15 Days

SavannahNew Experiences, Teaching Things Leave a Comment

“15 more days, 15 more days, just 15 more days until graduation and then all this will be over,” I chanted to myself as I sat down for yet another seminar on all the things I’m doing wrong in my elementary teaching profession (I’m not even teaching elementary). This journey has been the longest of my life. These struggles have been some of the absolute hardest. I would not go back and do it over again for anything in the world, BUT I have learned so much, and grown so much, and seen so many things textbooks could never adequately prepare me for. That’s the element of student teaching that no one brings up. You will spend every day of your time as an ST torn between deep love and deep hatred. 

There were parts of student teaching that I loved more than anything else. The kids are the sweetest. I never would’ve picked myself to be in special education, but Early Childhood (EC/special education for preschoolers) has completely stolen my heart. I knew from the first moment when a non-speaking child looked up at me and said, “Ms. Sa-ana!” that I could never go back to being solely with the typically developing population. The wins are so invigorating and they make every loss worth it. Seriously, I know, it sounds insane. In fact, I might actually be insane at this point in the year. Here I am, still committed to the major for some strange reason though. I loved the lesson planning. Type A teachers unite, because making a plan and following it through gave me a rush, like nothing else can. 

There were parts of student teaching that I hated with a seething passion. Primarily edTPA, our licensure project/exam/weed-out-the-weak opportunity, was the most atrocious thing I have ever had to do (and I’ve been awake during a bone scraping procedure). Then, I got the absolute honor of doing it a second time because that Task 3 is a killer. Pray for your seniors going into education because we all have to do edTPA and we all struggle with it. It is MISERABLE for everyone involved. I had to learn how to teach in a way that met everybody’s needs. I can’t say I’ve accomplished that, but I did learn through it and I’m far more comfortable with modifying activities on the fly. I had to get used to making all of the decisions and being the point person for everything. It made my brain hurt, big time. There were times when I would cry on the way home when I had to make a decision about stopping for gas, what to eat for dinner, or which route to take home. I have never had so much decision fatigue in my entire life. I will never judge someone for being overwhelmed by a simple choice again. 

But, student teaching wasn’t just a time of love or hatred. It was a time for a lot of growth both personally and spiritually. I was at the end of my rope most days. If I had a day where I didn’t feel like I was drowning, I started waiting for the other shoe to drop and push me back to my resting state of stress (my stress-level forever and always is Mia driving the ‘stang, IYKYK). I will never forget the breakdown day of a lifetime. My day had sucked. The past week had sucked. I felt in a rut and miserable. There was a ton of family stuff going on, as well as the announcement that I failed edTPA. People were so well meaning, but it felt daunting to be asked questions like, “How are you doing?” “What is your score?” “Are you going to work here in the fall?” “Are you getting excited for graduation?” My whole life was up in the air at that point. I didn’t know how to truthfully answer these questions and many others. My CE was meeting with me and she pulled me aside and asked for the truth. I broke down and told her I could not adequately meet everyone’s expectations. I felt like I had let myself down, but even worse I felt like I had let down the people who had invested in me, who had a personal commitment to my success. I was miserable and it was obvious. 

Her words were so encouraging. She told me that it was unfair what had happened and that so many people were expecting so many different things. It meant a lot to hear that she was not disappointed in me – that I was disappointed in myself and projecting my personal feelings onto others, yet again. I have said many times during these past few months that the beautiful plan I had created for myself during senior year and my first year of teaching have gone down the drain. Seriously, that plan was stunning. Student teach, pass edTPA and do well on it, be offered a full-time position before the year ends, long-term substituting through the end of the year, staying in the same general area and saving up money to move out after year one of teaching. Some of those things have happened, but not many. 

As I was driving home the other day, I realized something. Yes, my plan was beautiful, but not nearly as beautiful as the mind of our Father. He orchestrated the perfect church for me to be in during this struggle of a lifetime. I’m out with friends from church walking, eating dinner, getting coffee, or doing Bible study together 2-3 nights a week. That’s a lot for me. Some of these friends from church I text as often as I do my friends from school. I don’t feel like a burden (which has been a huge personal conflict of mine for YEARS). It’s nice to truly be present with someone and avoid thinking about the hard things because they instantly seem miniscule in comparison to the joy I am experiencing in those times. These people push me to do better, to find the willpower somewhere deep within to continue pressing on towards the goal.

With my CE on leave now, I have begun to add Scripture next to my (her) desk. The most encouraging one at the moment is Isaiah 49:16, “I have engraved your name on the palms of my hands.” Here, Isaiah is describing how God has written our names on the palms of His hands. Think about when you’ve had something on your palm – it catches your attention, right? It could be something itchy or sweaty, maybe it’s something nice, like a lotion. No matter what it is, it has your focus. God is focused on me. You could also apply that verse to yourself. Who is my focus? Which person is the one with my full attention? God has His attention on you, you should have your attention on Him. 

What a scattered description of this student teaching journey which officially ends on Monday! I think it is the perfect summation, though. My brain, my time, and my heart has felt completely scattered many times throughout this semester, but I am beyond thankful that Christ, the Sure and Steady Anchor, never once let me go. I might not have always seen it, but His presence never waivered. His love has never failed and it’s His consistency which makes my inconsistency forgiven.

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