An Accidental Vocation
A few weeks before graduating college, I literally had no idea what I wanted to do with the next year of my life.
I remember dreaming of graduate school, of looking nice with new adult clothes, sipping a latte on campus and writing an incredible forty page thesis on the objective nature of beauty. I also tossed around ideas of applying to random jobs because I knew I was getting married and we still didn't know what part of the country we wanted to live in. I thought about trying out for Irish dance troupes or applying for art school and delving into the world of drawing and painting.
I never once thought that I would be teaching elementary school.
For one thing, I had never been to school. I had been homeschooled until senior year and I never had a favorite class or teacher growing up. I also never had been drawn to study education in a formal or practical sense. Student teaching in a kindergarten classroom or working on lesson plans had no appeal for me, as I lived for writing philosophy papers and researching political theory and reading theology.
So when my school found me, literally, it was a total surprise. Initially, what drew me into a conversation with a talent scout was the promise of donuts on a flyer, but when she asked me, "Do you believe in objective truth, and should the education model of our civilization reflect that understanding?", I was like, hey....I might be interested.
I flew out to Arizona the day after graduation and remember frantically watching Youtube videos on letter writing in my hotel room the night before my demo. I remember getting lost on a Phoenix highway and entering into an elementary school building for the first time, and I remember taking a gigantic leap of faith signing a contract barely a week later and telling my fiance, welp I guess we are moving across the country.
Two years later, and I have found teaching nine year old to be the most grueling, intense, and beautifully gratifying experience of my life. I've worked harder than I ever have before and been at a total loss for what to do in new situations. I've been humbled by little scholars as I've learned to love math right beside them, and felt defeated when I can't seem to find the perfect solution to solve the problems overflowing in my room.
Teaching hasn't just taught me, it has expanded me. I feel that I am a fundamentally different person for having walked the journey of fourth grade. I have a soul that is a hundred times its original size, a heart that is softer, a wit that is sharper, and a mind that is more in wonder than ever.
The love that springs up in myself for my students is something that I have never experienced before. I knew that I was passionate about fostering a deep and beautiful education for the world, but I didn't know how to pour my energy into making my own small difference. Turns out that bar models and Greek myths and grammar, when taught and practiced in the light of truth and goodness, become infused with a very precious purpose. It was as if my philosophy books and wondrously profound discussions suddenly took on real life within the smiles and tears and laughs of nine year olds. Witnessing the transformation of thirty young lives in nine months is more real and more fulfilling than any calling I can imagine.
Grading papers, lesson planning, and drowning in work can feel like a burden, sometimes. But when I remember the incredibly glorious and the simple, mundane moments of life with students, I am convicted that this accidental vocation is the best job in the world.
And I am convicted, again and again, that Plato's words ring so very true, that "the aim of education is to teach us to love what is beautiful."