To those of you that have asked about my student teaching, I usually don't sugarcoat it.
It's rough. I can't describe to you what I have to deal with and manage every day. I can't explain the stress and pressures and the discipline I have to constantly enforce. I asked for the challenge of IPS and often I wonder why I did. I come back to questions like, "What made me want to teach an inner city school in the first place? Where is God in this? Where is the light in this place and in this screwed up system? Is the strain of the day really worth the little I end up teaching that day? Do these kids see my love for them underneath the discipline? AM I even loving them like Christ would when I feel I get so frustrated with them?"
And then I've had a lot of talks with my roommate Sarah about life and the profession we chose...We ask and attempt to answer questions like "Why are we even teaching these subjects when there doesn't seem to be any lasting value? What are we doing with our lives? How is this a ministry when we feel we can't even talk with our students about life and love and faith and the things that matter in this life? Instead she talks about music and she directs the band, and I'm teaching the short "o" sound in words like "mom," and "rock," and showing them how to write simple addition equations. Looking at the big picture, it seems kind of pointless. I struggle with feeling like I need to be doing something more or something else. Something that will draw people into the love of Christ I've found. Something that I can tangibly see results from...
But then I remember, I can. You can do that in any profession you choose. I can and I have shown Christ's love, despite or even through the way I treat discipline problems, the way I've chosen to eat lunch with students in order to get to know them better, the way I praise and show excitement and joy when they get an answer right or demonstrate good behavior. I hope and pray they see the light within me and are impacted by that light. And I can and I have seen tangible results. Maybe not a life dedicated to following Christ or even a "thank you" for any efforts I put forth, but I see my students learning and understanding new things every day and I see them beginning to read and understand how words form and I take for granted how cool of a process that is. And that I am necessary in that process! Even though I can't see the big picture of their lives, every stepping stone to get where they're going is essential...and I have a chance of putting those stepping stones in place.
So, I can do that anywhere...so...why IPS? Do I feel God leading me to an inner city school or was I trying to prove something to myself or to others? That I could handle the challenge?
I don't know...but I do know that I cried on my way home from Open House night because 5 parents showed up to the classroom and I heard stories and imagined the homes of others and mourned for the state of the county, the city, the world...I've heard two kids say the phrase "once my mom gets her food stamps..." and I have no doubt the majority of the class is living in poverty.
So, why teach in the inner city? Because these kids don't have parents who are also "teachers" like my parents were and a lot of suburban parents are. I don't think I want to teach in a place that has highly invovled parents, because I feel my role would not be as significant.
But then I question, could I do this day in and day out for years and years while still feeling healthy and sane...and then maybe add a family to that equation later on? I don't know, in all honesty. I wish I could. Maybe I could. But could or would God call me to a school like this and how would I know if he did?
Is the test of knowing God's calling simply that we are enjoying what we're doing and where we're living and feeling content, or does the test of knowing His calling mean living uncomfortably and maybe even a little miserably, yet going and doing and serving in a place a lot of people don't really want to be? Does anybody even really want to be where they're at or are we always going to long for somewhere else or something else? Am I being too idealistic, or are we supposed to find that place, that profession, that person, that church body that just feels "right"? That feels like the perfect fit? Or do we have to wait until God restores the earth back to the way it was before the Fall to really truly feel "right" with ourselves and our surroundings? I guess maybe if we strive to live out God's kingdom on the earth we can come close, but until everything is restored again (which I cling to the promise of in Revelation), life is gonna suck. It's going to be toil and strain and heartache and disaster and sickness and hopelessness, and questioning without any real answers just like I'm doing now...
But there's hope. There's so much hope if we cling to God's promises. If we just trust. I feel like I've been really busy with school and hanging out with friends in Indy and I just keep moving and moving and haven't taken much time to stop and pray or read or get in touch with myself and with God. I feel like I have to relearn that actually. I have to continually relearn that practice because I have been so inconsistent in it. But I love how in the places I've felt the most connected to God, I've journaled, and through those old journal entries, I rediscover myself and am reminded what God was teaching me. This is from Jeremiah 17:5-10. I had written it down in this journal entry from the end of March and it was an encouragement to me today : )
"But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit."
I want to be one of those trees...