Entering into this Advent season, I took time to look at my life.
I have been teaching in some fashion for over twenty years. My first practicums were disastrous. Most of the principals and cooperating teachers with whom I worked recommended that I leave the teaching program. My college professor saw something in me that they did not. Potential. Some people just take a little longer to pick up the skills needed to succeed, but in the end they usually do. I almost left the Education Program twice. My professor would not hear of it. She gave me extensions on projects so I could study for finals. She let me borrow her car when I did not have a ride from the college to the site of my practicum. She took notice when there were unsavory elements in my life outside of class. She was proud of me when I stood up to those negative forces and became my own person.
My first job was something for which no amount of educational theory and adolescent psychology could have prepared me. I had 120 students through the course of an eight-hour day, and I have never been good with names. I had to navigate their hormones, their personal crises, their relationships with their classmates, and the positions their parents held in the caste system of donations and scholarships. I was a first-year teacher in a sea of politics, and all I wanted to do was teach children about punctuation in the context of effective written expression. So after I was fired, I was hired to teach at another school. It was a smaller school with very different issues. So after I was fired again, I decided to do something completely different.
When I began teaching after school religious education, I found my first real success in teaching. My students knew I cared about them. My students benefitted from my unconventional teaching methods, hands-on learning techniques, music and food in the classroom, abundant visual aids, and audience participation. It was the first time I believed in myself as a teacher since graduation.
I began homeschooling my first child unofficially about fifteen years ago. It was about twelve years ago when I began homeschooling officially. In that time, I have been testing out curriculum, tailoring lessons to the individual child, balancing outside time with inside time, inviting self-expression and independent learning through real-world situations, and facilitating learning in both traditional and non-traditional ways. My kids seem to be doing well.
No one has told me I should leave the profession and never teach again in nearly twenty years. No has come into my classroom screaming at me for ten minutes daily in nearly twenty years. No has come into my classroom and accused me of imagined wrong-doing and threatened lawsuits in nearly twenty years. I had to ask myself why it all still hurt. It still hurt because I could not forgive them. I could not forgive others because I could not forgive myself for failing to be the teacher they thought they had hired. Because of this failure, I felt deeply ashamed.
That was where my Advent had to begin. I had to forgive myself for not living up to someone else's expectations. Next, I had to remind myself that I am not the person I used to be. Finally, I had to forgive the cruelty of my clients and coworkers. Today, they are not the people they used to be, either. So, I did. I forgave them. All of them. Without naming names:
To the Dad who said I should never teach again because I held his son accountable for cheating... I FORGIVE YOU!
To the Mom who believed the vicious gossip and lies that I was taking anti-depressants and other drugs to get me through the day... I FORGIVE YOU!
To the Parents who pulled me out of class to tell me I need to go easier on their kids because their kids do not have time to serve detention for behavior problems and missed assignments... I FORGIVE YOU!
To the Administrator who recommended I leave the Education Program after I diagnosed a student's learning disability that had gone unchecked under her watch... I FORGIVE YOU!
To the Administrator who said getting lost and on a foggy day in a part of town I have never been was no excuse for being twenty minutes late for a practicum, and if it was up to him, I would never be hired by anyone in the district... I FORGIVE YOU!
To the Administrator who sent angry parents up to my classroom after hours as I was trying to get to the hospital to see my Dad after his heart attack... I FORGIVE YOU!
To the Fellow Teacher who yelled at me and threatened lawsuits against me for being late for lunch duty, and yet refused to tell me the correct time to arrive for lunch duty... I FORGIVE YOU!
To the Fellow Teacher who sabotaged me by giving me incorrect information and drawing the administrator's attention to my mistakes... I FORGIVE YOU!
To the Administration who fired me without offering me the opportunity and training to change... I FORGIVE YOU!
To the young teacher who just wanted to make a difference in the lives of her students... I FORGIVE ME!
With God's help, I am giving it all to Him. He makes all things new. He said so: Revelation 21:5.