When I Almost Quit Teaching
Fall break of 2017 was pretty awesome. I took a few days to enjoy the beauty of doing nothing, a day to ride horses, a day to do boring chores and whatnots, and then my husband and I went on adventures – hiking and horse racing. The few nights before I went back to work, a churning stomach lulled me to sleep each night, dreading the alarm clock to get ready for work. The first weekend after we came back, I went to a horse show and spent more time not enjoying where I was because of where Monday would take me. Monday rolled around and I was flat out bitter. Tuesday was no better. I ended that Tuesday with a two hour counseling session with a student on his relationship, which was enough to let me know I was in the “right” place. Our conversation was precious and purposeful. But if I was truly in the right place…my heart was certainly struggling to believe it. As I went to my office after talking with the student in the campus center, I logged in to my computer and submitted a request for a vacation day for Wednesday. This was going to be a “get off the ship or get right” kind of day off. I would either show up Thursday ready to live fully in the mission I was given or I would step aside and let someone else do a better job because at the current, I was not doing the job justice with constant dread and resentment around each corner.
I took the day to see some friends two-hours away. Mostly because they are dear friends who have horses to ride. I needed to process life and the back of a horse has always been a sanctuary for my heart. But also because I run from my feelings and two-hours away provided enough escape to breathe. Between the four-hours in the car and time riding horses, I hoped my brain could wrestle loose the conflict between my head and my heart to figure out what the heck I was going to do. It didn’t take long. I don’t remember how I found this podcast, but I did – Annie F. Downs was on my must listen to of podcasts and being caught up with her recent recordings I was working my way backwards. Here I found Scott Sauls (Downs, 2016). Later, when I told a colleague about my mental health day, he asked if I was inspired by what Scott had to say. The honest answer was no… I was by no means inspired, but what I did hear was a truth I needed to hear. I in no way wanted it to be true, but it was too close for comfort to not be what I needed to be told. In the interview, Scott said:
We cut off our opportunity to love, so often with people, with community, with churches. We hop around person-to-person, church-to-church, community-to-community. We don’t stick through the hard times and the unfortunate part of that is, as soon as you start to not like someone as much as you used to, as soon as you start to not like a community or a church as much as you used to… that is actually the beginning of your opportunity to love that person or that community. Because love is what? Love is patient, it’s kind, it keeps no record of wrong, it forgives…But we peace out a lot more than we press in.Scott Sauls on the That Sounds Fun podcast with Annie F. Downs
Has a familiar ring to it, right? Love is patient, it’s kind – we hear those words at most weddings. However, we don’t always stop to realize the receiver of those words, the church of Corinth, wasn’t being told these things because they were demonstrating these attributes. The church of Corinth was being told these things because they were failing to do the hard work. Scott went on to say what a disservice it can be when we run from an opportunity to grow in real love.
The nights leading up to this day, I had been searching for non-education jobs 12-hours before because I was ready to run, even though I knew I was called to be right where I was. My searches for new jobs and a new home would be conveniently located to my horse-oasis outside of Lexington. The idea of being with my friends, riding horses after work at anywhere else, with less frustrations sounded pretty dang good until in that moment a stranger spoke truth directly to my heart from a 3 month old podcast recording. My role as an instructor had been filled with such joy and full of mostly smooth seas. The seas were getting choppy and I was ready to jump in a lifeboat instead of asking Jesus, “where you at!? Help!”
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”Mark 4:35-41, ESV, Holy Bible
While the circumstances may be harder and more challenging today than they were 10 years ago, I was no less-called to serve these students, this campus, and these lives. On Thursday, I pulled into campus and smiled at my colleagues who wondered how I disappeared mid-week and there we spoke about the hard-hitting truth when all need to hear from time-to-time. God is sovereign. God is in control and His timing is as perfect as His storms and smooth seas.
I don’t stay in education because it is easy. It is not. I haven’t stayed in education because I get access to plumbers [entire other story for another day] – I do not. I stay in education because when I see them turn the corner, we make eye contact, and smile I know my work is not unseen. I stay because hard doesn’t always mean leave (and hard doesn’t always mean stay). I came back that Thursday because it’s where he has called me to live and live fully.
With some distance between now and the day I almost quit, I can see some breaks in the clouds. I am so thankful I pressed in and stayed during a rough season. Even though I wanted to find permission to leave, I am so grateful for encouragement to stay [even from the voice of a stranger on a podcast]. And even though rough moments still exists, I find myself reminded of a constant joy – and I am so, so thankful. So, until I hear from him otherwise, you’ll find on campus – fighting the good fight, searching for free pizza, and hunting for free t-shirts [what, professors can’t love those things too?].
Dear Teacher who wants to quit:
You provide hope to students who otherwise would not know how to define the word. You show how joy can overcome circumstances. You see needs families fail to acknowledge. You serve tirelessly, but it does not go unseen. Your school may face unique and trying struggles, but if you still feel called to your school and the seas feel choppy – look up. Stay.