A whirlwind week

Yay, it’s Friday! Although I’ve been going since 7ish this morning, it’s been a good day. In fact, all the days this week were good despite getting home late Tuesday (I have a night class) and Aaron’s crazy work schedule. One night he even had to go back in to work. Blech.

I’m loving my classes and my job. Because of this assistantship I’m super busy, but I. Am. Loving. It. I haven’t been so happy with my life since I taught Spanish at Midland. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, but later after I’d quit I missed it so much! Thankfully I’ve been able to tutor several students this week from all over the world and teach a couple conversation classes. In my two weeks I’ve already met people from Turkey, Ukraine, Mexico (of course), and Palestine.

The coursework is challenging but not impossible. The finer points of linguistics like semantics and phonology are actually very similar to math in some aspects, and I love math. I love having a problem to figure out. Unlike my undergrad, I’m not constantly obsessed with every single assignment and the grade. Carrying a 4.0 over the next two years is my goal (duh!) but actually learning and discovering new things about linguistics are my priorities.

I can really see myself teaching ESOL classes in the future, whether it’s at a college here in the US or in a school overseas somewhere. Teaching just makes me so happy. Like swooning over lesson plans and rosters happy. Kind of. UTEP seems to have an amazing ESOL program and I will take advantage of every second to gain more experience. Living on the border definitely has its advantages!

Soon I’ll be starting on a research project with one of the languages/linguistics professors. I’m excited to get research experience. I have an option to do either a thesis or an extended paper (the latter requires more coursework) at the end of my program. I know a thesis involves a LOT of individual research, so if I do that I’ll need experience. Then there’s the ever-present question… to PhD or not to PhD?

Honestly, I can’t answer that for sure right now. I mean, it’d be pretty sweet to be Dr. W., but how does that fit in with moving, husband getting out of the Army (or staying in???), and starting a family? And not to mention the expense, unless I’m lucky enough to get an associateship or scholarship or whatever they call them up there in the rafters of higher ed. Anyway. We can cross that bridge later.

When I’m working towards a goal, my mind becomes a single track and sometimes it’s hard for me to see (or care) about other things that are going on. However, so far I’ve been able to balance life at home and life on campus. Because this type of busyness isn’t usually emotionally draining or downright frustrating, I still have energy to work out (occasionally) and keep the house clean. My husband would tell you that I’m much more fun to live with that when I was working at, say, Sylvan. I’ve just felt so blessed and thankful and joyful.

A challenge for every day of the week

I have to say… I quite content right now as a stay-at-home wife/nanny/tutor/seamstress/entrepreneur????/short-term missionary/volunteer “Sunday school” teacher/dog trainer… I think some of the best jobs are ones whose titles you really can’t pinpoint to a couple words.

Even with Husband Man being gone for almost three weeks (he comes home in two days, wheeeee!!) I’ve managed to keep myself quite busy. I’ve been working out 4+ days a week, hanging out with friends, sewing like a mofo, grocery shopping, cleaning….

The other day in my whirlwind of such exciting domestic activities, I got a call from a private school organization here in El Paso asking if I were interested in a part-time Spanish teaching position through the end of the school year, with a  possibility of full-time employment next year. Ehhhh. For once, I didn’t feel pressure to jump on a teaching opportunity. Besides, I’m already committed to the family I’m nannying for, committed to the trip to Honduras, and I love spending so much time with Aaron when he’s home.

Truth is, I am content. I’m truly excited for the next few months, as they’ll be super busy and challenging! I think for me, being challenged is a requirement for contentment. I feel challenged in my workouts, in training my dog (I got a Gentle Leader and it’s working well so far!), in creating something for someone when they send me a picture and say, Hey! Can you make something like this?

Just yesterday I made a messenger bag, and while I didn’t have a pattern for a smallish messenger bag, I had one for a purse with a long strap. So, with my super-awesome mathematical skills, I used proportions to make the pattern bigger and guess what? It totally worked! I may make one like this for myself….

I also finished my first legit quilt this week, with squares cut with my fancy-schmancy rotary cutter, batting, and actual quilting stitching on top! That took patience… and then I had to miter corners. Phew. However, I believe this is just one of many quilts I will make in my life.

