Many of my epiphanies and ideas to blog happen in church after hearing all the readings and the homily, today was no different. Phew, I felt relieved… finally… an idea to blog! I had been stuck in an empty place … I had been thinking and berating myself recently … “It is already the middle of January and you have not blogged yet! What is wrong with you?!” I could have blogged about the New Year… Nope, nothing came to mind. Then I could have blogged last week ~about finally professing as a Secular Franciscan (YAY!) … but, meh, though it was a wonderful experience I just did not feel called to write about it.
But today I finally had that epiphany (Alleluia!) and felt the urge to write about being ‘called’… in today’s first reading (1 Samuel 3: 3-10, 19) Samuel heard someone calling him and thinking it was Eli he ran to him and said, “Here I am. You called me.” But it was not Eli who called… and after this happened three times (always three!) Eli realized God was calling the boy and told him to respond to God, “Speak for your servant in listening.” And today’s gospel (John 1: 35-42) was about the first disciples following Jesus… feeling called, dropping everything and following him. (that still blows me away)… so the theme… being called.
Now I believe that I was called many years ago to teach. Now I don’t remember if I related this story before in my blog (I apologize if I have)… but back in the summer of 2005 I was sitting at the 9:30 mass at St John’s in E. Bridgewater, Massachusetts and the head of the CCD program got up at the end of mass and spoke about how they really needed men and women to step forward and teach the children the faith. Well, I thought, ‘Not me. Heck no,” when all-of-a-sudden I felt a prompting from behind me, as if my guardian angel was sitting in the pew behind me, and was poking me on the shoulder saying, “Do that!”… I literal felt it very strongly, but my response to that prompting was, “No! Are you crazy! I can’t do that!” Well the next week at the end of mass, again the CCD woman got up and implored the parishioners that they needed teachers. AGAIN… yes again, I had that nudging feeling, like someone was poking me on the shoulder from behind, “Do that! You can do that!” and again I responded, “No way! Leave me alone! I am not a teacher!” Well, yes, the next week comes and again she gets up and asks again, “We really need CCD teachers, please consider volunteering!”… and yes again, my persistent guarding angel shook my shoulder one last time…, “DO THAT!”… hm. I didn’t understand why he wanted me to do this. I had never taught anything before in my life and I did not know how to teach the faith since I had just come back to the faith myself. Sure I was eager to learn and I had been reading the bible, from the beginning mind you… so defeated and willing to obey this prompting, I sighed and said, “Okay, okay, geez” to him.
After mass I went downstairs and told her I would do it. I made it known that I had never taught before and I didn’t know what I was doing. She was okay with that and said, “Sixth or seventh grade?” I chose sixth. Well, teaching sixth graders the faith was like herding cats… seriously it was really difficult, but at the same time it was kind of cool. I was reading the Old Testament at the time and sixth grade CCD is the Old Testament… coincidence? I think not.
Well I survived, (they did make me cry once!) and over these past ten years I have been teaching various forms of religious ed in my parish’s. From teaching religious ed classes, to taking the kids down during the mass to teach Children’s Liturgy of the Word (CLOW), to teaching at Whole Community Catechesis (kids and adults), to vacation bible school in the summer, to then Edge Program (eighth graders) which led me to what I am doing now. I am on the Life Teen Core Team helping teach at Life Nights on Sunday nights for the high schoolers who are getting ready for Confirmation. I love it.
And during this time, as God dragged me along on this journey of teaching religious ed, he also set me on the road to becoming a special education teacher. Seriously if you told me ten years ago I would be a special ed teacher now I would have laughed at you and called you crazy… my typical stubborn, rebellious reaction, “No way! Not me!” So how did it start? I volunteered in the kitchen at St Thomas Aquinas school while my son went to pre-Kindergarten. I did that for one year. The next school year I needed a real paying job so I went from one kitchen to another, from St Thomas to a high school, Pinkerton Academy’s Shepherd Café. I made cookies and warmed bagels and sold snacks at the snack bar. But I knew that was not where I belonged, but it was a step in my journey to where I needed to be. And so the next year I began my journey as a Para educator (a teachers aid, who assists the special needs students in the class, for those of you who do not know what a Para is) at Pinkerton. This job led (nudged) me back to school to get my masters in special education (I wanted to teach!) …and then I student taught there, and then became a long term special ed substitute teacher there… and then I got a full-time job as a special ed, resource room teacher and case manager at Pinkerton! WOOO HOOOO!
And it all started with a nudge in church and here I am now. I was called to do this. I was born to do this. I just needed to be poked several times to get me going…
But there are times when I don’t feel like I am a very good teacher/case coordinator, that I am not doing the best I can to help my students be successful. It is now the end of the second term and first semester and several of my students are failing. I feel it is my fault because I did not ‘get on’ them and assist them in getting all of their work done. I should have been more persistent and even annoying so that they would do the work and hand it in! I felt like I failed them!
Last Thursday and Friday I wrote in my journal, “Lord, I pray for my students as we come to the end of the first semester- several are failing. How could I have helped them better? Help me to be a better case coordinator.” I even told one of my students that I felt bad, that it was my fault, but he assured me it wasn’t, it was his. But I still felt horrible, like I failed at my job…
Well at the end of the day on Friday I found this note on my desk:
Wow… that totally made my day, my week, …. my year. I posted it on Facebook and one of my friends stated: “Teachers say that if they can help just “one” student, their job is priceless. You should be very rich (inside) by now!!!”
This morning during mass I saw that student and as I passed his pew, as I processed up during communion, I nudged (gently punched) him on the shoulder. He looked up, and seeing me, he smiled.
Thank you Lord for that message, for that confirmation, that though I am not perfect and still need work on this teaching journey you are using me to make a difference in my students lives…
I am thankful for this calling, this journey and very thankful for the nudging of my guardian angel.
Praise be to God.