Sunday, August 21, 2016

Stepping Out

There are a couple of things that people always to tell you about becoming a teacher. It's fulfilling. It's ridiculously difficult. It's a ton of fun. There will be tons of paperwork and grading (especially as an English teacher). There are also questions, especially for me.

"You were homeschooled? What made you decide to teach in public schools?" (The answer is, God said so, and my arguments fell pretty flat, so I decided embracing it was easier.)

"How are you going to deal with high school kids? They're crazy." (I know, and they're mostly all taller than me, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Plus, I like their crazy.)

"You realize that you aren't going to make that much, right?. How are you going to pay off your loans?" 

And there, I stop, because I honestly don't know. I spent the years in between my undergrad and my graduate work desperately trying to, 1) find ANY job, let alone a job that paid well (most of them didn't), and 2) hold off the loan collectors while I tried to figure out my life. In terms of financial decisions, going to grad school was both the most irresponsible thing and the only real option I had. If I wanted to make a real adult paycheck in my chosen career, I had to do this. I knew that, and again I had that conversation with God that went, "really? You really want me to do that?" and Him answering, "Yep. Do it."

So here I am. A year into my grad program, still alive, and having barely stayed so with a combination of student loans and my part-time job. 

But wait. Then student teaching comes up. At the beginning of the program, I didn't really think about it. 4 months, August to December, without any paychecks. And uncertain employment after that. Okay, then, I thought, well I can survive on the loan money I've been getting. 

Then I realized. Student teaching counts for more units, which eats up most of what I was hoping to get. Looking around the classroom whenever this subject came up, I saw the same emotions that were in me. Frustration. Anxiety. A bit of anger over the system that begs us to take on a low-paying job for the good of society, makes us pay through the nose for the education to get us there, and then throws in the added injustice of requiring an unpaid internship to achieve this goal. I cannot figure out the logic of this. It makes no sense to me. And, in the scheme of things, I don't even have it as bad as I could. I am in an accelerated program. I only have a semester. Most other teacher prep programs require a whole year. 

This is not just a financial hardship. This is actively taking advantage of people who have to take this path to reach the already grossly underpaid career they have chosen because they love it, and are passionate about making sure these kids get a good enough education to earn more than us.

Yet, here I am. Still 100% dedicated to finishing this out strong. I am here for a reason. I have been in dire financial straits for most of my time since graduating college. While this annoys me, and I'm not likely to stay quiet about it (it's not my style), I am not turning from the path. I do believe this is where I am supposed to be, when I was supposed to get there. Just because I'm happy to finally be at this point after so much waiting doesn't mean it doesn't suck.

That's where my faith comes in. I currently have no idea when I will get any money, and working odd jobs (which I'm still trying to do) isn't going to be enough to float me. This is not my favorite place to be in, but I've been here before. I have survived, and it has always been because God had my back. Stuff I can't explain. People handing me cash to cover what I needed that week. People buying me food that can be converted to leftovers and get me through a day. Often little things, but they add up. 

I am here. I am excited about the next four months. I am looking the fear and anxiety of having no money in the face and doing my best to strengthen my voice as I declare that I will not just survive, I will thrive during this time. I'm stepping out into the unknown and praying that God will catch me. That part, at least is certain. He hasn't dropped me yet.

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