I used to be a teacher. I mean, the kind that got paid and listed that as my profession and all. And, I was a good one. From my training and experience and amazingly talented teachers I worked with, I learned a lot and refined my craft.
In this season in which I find myself teaching again, but this time it's for my own children as a homeschooler, I find that my former life as a "professional" teacher brings both advantages and disadvantages with it. That is likely a whole post in itself, but one of the shifts that I have found difficult is the start of a new school year.
The beginning of a new school year, both as a student and then as a public school teacher, was always a big deal. In my days as a teacher, as that first day approached, my emotions would kick into high gear. I was excited for the possibilities of a new year and for the chance to try out new ideas, but I was also crazy nervous. I am, as I've mentioned before, a type-A planner who is a recovering perfectionist. So, I would plan my brains out and run every detail over and over in my mind and tweak and tweak and work and work with loads of late nights thinking and preparing and praying. Have I mentioned that my professional teaching days were before having kids of my own...and largely even before having a husband?! Me and my own little workaholic, introverted tendencies left to my own devices to "perfect" all my plans for the coming school year.
Some of those habits weren't healthy in any context, and leaving the profession was, in part, due to a need to break some of those patterns. And, yet, I find some of it still creeps up in me so easily. I no longer live in a reality that allows me to just spend an entire month or two planning. Whether we take a summer "break" from school or not, these kids are still with me all summer! All day. Every day. I know that, but sometimes I have a hard time adjusting to that reality. I like to plan, and honestly, I am good at it, and I think that is a gift. Sometimes, though, I have a hard time walking in grace when I haven't had the time I wanted to (not sure that would ever actually be reached) to make the plans and "perfect" them. "Winging it" is NOT my strength! It is not comfortable for me to jump into something without the level of planning and thought I wanted to give it. As the start of this year approached, I could feel myself getting really nervous, anxious even. I prayed for the kids, for our school year, and for the anxiety even, but it was not easy to shake. I wish I could say I had found the answer or total victory somehow, but the truth is that it is an ongoing battle for me to trust that God knew I would have a busier summer than I expected, that God knows more than I do what my boys need, and that God is much, much bigger in the lives of my kids than my ability to plan and teach.
The thing is I'm not really suggesting that I need to totally abandon all of that mode. In some ways, it is an easier route to just try to detour around things in my life than to plow through them and allow actual transformation (and not merely avoidance) to work out in my life. God has given me gifts to plan and to think critically and analyze issues and scenarios and methods, and I take joy in investing that in my boys' lives and the lives of others. I think it is even a gift that I don't settle easily into being satisfied and am looking for refinement constantly. Don't you find it true that sometimes our greatest strengths and our greatest weaknesses have awfully similar roots?
I'm never going to be one of those people who just lets go of the idea of a first day of school We certainly could with homeschooling. But, I like beginnings and ends. I like defined fresh starts. I thrive on routines, and I make good plans. And, I even think some level of nervous excitement, of wondering what a new year/season holds, is healthy. It's anticipation. It is celebrating events and marking time and seasons together as a family, though we now have the freedom to determine more of when and how those happen.
I need to allow my own heart and mind to be renewed, in the midst of it, to let go of my expectations of "perfection." That is the real kicker. If we have to start a couple of subjects two weeks into our school year, not only is it not going to ruin that perfectly polished start I had envisioned, but perhaps it is even for the better as we all settle into a new year. The freedom of homeschooling (which can be both wonderful and terrifying for someone like me) is that we can choose what we want it to look like. It doesn't have to (and really shouldn't) look like my old classroom days, but it also doesn't have to look like someone I'm not or some imposed definition of what freedom means. I don't have to chuck the "first day" plans or excitement or devalue the time and effort of planning. I just need to be able to release my controlling grip and walk in the grace of knowing that I am not now nor will I ever be "perfect." Gulp.
So, my kids oblige me (mostly) with some cheesy first day photos, and we move ahead into a new year, embracing who I am as a teacher while I see the white slowly fading from my loosening grip and press through the refining fire to more clearly reflect His image, using the gifts He has given me.