Where I am at

For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.

~Rainer Maria Rilke
       How do I begin to describe the journey that my life took during this first year of teaching?  I don’t really know where to begin.  I knew when I took this job that it would be extremely challenging and taxing.  I knew that I would be stretched and changed.
       I was thrown into the deep end.  I had to quickly learn how to swim if I was going to survive, and most of the time I was guessing and hoping that I was doing it correctly.  I had students that loved me, and I had students that severely disliked me.  Normal occurrence, except working in an alternative school makes that whole reality so much more different than a public school.  I am really not going to go into specific stories because of privacy.  However, I am going to talk about what I learned.
       My first lesson was realizing that I was not my students’ savior.  As hard as I tried, I could not fix them and turn them into tiny Erin robots because obviously I am the perfect role model. (Sarcasm folks)  I learned this lesson the hard way by the end of the first semester.  There was a heaviness in our school due to suicide.  I had many talks with some of my girls regarding it, and there were many nights that I came home crying and feeling defeated.  Nothing that I could say could change what they were feeling.  Nothing I could say would change the reality of their life and their specific situations.  I always thought of myself as a great listener, but this year taught me how to truly listen and how I do not always need to have an answer.  I also learned how to be truly dependent on God and what it means to have a  dedicated prayer life.
       My second lesson was to learn how to live. I did not have a healthy balance between school and home.  I was constantly working, and felt this pressure of making sure that I was always prepared.  Most of the preparation got thrown out the next day anyways.
       My third lesson is probably the most important.  I included the Rilke quote at the beginning because it is the core of what this entire year meant to me.  Some students are easy to love, they do everything right and get their assignments done without nagging.  Some students have their off days but for the most part they are fine and you end up loving them.  However, then you have students that get under your skin and do the complete opposite of what you ask and love is nowhere to be found.  I found myself categorizing my students, and God seemed to hit me pretty hard.  I ended up praying every morning “God teach me how to love.”  It was almost like He began to pull scales off my heart.  Each day began a new lesson on how to love every student where they were at for that moment. Sure enough, every single student that I worked with this year has found a place in my heart.
       I think as a society we have an “us and them” mentality.  We have a circle of compassion that only extends to some and ignores others.  This year taught me to have an “us” mentality.  As dysfunctional as we may have seemed from the outside looking in, we became a family.  If only the world would adopt this mentality, we would be in such a better place.
       Love is difficult from a human perspective.  It is easy to point out the flaws of others and to downgrade a person.  Thank goodness God does not set guidelines on whom he chooses to love.  He loves us in our imperfections, and He loves us where we are at.  What a humbling and sobering realization.
      My prayer now is that I will continue to keep the “us” mentality.  That my compassion is for everyone and not just a few that I feel deserve it.  My prayer is that God will continue to teach me how to love everyday. To love as He loves.