Part of this blog’s mission is to explore the inner lives of educators. It’s a part of the mission that I’ve ignored lately. I prefer talking about assessment schedules, making ranking lists, linking to a good educational resource, and proposing educational initiatives to looking at my “Inner Education.” It is a painful place for me right now.
But it is after midnight, I feel a personal conviction right now, and I refuse to sleep until a few things are written. This is important to me, and I want you to know why. I feel my profession slipping away from me. It has been in dire straights before, and many times I have felt like I have had such a profound apt for it that I could never be separated from it. But, I am still unemployed despite my best efforts. It is painful to feel what was something I was once so passionate for not be in my life. News reports from schools make me cringe; I feel like I should be in there. School has been my calling, me giving back to the world, using my gifts for the betterment of myself, my students, and my community. Now, it is gone and while I still find purpose in my life; it feels hollow compared to what it once was.
The studies say that 50% of all teachers are out of the profession before they complete five years. I’m sure that there is a myriad of reasons for it, many say “lack of administrative support” is the #1 cause; Haberman calls that code for “can’t control a classroom”, which rings some truth to me, and yet is hollow for other reasons.
I wonder how many teachers exit the profession like I seem to be doing…an anti-climactic fade into unemployment exacerbated by a recession, a drought of once-plentiful stimulus money, and just seeing all the doors close in multiple districts. Seeing suddenly bright prospects fade just as quickly with little reason behind it. Today I had hope again; a school that I had always wanted to work at had a sudden vacancy; here I was two weeks into the school year with experience, a record of success, and many teachers already employed and a dream job possibly opening once everyone else had been placed. I wrote a special cover letter to the principal along with my constantly checked resume and applied for the job that couldn’t have been open more than two days…it was already filled, despite the posting. I was despondent; it led to my Facebook status:
Another dream job at […] opened today and was filled just as quickly. I’ve been scouting the place for two years. It’s happened to me at multiple Metro Schools this year; I’m the perfect applicant, but the postings are all a sham–most of them don’t even exist… Who’s getting these things?
I was angry. It all seemed so arbitrary; something that belonged in a Dreiser-novel where I’m the struggling protagonist caught in a web of fate beyond my escaping. The universe was mocking me. Another interview for Monday was supposed to occur, but they never called me back with a time. I’ve applied for a dozen other non-teaching jobs that I think my experience fits, but I’ve received little to no response. I was almost ready to cry, and I average one cry about every five years. My passions are powerful but infrequent. I’m the classic Meyers-Briggs INTJ–I like logic and rationality; my inner world generally stays inside except when needed.
I remembered teaching Sunday School several weeks ago, probably the last time I had a good piece of passion. I had expressed my faith publicly that God was going to put me somewhere. Perhaps deep down I thought that that would spur God to action, to use me as an example of his power. Weeks later I was as languishing as ever. I felt like a fool and couldn’t even cry out about it lest I make my prior faith look shallow and set a bad example.
And so I was angry at God. I felt backstabbed, as if the faith I had shown through the previous months should be enough to earn me something by now. Hadn’t I taught the Word when most would decline to? Hadn’t I joined two ministry teams despite I wasn’t sure that I was the best talent-fit for one, but they needed someone my age badly and didn’t have any guys? Hadn’t I tithed from my checks? Hadn’t I tried to get that girl out of my head that I was interested in but it wasn’t mutual? Hadn’t I been praying? Hadn’t I handled this layoff more maturely than my last one? Hadn’t I been going to church more than once a week? Hadn’t I been patient? Was I not ready for whatever it is yet?
I felt like crying, but I was more angry than sad. When I was in middle school I used to get angry at God all the time when I was bullied or victimized. I used to call Him names. I hadn’t felt like that in a while, but I did now. I sat on my crouch and in my head I called Him a single word, “Cruel.”
It was an unspoken word that instantly ricocheted back at me. The soft voice inside me that answered that I really don’t listen to enough or confuse with hunger answered, “Check the facts. Is that really true?”
I knew I had gone off-track, and I knew what I needed to do. I ran to my car, got my Bible out of the front seat, and just started to read. It had been too long since I read without some lesson tied to it. I poured myself into references on work, faith, and teaching. But as a respite I arrived at a book that I once knew by heart but had not looked at in a long time–Job. (The irony that its a homonym with “job” is just too much for me.)
Job was a guy who lost everything for seemingly no good reason (though there was one, it just wasn’t apparent, nor did he ever find out). Not only was he blameless but his wife and friends turned on him with poor arguments that were unhelpful and hurtful. Job just wanted to make a case to God (a la me); the answer he received when God did show up put an end to his questions (a la me). And the lessons are apparent:
- God doesn’t necessarily cause all suffering
- Suffering can happen without a person sinning (and I am in no way as blameless as Job; I did sin)
- Suffering can be part of a greater victory (in Job’s case a cosmic put-down of Satan, whom I imagine was a speechless as Job was)
- Even if a personal loss is total (and mine is not), God can restore anything that he allows to be taken away
- The comfort of other people is fleeting; advice should be weighed against God’s nature.
- We will never have enough “facts” or “evidence” to judge God’s plan for the universe. To me, who thrives on logic and evidence, this is a hard blow, but in truth, it is true; I do lack perspective. God answer to Job sends shivers down my spine, “Brace yourself up like man, and answer me now if you can.” I think I got the same challenge, and my response was the same (“I place my hand over my mouth.”).
So, my prayer ended up being one of forgiveness instead of tears. God forgave me for my lack of faith, I got a much needed wisdom-refresher, and while I still feel drained, I no longer feel despair. In the end, Job didn’t get or need a reason for his suffering. I probably won’t get that perspective on mine, either, but that is not my worry. I’m not in charge of the universe. As for my calling, the fact that I have only what I have now must be at some level ok with God as long as I keep listening to his teaching. If I am riding the pine in the Christian baseball game at this moment, I just need to know that that is ok.
So, now what? It is 1:30 AM, and I have been writing and revising now for nearly 90 minutes. I must rest, and I shall sleep well. I thank God that as I have no job I can sleep in tomorrow. I’m going to need it.
But, an hour after I posted my complaint to Facebook about the school job, I changed my status:
“Though He shall slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Job 13:15