Dear First Year Teacher Again: This is Your Season
Last Friday, I turned in the keys that unlocked my first ever teaching job.
For the past three years, I've been a junior high (grades 6-8) English Language Arts teacher at a small rural school, just outside my community. It's been quite a ride these last three years, yet pretty much from day one I've contemplated quitting. See, I never felt called to be a teacher. I originally went to school for a liberal English and writing degree with the idea that I’d become a novelist and open a children’s book store (I’ve been channeling the great Kathleen Kelly even since You’ve Got Mail came out.) But, the bookstore didn’t pan out so cue me fumbling around with my writing and odd jobs here and there and enter a season of unhappiness.
About five years ago, I decided to listen to all the people telling me I’d make a great teacher and went back to school for my teaching license. Yet even when I set foot in the classroom I still didn't feel cut out to be a teacher. I love reading and books. I love getting kids to read books. I love talking books, and recommending books, and teaching kids how to talk about books, but there's so much else that comes with being a teacher. Amidst the high-stress levels these last few years, there's always been a nagging in the back of my mind that I’m just not good enough to be a teacher. So, just like I ran from teaching for a long time, I’ve continued running through the last few years thinking I'd just quit and do something else. Anything else.
But God, as he always does, has other plans, and He has made it evident that I’m supposed to be a teacher in this season of life.
Earlier this summer, I applied for a bookish job, because I knew I just couldn’t stay where I was. I had let my stress get the best of me in my current position, and the last three years in a difficult teaching position had begun to add up. So, I began praying that my whole job situation would be in God’s hands. I took a sabbatical to the West coast, spent more time in prayer, and just asked that He would make it quite obvious where I was supposed to be, be it at this new job venture or to stay at my really hard and stressful school.
Not long after I got back (about three weeks ago,) I answered a random phone call inviting me to come interview for a teaching job I hadn't applied for.
In my own community. For a high school English position.
I walked into my interview the next day, sat down to a wonderful discussion, and walked out with a new job, extremely peaceful about the whole situation.
Sure it comes with a huge shift as I’ll practically be a first year teacher again, but He was pretty obvious with everything and knowing that He’s leading me helps calm the fears.
Near the end of last week while I was cleaning out my old classroom, some of those old doubts crept back in. I’m not good enough. What was I thinking? This year is going to be full of stress. I can’t be a first year teacher again. Etc, etc, etc.
But then, at the back of my file cabinet, I found an unopened letter I had written to myself my very first day of teaching three years ago, not knowing what my career would bring. According to the instructions on the front, I was supposed to open it on the last day of school, but somehow, it got lost in the bottom of a drawer until now.
I’m simply amazed at how God knew I would need these words as I enter into a time of change.
I read the letter and my heart swelled. Not because it was my own writing, but because I knew it wasn’t. He knew—three years ago He knew—where I would be headed on my teaching path and that at just this time, I’d need a little reminder I’m where I’m supposed to be.
Dear future Ms. L,
I bet you never expected your first year of teaching to go by so fast! Nor that it would be full of so many ups and downs, joys and frustrations. But it was so worth it, wasn't it?
These kids. That's what made each day so wonderful. Their questions and curiosity. Their imaginations and wonder. Their desire to be readers because they were given the chance to be readers.
Have you changed your mind about teaching or are you in this for the long haul now? I know there were a few moments where you probably wavered, but this is where you should be. You are a teacher. You love these kids, and you share your nerdy passions simply hoping to make their lives better. Don't fear the change that is coming or the newness again.
Every day is a beginning--sometimes it's good to start afresh.
This year was an adventure and there are many more to come. Embrace them! Seek them!
But above all, hope for them.
Just when we think we can’t move forward, He’s right there nudging us on. Sometimes it’s in a letter. Sometimes it’s through a friend. Or maybe, sometimes it’s through something else, something more personal to us. Whatever the nudge, He won’t start our story unless He’s going to keep writing it.
I may be a firs’ years again (cue all the Harry Potter references) but I’m looking forward to a new year of adventure.
Here’s to trusting that no matter what doubts we have, what lies sneak into our heads, or whether or not we feel equipped…He’s there. All along, He’s there.