It’s back to school season and while this time of year has always been marked by excitement for as long as I can remember, it carries with it a different set of emotions now that I am a teacher. I still feel the same sense of excitement and giddiness over buying new school supplies (finally a “grown-up” reason to buy office supplies!) and the wonder over the students that will be entrusted to my care for the next ten-ish months. But with all of that comes the paralyzing fear.
The fear that I am not enough.
That I am not enough of a teacher to adequately teach the children that are in my care each year. That I am not enough of a leader to lead my two assistants effectively. That I will say the wrong thing. That I will inevitably let someone down. That I’ll look like a complete idiot during an observation. The list could go on and on.
This week marks the start of my fourth year as a teacher, although I’m not entirely sure how it’s already been that long. In some ways, I still feel very much like the clueless first year teacher that I was just a short time ago. But in other ways, I do feel experienced and a bit more grounded. More often than not, the clueless side weighs more heavily in my mind. I’m exceptionally talented at blocking out the good things from my mind in favor of dwelling in the fear.
I can still vividly remember being in the midst of my second year; surrounded by chaos and students with such significant behavioral and emotional needs. No new teacher has everything together and there was absolutely nothing in my schooling that had prepared me for a situation like the one I was in. I would find myself holding back tears several times during the school day and I had begun to bear the many battle scars from trying to do what I could for the situation. Looking back on that year, I truly don’t know that any of my students actually learned anything from me. The evil one had planted every possible seed of doubt, fear, and uncertainty in my heart and it’s destruction was reeking havoc on my soul. Plain and simple, I was a hot mess that year.
I took everything personally. The behavior of my students. The frustrations of my two assistants. Every phone call made to administration to assist with a meltdown. When the school system’s Pre-K Coordinator would stop in for a visit and comment on all of the good things she was seeing, I wanted to cry. Not from joy but from my lack of ability to see that for myself. Each visit, she would assure me, “Ashley, you really have a lot of good things going for you here.” until one day finally I replied, “Really? Where?”
Fortunately, I have come a long way since my near-drowning in the sea of that kind of fear and uncertainty. God, without a doubt, used that year to keep chiseling away at my own self-imposed walls and independence that I had built up over time until finally they came tumbling down a few months later. But the enemy is fierce in his attempt to pull me back down into worry, anxiety, and fear.
This year, I have been given more students than I have ever had. A few of them may pose some behavioral and medical challenges. We’re up for our in-depth assessment by the state in the Spring. In a perfect world, my reaction and my prayers may sound something like this:
Father, you’d never give us any more than what we are able to handle so, wow, I must be a lot stronger than I feel. I pray that I trust in that and continue to rest in the truth that I can do anything through You and your strength.
But this isn’t a perfect world, and lately my prayers have started to sound a lot like this:
Seriously, Father? Again? Haven’t you thrown me enough curve balls in the past two school years? What happened to that nearly-angelic class I had my first year of teaching? Why can’t I have a year like that again?
At some point, it all starts to drown out that little voice in my mind that is whispering and hoping and praying, I wonder what God is going to teach me this year? How quickly I am able to forget all of the good that have come from my hardships. Every hurdle and every stumble have taught me to cling to the Father with all of my might and while it doesn’t stop the curve balls from coming, I know I have hope and protection from the Holy Spirit to not be drowned by it. This job I do isn’t easy, but I know that God has me in this place for a purpose. These students, these precious students that depend on me each day, are where He wants me to reside for now. The enemy wants me to give up before I have even started. He wants me to believe that lie that I am going to fail my kids. He wants me to believe the lie that I am not enough.
And so, my prayer is this,
Father God, you have created me for a purpose just as you created each child that will soon walk through my classroom door. I pray that I may not let my judgements and fears overshadow the truth that you hold all of this in your hand. You have seen all of the days to come and I know that you have equipped me for this. In your sight, I am enough. In your sight, I am ready for whatever lies ahead.