So, just to keep you in the loop, I graduated from seminary in May. (Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can you tell that makes me happy?) And, like a surprising number of my classmates, I decided that the next stage in my life was to go back to school–again.
At this point, I am approaching the end of my first month as a student in a 2-year graduate teacher licensure program. I’ll have 3 semesters of coursework (so 2 2/3 semesters to go!), followed by one semester of full-time student teaching, and then I will be a real, live teacher! My content area is English as a Second Language, and I should come out of this program with a K-12 ESL license.
I couldn’t be more excited for this stage in my education. I’ve wanted to be a teacher literally as long as I can remember. Back when I was little, I used to play school with my sister, who graciously agreed to be the student(s) every single time so that I could always be the teacher. As for why I went to seminary at all, then, or why I didn’t major in education in the first place… well, it’s complicated. As much as I’ve always wanted to teach, I’ve also had a deep desire to learn more about God and religion, and I spent the last 7 years delving deep into that. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, either. If I hadn’t gone to seminary, I would never have felt my call to the ministry of deacon, and that is now a firm part of who I am. See my previous post for details. 🙂
But anyway, teaching is just who I am. After I preached last month, I was told by several people who heard it, “Wow, you were really teaching up there!” And I guess I was, even though I didn’t think about it as teaching (which is maybe silly). I’ve had the joy and privilege to get to teach in a number of settings in the last few years, from teaching children’s Sunday School, to leading lessons with my adult ESL students last year, to a few different team-teaching lessons I did with classmates in seminary. I’ve always enjoyed those opportunities. I get so into it that I overdo it at times, but I’ve always gotten lots of positive feedback from my professors and fellow students. But this week, I had to take it to a new level. This time, I had to teach lessons in a graduate-level program that trains teachers. Where all the professors are–you guessed it–professional educators whose job is to train future educators. No pressure, right?
Due to the unpredictability of course syllabi, I ended up on the docket to do a group teaching session on Tuesday night (yesterday) for one class and lead a different class on Wednesday afternoon (today). Our group didn’t even find out about the Tuesday one until 2 weeks prior, with the news that we had to have a lesson plan turned in 1 week before the teaching date. Yikes! We scrambled to do our research (since the topic we were assigned was one we knew practically nothing about beforehand–Somali Americans in MN Schools) and to put together a plan. As stressful and busy as it was, I found myself loving the process anyway. Seriously, I get such a rush from the challenge of organizing and strategizing a lesson. And, in the midst of the group planning, I had to figure out how I was going to present on the 3 chapters assigned in my other class for the week. Needless to say, my husband didn’t see as much of me as he normally would these last couple weeks.
But… it was so worth it! Our group teaching session last night went really well overall. There was definitely some room for improvement, and the feedback was very helpful in giving use ideas of better ways to approach things in the future. But in the process of preparing and delivering this lesson, I learned a ton about Somali culture and history, met a really cool Somali guy (our guest speaker, who is another student at the university), and discovered a really great Somali hip-hop artist. (Have you heard of K’naan? He’s awesome.) And we got good feedback from both the professor and the class. Yay! An actual educator-of-educators thinks my teaching is good!!!
When I led class this afternoon, things went even better than last night. In all the times I’ve taught lessons (of various types), I don’t think I’ve ever had one go this smoothly. The format of the lesson was perfect for the setting, people were really engaged in the discussion questions, we had fun doing an activity I came up with, people really liked the visuals I put in my PowerPoint, and it was just amazing. I felt so comfortable doing it, too, even though there were a couple minor technological glitches that I had to work around. (Why does that happen EVERY time!?!) The one bad thing about my lesson is also kind of the best thing of all. I went considerably over the time limit… like WAY over, to the point that I took up basically the entire class period instead of just half of it. But what’s so incredible about it is that the professor thought I was doing such a good job that she never made any efforts to cut me off. She saw that people were really engaged in the lesson, and she felt satisfied that the lesson I had prepared was covering all of the things she needed to get covered this week, so she just let me keep going. It feels unreal. Just like I find lesson-planning to be a really exciting/challenging task that gives me a rush, the teaching moment itself gives me a huge rush. After that lesson this afternoon, I came out of it feeling like, “Wow. I’m really a teacher! I did it!” The thing I’ve wanted to do my whole life, the thing that I love to do, and now I’m doing it! I just had to write a blog post about it, because I’m so excited to be doing what I was made to do. It feels so GOOD!
My friend Liz is always blogging about following your bliss, doing what you’re passionate about, and there is no doubt in my mind that teaching is what I need to do. These experiences in the last couple days have affirmed for me, once again, that this is not just a fluke. It’s what I am. A teacher.
When I was talking with my new Somali friend (well, acquaintance is probably more accurate, but he’s an awesome guy and I wish he were my friend), he said something that I found to be extremely moving. When I told him that I want to become an ESL teacher, he (who, as an immigrant teenager, took ESL in school) told me, “You will make such a big difference in people’s lives.”
And that is what I want to do!! So much! I don’t just follow this passion for teaching because I like doing it or because I’m good at it. I do it because it means something. It’s fulfilling for me because I know it’s not about me. It’s the way I can make the most difference in the lives of other people. Immigrant children and children of immigrants have so many hurdles in their lives, that it’s the least I can do to help them learn the language of their new home country. I can only hope that my love for them and my passion to see them succeed can help them to have the confidence and the skills to go out and follow their own passions.