Once upon a time, I wanted to teach Elementary school. In fact, I did teach elementary kids for two years. I learned a lot from that experience and loved every minute of it.
While things got a little murky after the school and I parted ways, I still had the passion to teach. I was enrolled in a teaching college and was moving right along to get fully certified.
Until I wasn’t.
If I was perfectly honest, I went through a period of mild depression. Something I’ve never really told anyone. But there it was. It affected my focus and ultimately, the college and I parted ways.
Simultaneously, I also tried a change of environment by making the trek to Texas but not really planning on staying long. I had decided to clear my head for awhile and then head back to California and maybe forge a new career path.
It was not to be.
I was quickly hired by a learning center that introduced me to after school care. At that time, it seemed to my I would just be babysitting kids until their parents picked them up. It seemed like that at first.
My first week I discovered it would be a little homework help, a bit board games, and a little bit making sure they don’t kill each other in outdoor games.
Oh, and one five year old boy told me “I hate you, go back to where you came from”.
And thus, my first week of After School teacher was under my belt. Little did I know, my whole world and what I thought after school care was would change over the course of the next few years.
“Mr. Josh, if I just killed myself, nobody would notice.” The nine-year old stared at me, no emotion on his face. We were outside his school on a chilly morning, the rest of the morning van passengers had already disembarked.
I stared back, trying to figure out what had lead this child to the point where ending his life would be better than experiencing it. It was, after all, barely getting started. Before I could say anything, he preceded to tell me that the stress and demands of being gifted were too much on him and he just couldn’t take the pressure of living up to the expectations of others. I let him cry it out. Then he hugged me and went into school.
Thankfully, everything worked out for this kid. But would it have if the right teacher had not been there at the right time?
Granted, my attitude about my role in the lives of the after school kids had already begun to shift. The 5 year-old that told me he hated me had put me through tests of all kinds. He went from hating me and kicking me at times to not being able to leave without a hug.
There was the child upset because another boy left early and knowing full well that his dad would never take the time to pick him up early.
“I don’t even matter.” He said.
There was the girl that would have episodes of rage and would not remember what happened at the end. Yet, the one time I was not at the end of the episode, she said it was the worst thing that could happen.
“If you’re there, then I know you kept me safe.”
It wasn’t just the older kids either. As I spent more time at the center, I ended up in many different classes while the school age children were at school. One of these was a 3 year old class where I would meet a shy and introverted boy. As it would turn out, his timidness would often keep him from experience the joyous parts of the day. I ended up being a buddy of sorts until he left our center around the second grade.
The relationships with the kids, family, and many people I worked with there remain to this day. A job I entered into just to bide time till I was a “real teacher” ended up showing me that teaching is not just standing in front of a classroom making sure you hit all the required stuff. Sometimes it’s being there in that moment when they need to take off their invisible backpack of burdens.
I moved on from that job and ended up where I am now. Have you ever had an eight year-old, rage in his eyes, throw a chair at you? Because I have. You might think
“Expel that boy” but in this case, I didn’t. I loved that kid through it and now at ten, I’ve seen how that experience has helped him manage his anger better. Someone didn’t give up and that meant something to him.
These are only a few examples but it’s experiences like these along with the people I worked alongside that built me up and encouraged me whom I can thank for my changed perspective.
And so, here I am today, still working in the Early Childhood/After School industry with a degree completed. It was not where I wanted to be once upon a time, but now, nearly 12 years later, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Especially now as I approach five years of marriage and prepare to celebrate our daughter’s 2nd birthday next month.
When the Bible says that God works all things out for good for those who love Him, it doesn’t mean He causes things to happen or that he delights in the bad. It simply means he can turn anything into something good. Your failures. Your bad decisions. Or even a career you never planned to have. It can be something good and meaningful even if it doesn’t make you rich in wealth, it will make you rich in experience, life, and wisdom.