Sunday, April 15, 2018

When Things Fall Apart to Fall Together (My Path to Teaching)

Phrases like "everything happens for a reason" and "only in God's time" are ones that have taunted me over the years. While some might find them comforting in the middle of strife or conflict, I just found them frustrating. And it isn't that I didn't believe either of those statements to be true, but for me it was similar to someone saying "Don't worry. Everything will be fine," while we stand watching my home burn to the ground. Which thankfully is not an actual scenario I've found myself in, but you get the gist. I'm not great at seeing beyond my current problem. And that's a terrible quality to have, one that I'm working on changing.

So when I was recently let go from my job of four years, it basically felt like the world was ending. Which is dramatic, for many reasons, not the least of which being that I hadn't planned on being at that job for more than 3 more months. Still. I've never been good with change, especially sudden and abrupt change. Let me give you some back story that may not seem relevant, but I promise, it will be, so hang in there.

As a young child I was obsessed with playing pretend (because you know smart phones and tablets and social media weren't a thing), and one of my favorite games was playing school. And my favorite character to play was the teacher. My friends and I always fought about who got to be the teacher. I think they fought because they wanted to boss me around, but I fought because teachers were just the coolest. Okay and also because I wanted to boss my friends around.

Fast forward through the years and whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I always said teacher. I didn't even have to think about it. It was just my go-to answer. I loved my teachers and I loved grading papers for my teachers, report cards (nerd alert), and I was just good at school! It was familiar and comfortable (this is going to come back and bite me in the you know what). I thought of course I'll be a teacher. Why not?

Well sometime during late high school I found a love for photography and I'd always loved reading and writing. So I went into college as an English major and a photography minor. But as I was told over and over again, the only thing I would be able to do with an English degree was teach high school English and there was absolutely no way I was going to teach a bunch of teenagers. Not my thing (even though yes, I was in fact still a teenager myself at the time). So I decided to switch to elementary education. Because if I was going to have to teach, I at least wanted it to be a grade level I was comfortable with. There it is again, comfort.

Well funny thing about teaching, it's nothing like being a student. Or at least back then I didn't think it was. I liked my teaching classes. I liked going to a nearby elementary school to tutor a child, I even liked learning about the teaching philosophers that seemed to be the bane of my classmates' existences. What I didn't like, was the interview process to get into the teaching program (which I went through and passed btw). And every professor that told me I would hate having to deal with parents, and every current elementary teacher I talked to at the time who told me not to do it, because "teaching isn't what it used to be." I allowed myself to be scared away by even the thought of discomfort. Dealing with parents? NO THANK YOU. I don't even like giving speeches in speech class, how am I supposed to handle a parent who confronts me about something they're unhappy with? I'd just die (again... dramatic, I know).

So when the opportunity presented itself to switch from my elementary education major to a fine arts major, I took it. I switched over to Communication Design and I loved it! It was hard work. I had to put in 10 times the amount of effort and work time into my Com Des projects as I ever did my teaching assignments, but it was worth it. And I graduated cum laude and nailed my Exit Review. And after graduation I moved home and the reality of having gone thousands and thousands of dollars into debt for an art degree that I was having trouble finding work in really sunk in. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret it. And I would NEVER advise anyone who wants an art degree to not follow their dreams. I will however advise them to be more realistic and to work harder while they're still in school to network and find jobs while they're still in college. But that's a whole other story.

I couldn't find a communication design job when I got home and I was too proud to look for something that was outside of my field. I eventually got a graphic design internship position at my church and I loved it. I learned a lot quickly, I felt like I was making a difference, and I loved the people I got to work with every day. I was always part-time and I even got a second part-time job at a doctor's office to make ends meet, so that I could continue working at the church. At several different points, for various reasons, I would begin the arduous task of looking for a design job in the professional market. I applied to companies in Texas, California, even Indiana. And I would get one interview, sometimes two. And then never get the job. So I just kept hanging on to my church job, even though at a certain point, it stopped being what I wanted, or even what was good for me. But it was comfortable. I had friends there and though frustrating at times, I knew I was directly having a hand in God's plan and the church's mission. I loved that. I still do. Unfortunately, as most adults know, comfort doesn't necessarily lead to fulfillment. And I've felt very unfulfilled for quite a while.

