Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A hard thing

I think one of the most difficult things about my job is that I am dealing with the most precious of all raw material: children.  I am thankful for parents who take an interest in their child's education, but sometimes the interest taken can be overwhelming.  As a teacher, little makes me feel worse than unknowingly offending a parent  with a decision that I've made.  It's even worse when they are upset over something that I think is in the best interest of their child and the class as a whole.  After all, who am I to say that I know best for their own flesh and blood?
Then again, I am a professional with experience, and at the end of the day, I have to go with my gut and my training.  But I always feel pretty terrible about it if the family stays upset. Sometimes their instinct is right, and sometimes mine is.  It has happened at some point (or points) every year during my teaching and will no doubt continue, because there will always be differences of opinion.  The education of a child just happens to be a very high-stakes subject on which to disagree!  It's kind of amazing how much time and influence teachers have in the lives of their students.  If your child has a good teacher, then that is wonderful.  If they don't, that must be very hard.  I like to think that I am a good teacher (although with lots of room to improve, since I am still relatively young in the profession, having only taught for 5 years so far), but I am sure that some parents of some of my students have disagreed.  It must be hard for them.  I feel badly for them.  I have thought about how I would act if Ruby were in some of the situations that have led to parent disputes and how I would act.  Being a teacher, I am of course currently biased towards trusting the teacher, but when the rubber hits the road, will I still feel that way?  It's hard to say...
It probably all boils down to me being too sensitive and being a perfectionist :(  I always want everyone to like me and be happy with me, and I always want to do everything just right and never have a fault found.  Unfortunately, I am also human, so none of those fantasies will materialize.  I'm going to mess up.  I have already, and I will in the future.  Something I need to work on is letting go of past mistakes and not continually beating myself up about them.  Right now I'm teaching at Catlin Gabel's summer program.  Being on campus has been an emotional experience: I find myself thinking back to my year teaching there.  It was a one-year contract, since I was replacing a teacher who was taking a year off to be home with her baby (lucky lady!)  They were taking a chance on me, since I was fresh out of Arbor and just so new and green to it all.  I learned a lot and had an incredibly supportive principal and faculty surrounding me, but I still find myself thinking back to situations with kids that I should have handled differently, or curriculum ideas that I think, "Oh, I should have done that with the kids! That would have been so cool!  Why didn't I think of it?!"
That was almost 3 years ago!  I had good moments and not-so-good ones.  I had some genuinely tricky kids that tried the patience of mature teachers, and I was such a novice.  I have improved since then; now I just need to let go of the fact that I wasn't a perfect teacher right out of the gate!  It's hard, though.  I have this file folder in my brain of mistakes made in life, and it seems like that file is much more readily available than the one of "good choices in life," even though I've made far more good choices than bad ones.  It can be hard to get rid of the negative thoughts that want to drag me back into agonizing over things that are in the past.  "Forgive and forget" is a concept that has always boggled me.  I get it in theory, but forgiving myself and then letting go of it is no easy task for me.  But, as a wise man once said, it is a good aspiration to "not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.  No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how experience can benefit others."  I also heard a great point that self-loathing is actually just a sneaky form of self-centeredness.  You can be self-centered in two ways:  either you think that you're so amazing that the world revolves around you, or you can think that you're so terrible that the world revolves around you.  Neither is true.  The world doesn't revolve around you, period!  It revolves around God, and I can only understand myself properly through His view of me.  What is that view?  A pretty lofty one: worth dying for, but a worth not based at all on me accomplishments or failures.  As a song says, "Not because of what I am, but because of what You've done.  Not because of what I've done, but because of who You are." (which, by the way, is a great example of a literary device called a chiasmus!)
I will tear myself away from my musings, because I hear Ruby stirring from a nap.  But I think I ended on a pretty good note: flaws notwithstanding, I'm precious in God's sight...as are we all.

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