The last two months were a constant battle of “can I really be a teacher?” and “is this really where I am supposed to be?” Having internal conflicts with yourself is the worst because you know your own strength and weakness and in the end you end up destroying yourself with self-doubt. This was the case for me. Prior to my placement, I was semi certain and confident about teaching. It’s been almost 4 years since I’ve been at university and let me tell you, during those 4 years I have changed my major every single year. I’ve been so utterly confused with the direction I was going in. I had no passion or eagerness when it came to uni. Why? Because I had no clue what I was aiming for and my goals became these tiny speckles of dust slowly floating around the room -you could see glimpses of it but never really touch it.
When I started my teaching degree in 2012, I was extremely bitter towards everything that was related to uni and especially towards teaching because it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Initially, I wanted to do film but due to me not studying hard enough and getting the ATAR I needed (I was a very “chill” student during my HSC), I had to stick with what I was offered: a degree in Primary Education. In hindsight, I can see how God was slowly putting the puzzle pieces together in my life. However, during that time I was so oblivious to God working in my life because the way I saw everything my life completely sucked. Doing a degree I don’t even want to do? Becoming a teacher when I want to do film?
Amongst all this bitterness I came up with a plan. I figured it all out in my head and finally I had a goal I could work towards. I was going to do really well and get the grades I needed to transfer to film, whether this was at my current university or at another one, I didn’t care. I needed to do film. As soon as this idea became more feasible, I became more reassured. I finally relaxed a little bit and let go of all the clogged up bitterness. Okay, I didn’t get in the course I needed and while there’s nothing I can do immediately what I can do now is to transfer next semester or next year. In my head that made perfect sense. So when I had to choose a major for my degree instead of following the advice from the advisors I chose media over education. Why would I need to major in education when I plan on transferring to film? Doing a major in media will be more useful for when I transfer. That was my mindset. So there I was: a first year student doing a bachelor of primary education with a major in media. But it didn’t matter for me because I wasn’t going to stay in that degree. Very soon, I would be a film student, not a teacher… definitely not a teacher. Right?
Fast forward to 2015.
I’ve never been more certain about being a teacher. You can ask me what I’ll be doing specifically next Tuesday and I won’t be able to give you a definite answer but if you ask me what I’ll be in the future I can look you directly in the eyes and say, “I’m going to be a primary teacher.” And hearing those words flow from my mouth gives me so much joy because I am going to be a teacher. A teacher!
What changed though? In the span of almost 4 years, what made the bitter Gloria who refused to stay committed to teaching so passionate and keen about becoming a teacher?
It was during a lecture. We had to watch a video of a teacher with her kindergarten class and just watching the teacher interact with the students brought this wave of joy and content within my heart. You would think that it would have been something more dramatic and exciting but no, it was right there in that lecture room that I felt this wave of peace within my heart. After so many weeks and months of being confused and conflicted with what my next step would be, I felt this peace that yes teaching is where I’m meant to be. The idea of becoming a teacher suddenly became so appealing to me and gradually over the years it became a dream, a vision and now, it’s a calling.
After that revelation during my lecture, the next day I was in the car with my dad and I remember telling him about this change of heart. During the entire process of university my parents have been nothing but supportive and patient. There were countless nights where I spent them crying because I didn’t get into the course I wanted and I remember my mum sitting with me on my bed just comforting me. From the time I received my ATAR to when I applied to uni and to when I received acceptance emails, my parents mentioned teaching once to me. They thought that primary teaching was for me but they never pushed me. Rather they were supportive, patient and loving. So that car ride I was so excited to share the news with dad about teaching and when I told him, he merely smiled and said, “Your mum and I knew you would eventually have a change of heart. We already knew that God wanted you in primary education. We were just waiting for you.” I was amazed and more confident about teaching after that talk with my dad.
Even after that experience I still struggled throughout my degree. There were so many times where I lost sight of my passion for teaching and there were so many times where I worried about job opportunities. There were even more times where I looked at myself and all I saw was how inadequate I was. The more my flaws, weaknesses and lack of knowledge expanded the more I shrivelled up in the corner of “failure.” There’s no doubt that I’ll face those monsters again but what’s changed now is that instead of cowering in the corner too afraid to fight, I now fight back with Jesus on my side. Ugh, that’s so cheesy but that is the utmost truth. This placement was the toughest battle for me because it wasn’t just going to the school and teaching a class but it was an internal battle where I had to once and for all defeat those “am I really supposed to be a teacher? Is this where I’m supposed to be?” thoughts because yes, yes, I really am going to be a teacher and this is where I am supposed to be. I fought those monsters and I’m here, alive, and completely peaceful with the idea of me being a teacher.
The struggles that I faced during this placement was that I felt like what I did wasn’t enough. I put in effort and I tried to think of all these creative ideas but every time I tried to execute those ideas with perfection, it didn’t go according to plan or I just lost all confidence. I lost confidence in myself but mostly I lost confidence in my calling as a teacher. But the placement school I was at was a lovely Christian school and it was downright amazing because there was staff devotions every morning and every staff devotions, God warmed my heart and encouraged me. I was able to share my struggles with the other staffs and they would always pray for me and that brought me endless comfort. During this placement I kept building this idea of “being a perfect teacher” but it was ridiculous for me to clasp onto this notion. I’m still a student and I’m still in the process of learning and no one is going to perfect the art of being a teacher.
We all learn and we all grow.
My family and my friends all know this but I spent at least an entire week crying every single day after placement. I spent most of my nights crying in bed because of placement and before you all pity me, don’t, because it was something I needed to go through. Nothing traumatic happened during placement. It was the pressure I placed on myself. I didn’t feel like a good teacher and instead of standing back up I just gave up. But those nights of crying, I didn’t spend them alone. I literally crawled into bed and cried to God and prayed. I told Him I was tired, exhausted and that I didn’t think I could do it but every single morning He woke me up and gave me a new day to try and try. He continued to encourage me and the GREATEST warmth I received from Him was that Jesus was a teacher as well. The mere fact that Jesus was a teacher encouraged me so much because everything Jesus did was out of love. So what needed to change in me? I needed to teach out of love, I needed to teach because all students deserve education. But most importantly, for ANY Christians out there, we live, we breathe and we love because He loved us first and in return, we live for Him. And that’s what I did. One night, as I spent it crying (loads of tears I’m telling you), God asked me, “Gloria, if tomorrow was your last lesson with the students, what would you do differently?” And that question completely shattered me.
How would I teach differently if tomorrow was my last lesson with the class? What would I do differently?
I’m still figuring that question out but what I do know is that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I said that this placement was the toughest battle I’ve been in and I think it’ll always be a battle I’ll remember because even though I had to fight, I survived. If anyone ever asks me, “Gloria, what’s your most memorable achievement ever?” I can tell them that it’s this placement because through this placement, God reconfirmed my calling as a teacher. This will be the most memorable achievement ever because I came out of this placement fighting all the monsters and demons I called “self-doubt, uncertainty, worry and inadequacy” and let me tell you, Jesus and I slayed those monsters. It was actually all Jesus because without Him I’m nothing. I ran into the battle as Gloria, who was semi-certain about teaching and I had shadows of monsters following me around but I came out of that battle as an aspiring teacher.
Thank you, Jesus.