So here's where things start getting interesting. Through working at my church, I got involved with the women's Bible study and met many, many teachers who have become my good friends. It was my women's group of friends who eventually talked me into volunteering with elementary aged kids at church when I was unsure I wanted to make that leap. It was also them who, after I observed how much they loved their jobs teaching, planted that little seed in my brain that said maybe I should be teaching after all. Thanks to their excitement and assurance that I would make an amazing teacher (which is still yet to be seen), and through my mom's insistence that teaching is what I was meant to do, I tested and then entered into the ACT Houston alternative certification program.

Please, please note how absolutely far out of my comfort zone this was. I mean like to the moon, far out. But I wasn't happy and suddenly I realized that yes, teaching was still an option for me. Nothing else was working out. I wasn't happy at my job and despite numerous attempts, I couldn't find a job in my field, so I went for it. And I loved the class. And I made friends. And I was doing really well and all the while I still had the comfort blanket that was my job at the church. Everything was looking up.

And then I was let go from my job. Months before I had ever planned to leave, assuming I ever even got a teaching job, and suddenly I was thrown into the deep end of a pool full of all of my worst insecurities. Not the least of which was having to immediately begin looking for a new job in the midst of what was already an entirely new season of life for me.

I had also wanted to take a semester to student teach, instead of jumping right in to my own classroom, but the timing would have been all wrong. If I were to student teach next fall, then it probably would have been another year before I could get an actual teaching job and start my career in this new field.

So after being let go, suddenly my only feasible option was to immediately begin looking for full-time teaching positions for the fall. I began praying HARD. And somewhere in each prayer I requested to God that if this ("this" being a job fair, an application, or an interview) was the right thing for me, that He "make my path straight." I asked that if it was meant to be, that He make it known. And I would take that path, no matter how scary it felt to me. And it went as follows.

- I lost my job on a Monday.
- The next Wednesday I applied for several Waco ISD jobs.
- That Saturday I went to the Waco ISD job fair.
- The following Tuesday, one of the schools I met at the job fair called me and requested an interview.
- The next Monday I drove back to Waco and interviewed.
- That Saturday the principal who interviewed me called requesting another reference.
- The next Tuesday HR called to ask for my Statement of Eligibility to teach.
- That Thursday morning HR called again and offered me the art teaching position for the 2018-2019 school year.

And just like that, my entire life changed. Not that I could see that while I was in the midst of it all. I didn't know that the first teaching job I ever applied to and interviewed for would be the one that I got. I was still applying and interviewing at other schools, ones closer to home, and going to other job fairs all while those things were happening. And each time I took another step, I prayed, "Make my path straight, Lord."

In the span of 5 weeks I lost my safe job, finished my teaching certification class, passed my pedagogy test, received my statement of eligibility to teach, and landed what I think will be my dream job, in my dream city. And none of it was comfortable. I fought and cried and worried every single step of the way. But I also prayed. And here I am.

As I said before, "everything happens for a reason" and "only in God's time" are frustrating phrases to me. Until I stepped back and saw the evidence and the value of those words.

I have always wanted to be a teacher. Part of me thinks it's because I thought that would be the comfortable way to go. I have sense found out that it isn't comfortable at all. And may not ever be. But I'm no less excited about it.

I am currently taking a long, and what feels like twisted road to where I'm supposed to be. But to God, it's a clear, straight path. And I'm finally learning to trust His timing, instead of my own. I am still possibly the most uncomfortable I have ever been, with so much of my future unknown, but I am also the most excited I have ever been. And that's a pretty great place to be in.




4 comments:

  1. Amazing Kirsten! What a journey in God’s time. You will be an incredible teacher. Don’t you doubt that. We are so so happy for you on this new journey. Beautifully written.

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  2. Amen! I’m so excited for you!

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  3. Kirsten HauensteinApril 15, 2018 at 5:30 PM

    You got this! You are going to be such an inspiration to all of those kiddos! Much love and many hugs and blessings!

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  4. You are going to be an awesome art teacher! Thanks for sharing your story. I always find that when I get too comfortable, God pokes me make a change......and while I don't like leaving my comfort blanket he always gives me a better one.

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