Anyway. Today I had this idea of a shop I’d like to open someday before I die. Call it a bullet on my “Bucket List”, whatever… but a shop like the pottery shops where you can take your mom, grandma, BFF, whoever, and paint pottery. Except mine would be a sewing shop, where you can make a project in one sitting, or have your daughter’s ninth birthday party, or take a class, or buy a coffee (an in-house cafe would be essential!), or purchase supplies for a project… wouldn’t that be fun?? Maybe someday, after we are done traveling and serving around the world, and our children are grown and have given us beautiful grandbabies, and we’ve purchased that $590,000 property in the New Mexican valley, and opened our animal rescue….. and my husband would work next door in his used bookstore…. someday. 🙂

Staying missions-minded

As time goes on, it’s becoming more and more evident to us that we are being called into missions. “Called” can be a term thrown around in the Christian circles.. but basically what I mean is that we have a very strong inclination and desire to go. Aaron still has four years left in the military. He’s just passed his three-year anniversary. (I know. Seven years. Unfortunately his year of training wasn’t included in his six-year enlistment. Someone screwed up.)

But really, four years isn’t that long. That’s… high school. College. A car loan. Actually, in about three years we’ll need to start formulating a plan for life post-Army. I’m really really excited about that. And nervous. But mainly excited. We both have portable careers (me=teaching, him=computers), and we could take it around the world. We could become Assemblies of God missionaries. We could support missionaries who are already in the field. Who knows?

Where will we go? What will we do? How long will we do it? I have no idea, and I’m thankful, because being the planner I am, I would be going crazy right now.

It’s exciting to me that we will raise our family to be in the world, but not of the world. While we (well, I) wouldn’t mind moving back to Illinois, central or the Chicago suburbs, I don’t think settling down, buying a house, and having a picket fence is what God has in mind. And this isn’t a new development; we’ve felt for most of our nine-year relationship that we’re meant to travel into the world.

It’s encouraging to think that, hey, we won’t really need to buy new furniture, or appliances, or cars, for the next 3-4 years. Our cars now are old, but what’s the sense in buying newer ones if we can make these last? So many people we know are settling down, having children, buying newer and bigger cars for the children they’re having. And as well they should… we’re in our later 20’s now. It’s what happens.

It’s hard to not center my desires around what most everyone else is doing. Then I hear about some distant relatives of mine who are doing various things in Afghanistan, Uganda, Tanzania…. all over the world, and it makes me want to go somewhere, too, and leave the comfy American lifestyle behind.

I think the military was always in The Plan. I never could have guessed that it would have been. I think it’s preparing us… 1500 miles from home is only a drop in the bucket if we go to Asia, or Africa, or the Middle East. Seven years pales in comparison to a lifetime of serving globally. Trusting God for our personal finances now is small when you think about having to trust God for the finances of an entire non-for-profit, or school, or orphanage. 95 degrees in El Paso is cool compared to 115 in the Middle Eastern desert….

This is big stuff, people.

Like a boss

yep.

This week I had a breakthrough at work. Today was my first “good” day in a long time. Not “okay” or “not bad” but “good”. I think with all the change and uncertainty surrounding our cross-country move and finances, I’ve been on edge. Life changes take some getting used to, but this one’s been six months in the making. I’ve complained about how I don’t make what I really should for the responsibility that I have and blah blah blahhhh. I’ve whined about how expensive it is to certify in Texas and how there are no teaching jobs. The latter is not entirely true; they’re just few and far between. A couple times a week we have a displaced teacher come to us looking for a tutoring job. I wish we could hire everyone. Anyway.

I started teacher observations this week. I mean, I’ve been informally observing for some time now. From the hours of 9 to 3:30, I’m in my office or running around getting things done, usually with only one other person there. Once 4 o’clock comes around, I want to interact with people, be with the kids, see how they’re doing with their lessons. But this week I actually had a form to fill out and I’ll have to talk with each teacher about his/her evaluation.

