Sunday, January 3, 2016

Why I Teach at the Newcomer Center

When I got the job at the Newcomer Center 3 years ago, I knew I had landed somewhere special.  I was kind of surprised I got it.  In our district, jobs are posted internally first and whoever has the most seniority gets the transfer.  I didn't have a lot of seniority and I figured a lot of teachers would want it. I was overjoyed when I got it.

Here are some of the things I have discovered about this job that I didn't know when I first took it:

1.  I work longer hours than I ever have in my career.
2.  I am not just a teacher.  I am a caseworker, social worker, and advocate.  And, all of that takes a lot of time, energy, and persistence.
3.  This job requires tremendous emotional energy and strength.  It can really break your heart open.
4.  I have to continue to work on taking care of my own spirit and my body in order to be at my very best for these children.
5.  All of the above is worth it, because I have never in a job felt as challenged, inspired, moved, rewarded, and appreciated as much as a I do in this job.  Never.

One of the best books I read in 2016 was recommended by my dear friend Holly, who lives a very big and a very brave life:  The Great Work of Your Life:  A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling  by Stephen Cope.  He writes about humans who have done great work and discovered their own unique genius:  people like Harriet Tubman, Beethoven, Susan B. Anthony, and Gandhi.  He describes their rocky paths and their struggles and shows how they overcame doubt, fears, and other real obstacles in discovering their purpose in life and living it out.

I'm not comparing myself to Gandhi, but I believe we each have something that we can contribute in this world and when you figure it out, you'll know it.

 I do feel I have found the great work of my life in my teaching job right now.  I'm not sure it's what I'll do forever but I feel I have been led to this job.  It has been shaping me and expanding me in ways I could not imagine.  I'm not perfect at it.  I'm still learning.  There are days I am still massively humbled about what I don't know.

Tomorrow, I am back to work after a long break.  I'm rested and refreshed and can't wait to see the students.  I missed them.

We'll get 3 new students this week.  One is an 11 year old girl, a refugee, from a war-torn area.  She has not been to school in the last 3 years.  Think about everything children in America learn between the ages of 8-11.  Imagine the trauma she may have been through, the uncertainty, the violence she may have seen.  Now, she's here in her new country.  She needs to learn a new language, adapt to a new culture and climate, and make up for a lot of lost time with her schooling.

This girl and her family are behind the Great Work of My Life.  They are the living, breathing reasons I am happy and inspired to go to work.  When I meet her family this week, I'll welcome them to America and tell them how happy I am that they are here.  I'll reassure them that we'll take care of their little girl and that she'll learn English and lots of other things.

I'll welcome the girl and even if we can't communicate much, I hope she'll see in my smile that I care about her and that she's safe, and that I'm going to be her biggest cheerleader.

I'll close with a few quotes from Cope's book:

"If you bring forth what is within you it will save you. Yes. But this saving is not just for you. It is for the common good.” 

"Am I living fully right now? Am I bringing forth everything I can bring forth? Am I digging down into that ineffable inner treasure-house that I know is in there? That trove of genius? Am I living my life’s calling? Am I willing to go to any lengths to offer my genius to the world?”

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