Woah…it’s been more than 4 months since I’ve last written on here. It’s been a combination of a couple of things: not having anything good to say, lack of time to produce semi-quality writing, not having the mental capacity to reflect something meaningful, and the list goes on. But, here is my attempt to catch you up on the happenings of the past few months. Maybe it’s vain of me to think that anyone will actually read this, but whatever…half of this is for my benefit. Ready…set…here I go!
His Grace Is Sufficient for Me…
That line about sums the past 4 months in its entirety. This transition has been one of the most mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting things I’ve ever done. I’ve encountered feelings of loneliness, anxiety and frustration to a new depth. I’ve failed and I’ve been disappointed countless times. But through it all, God has been good and God has been faithful. In spite of my weariness, He has proven strong; in spite of my pride, He has proven merciful. I have felt His presence so closely–even in the moments I questioned and challenged Him.
The Lord has come through for me in so many ways these last few months. I have been blessed enough to have found an incredible church, where I am becoming fairly involved. I’m still struggling to make solid Christian friends, but I have made some and I treasure them greatly. I have some of the most helpful and encouraging coworkers I could have ever asked for; I have a roommate I enjoy spending time with. The Lord has provided all I need (and some of the things I want); my health has remained in tack (with the exception of a few minor head colds). I’ve realized that it’s only when I forget about His goodness and mercy that I become discontent and anxious.
This song has been my anthem, and I pray that is resonates with you as well: Matt Redman- Never Once
This Teaching Gig…
I’m only slightly surprised to be saying this, but I hate teaching. At least, I hate teaching special education in a public school system. It’s entirely different from anything I was expecting it to be (thanks to my naiveté). I think we can all agree that the education system in America absolutely sucks, but for my students it’s an entirely differently animal. Our system is set up in such a way that unless the school system has tons of money flowing through it, necessary resources (like teachers) are few and far between. My students are in essence, being set up to fail. The things I do enjoy about teaching, like having meaningful conversations with my students & teaching them practical skills, rarely get to happen because of the information overload being thrown around.
Teaching special education is like doing two full-time jobs for the time and pay of only one. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There is so much legal mumbo jumbo and paperwork for each student that it is simply overwhelming. I’m starting to get the hang of things now, but the first several months were spent on the brink of a breakdown. I would be at school from 6:30-6:30, then work for a couple more hours from home (thankfully, I nixed that). The worst part about it is that no matter how hard I work, no matter how much time I put into it, I’m not an effective teacher. Now, this is where most people say, “Melody, I’m sure you’re a great teacher.” But, trust me, I’m not. There are multiple class periods a day that I’m supposed to teach 2 grade levels, 2 subjects at the same time. Someone, please tell me how the heck that is supposed to work. I can tell you right now: it doesn’t.
Please, don’t even get me started on Teach for America.
I could write another 1000 words on the struggles I’ve faced teaching, but I won’t. Those closest to me know this has been far from easy and I’ll leave it at that. If I knew that the administration would replace me in a timely manner and/or I had something else to do, I would have quit in October. But they won’t, and I don’t. So, I’m left with making the best of a terrible situation and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. The way I’ve come to see it, at the end of the day, what really matters is whether or not my students have seen the love and grace of God through me–unfortunately, what too many of them have seen is hardship, sin, and hopelessness. In spite of everything I dislike about teaching (the management issues, the endless paperwork, etc) I dearly love my students (except maybe my 7th graders…just kidding…mostly). When I view them as people with eternal significance my whole perspective changes. I want them to see Christ’s perfect love that never gives up, never runs out, and never falls short. This quote has become one that drives almost all of my interactions with students:
“I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.”- Dr. Hiam Ginott
In spite of the moments of affliction, there have been countless moments of joy & happiness. Here’s a couple of the ones that stand out (check out my Instagram account if you want some pictures!):
September: Literally the only good that happened this month: visiting some friends from college in Memphis, TN over the Labor Day weekend…I desperately needed to see some familiar faces!
October: Halfway through the month, I visited my Alma Mater & saw professors, employers, friends and mentors. I’m convinced this visit is the only thing that kept me from having a complete breakdown! It was incredibly refreshing to be poured into, advised and encouraged by some of the most godly people I know.
November: This was a fun month. It began with the wedding of my beautiful cousin, which I was lucky enough to be a part of. I got to spend almost a week with friends and family. A week later, my dear friend Cassie came to visit. It was during this visit that I realized I actually liked parts of Atlanta (something about playing tour guide, maybe?). Cassie is one of my favorite people in the whole world–her honesty and encouragement is always precisely what I need. The tail end of November (Thanksgiving) was spent at the best place in America: the Fishnet in Duck, NC. Everything about this week was perfect, from the conversations with cousins to drinking coffee on the deck watching dolphins play.
December: Aside from finish the semester and Christmas break, the main highlight of December was spending time in the Smokey Mountains of TN with some friends from college. It was simply fun…no IEPs needed writing, no papers needed to be graded, and no lunches needed to be packed. Christmas break is Christmas break, need I say more?
January: Almost 2 weeks in, and this month has been pretty decent. Harmony was here to ring in the New Year and of course we turnt up. School started off with a cold day (I refuse to call it a snow day), a broken water pipe, and 12-year olds firmly committed to their New Years Resolution of ‘being better at living’.
It is an understatement to say that I was ready for 2013 to be over. It wasn’t that 2013 was the hardest year of my life (although it was probably up there), but that it was just such a year of uncertainty and transition. I experienced the softening of a heart that only the Lord can do; I became a member of the “real world;” I moved to a new city, began a new job, and made new friends. If you had told me at the beginning of the year everything I would experience & learn in the 12 months to come, I probably would have laughed. Nonetheless, I am grateful for both the heartache and the laughter that came.
For 2014, I didn’t make any resolutions. Instead, I decided to pray a 3 simple prayers over my life, and the lives of those I love. My first prayer is that I fall head over heels in love with the Word of God. I have found great comfort in knowing that although life all around me may change, the Word of the Lord never does. “The grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”- Isaiah 40:8. My second prayer is that the Lord would use me in incredible ways–for His glory. I have no idea what that will look like or how He’ll use me, but I desperately want to be a conduit for lives and hearts to be changed. I want my words, actions, and relationships to have an immeasurable, eternal impact. Finally, my prayer is that no matter what 2014 has in store for me, I will endure it with grace. This was my prayer for 2013 as well, and it was one that the Lord answered in every way. I pray that no matter what comes, my faith will never waver and my pursuit of Christ will never falter.
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Oh, God, be my everything, be my delight
Be, Jesus, my glory My soul’s satisfied