It’s not like the evaluations determine a pay raise. (There are none in the works for anyone right now as far as I know.) It’s not like this is something that will follow my employees (yes, my, weird) forever, but it’s my first experience carrying out this sort of responsibility. I know I’m a good teacher and that I possess a lot of knowledge about pedagogy (I’m a natural! ;)) but it’s intimidating to evaluate a teacher who taught for 20-some-odd years in the classroom and is now tutoring because they feel like it and have nothing better to do.

I realized that regardless of what I’m getting paid, or not paid, to do my job for about thirty hours a week, my job is important. I have right now about 50 kids and sets of parents who are affected by my day-to-day decisions. I make no less decisions now than when I was teaching full-time. Regardless of what I’m getting paid, this “supervisory” experience will be fantastic on my resume.

This is a completely new avenue for me, being a “boss”. I hate hate hate the stereotypes and cringing that term conjures up. Bill Lumberg. Michael Scott. Darth Vader. But, it’s about time I accept this role and decide what I’m going to do with the influence I have.

I get to train teachers. I get to meet and work with all kinds of families who have one goal: to help their children/grandchildren/nieces/nephews succeed in school and in life. Build confidence. Encourage creativity. I believe in our programs (though they’re expensive.. wish we had scholarships or grants or something), but more importantly, I believe in compassionate comprehensive education.

While I’m looking forward to (hopefully) starting grad school in the fall, I’m actually enjoying my experience now. I’m done complaining (for the most part), done whining (for the most part), done pining for a teaching job (for the most part), done begrudging the early Saturday mornings (for the most part) and instead focusing on using my God-given talents and brains to the best of my ability.

God honors excellence and excellence honors God.

Like a boss.

Where I need to be

I’ll admit it: when I quit my job teaching high school Spanish, I was bitter about having to leave. I thought I would be swept off my feet to join my husband in Korea for three years, and it all fell through. I felt like I quit my job for nothing. I was sad to leave that place… I loved my students, my coworkers and (most of) the hustle and bustle that comes with being in high school. (No lie, sometimes I just shut myself off to the outside world in the morning before classes started! Sometimes it was scary in that hallway, haha.)

But I was sad. My kids were sad. Yes, most of the 100 of them. I gained a good deal of useful experience for the future, both in teaching and and in being a decent human being.

I said, “Well, I may not go back to full-time teaching, ever.” What?! Was I crazy?

I love school. Like, love school. I don’t think most can comprehend the level of nerdiness I am capable of. I love learning, and textbooks, and writing notes with my very best chicken-scratch handwriting. I love the newness of the first day, with new outfits, new shoes, and new pencils. I love all those things as a teacher, too. I love seeing kids I’ve had before in class come into my room, comfortable, happy and ready to start a new school year (most of the time).

I love seeing the look on a student’s face when he understands, finally, how to conjugate ser in the present tense. Or the sense of rapport when a student is struggling with a personal issue and I’m able to help her through it. I love making jokes and laughing with my students. Sometimes we laugh so hard we cry. (For us, it was Napoleon Dynamite quotes. Dorky, I know.)

I went to a school yesterday for an interview. [I’m currently pleading with Jesus to give me this job.] As I was waiting for the principal, I was witnessing the (semi)controlled chaos of the end of the day. Students of all ages milling around, talking to friends, listening to their iPods, even a group playing Magic the Gathering. I love the craziness that it brings and I wasn’t annoyed in the least by loud voices and feet stomping.

School is where I’m supposed to be. Having my own classroom again would be akin to heaven on earth. I love that in those four walls, I am responsible for what happens. I’m the boss (but not a boss like “Like a Boss”, so don’t worry.) I’m also the mentor, big sister, friend, parent and tutor. I make split-second decisions hundreds of times a day. I inspire and encourage.

Now, this view of education wouldn’t really mean a whole lot coming from an idyllic green graduate. I’ve been around the block a couple times, and I know the downsides of education. I hate dealing with the politics and busy work. I hate the national mandates that make absolutely no sense because the people writing them usually have never stepped foot in a real classroom.

However, I choose to make those four walls my sanctuary. Our sanctuary, that’s free of bullying, put-downs and bad self-esteem.

I am a teacher.