorly. Instead of saying to myself, “Hey, this isn’t your strength. You should reconsider.“ I said, “Hey, you are not very smart. You need to try harder.” At one point, I considered switching majors to education. My dad talked me out of it. He said that was a “Gee whiz” job. So, I stuck out business. I got my degree in Marketing and never used it.

During my last two years at college, I interned at General Motors. I did this during the summer. I made a lot of connections. Can you believe that when I graduated I never contacted them for a job!? I never ever contacted them. Why? At the time, I just said “I don’t want to move to Michigan.” Oh really, Michelle. You don’t want a well-paying job at a big company. I guess not. But, I thought I did. Isn’t that why I chose a business major? Isn’t that why I even wasted two summers interning? Now, I am not going to try and get a job there? What sense did that make? Wow - I was really screwed-up.

After college and for the next three years after that, I worked at the following places: a retail store, a downtown catering business, a hospice, a personnel company, and a software company. And guess what? I hated all of my jobs for one reason or another. I didn’t hate my job at the computer company as much as I was so VERY bored with it.

What finally changed? Two things happened in my life. I was commuting to work one day. I was stuck in Houston traffic on the way to work and I said to myself, “Why I am doing this? I don’t even want to go to work. It is meaningless and boring. I need a job that has more meaning to it. What could that be?” So, while I was stuck in traffic I began to play the “What job would I still want to do even if I won a million dollars?” The answer was teacher. The seed had been planted as well as another one. I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. It was time for me to figure this whole work thing out. I wanted to be settled so that I could care for her and be of sane mind. When I decided to just become a teacher, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace inside. After Alexis was born, I went back to school. It was a program for people who already had degrees but wanted to be a teacher. It was called An Alternative Certification Program. After one year of course work, I was able to get a job being a teacher. I still had to finish a year of teaching so I was on a probationary period where I still had to met regularly with the school professor.

The problem was that I started my teaching career in the hardest of all possible schools. I didn’t even have a chance to catch my breath before I was dealing with problems and issues that I didn’t even know existed. It was tough to say the very least. After three years, I had to leave the school; too much heartache and drama. The next 4 years have been better, much better. Without me realizing it, I have become a language arts guru. I didn’t plan on this. I never woke up and said, “Hey, I see this need and I am going to fill it.” I just did what was required of me and somehow, BAMM, I am considered the one to go to for language arts.

One would think this would be the end of my story, I have a job that allows me to spend time with my husband and daughter. I get to see my daughter everyday at school and have all holidays off with her. I get to go to Michigan to see my family each summer. But, guess what? I am still not at peace with it. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to accept that this is my life’s work. It seems too easy. But, it hasn’t been. It’s meaningful. Yes, but the pay is smaller than I’d like and sometimes the parents and students are disrespectful. But, the kids love you and your daughter loves having you at school with her. Yes, but next year, my raise will be $200.00 and I am taking on more duties. How am I going to afford to fix up the backyard? You get to see your sisters and mom every summer for two weeks! Yes, but today Johnny was so difficult to deal with…And the thoughts in my head go on and on and on…

find your lifework 

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