As I have mentioned before, I graduated in December with a Masters Degree in Counseling. I knew it would take awhile to find a new job in my field because of the “outside” requirements placed by the state (professional licensing certification, etc) as well as the timing of the year (finding a school counseling job mid-year is pretty tough). So I was anxious yet very excited to begin this part of the journey in my life.
Well, January began and I continued working my part-time job as a children’s ministries coordinator at a local church. However, I decided to pursue trying to sub and lo and behold, a counseling sub position was open as the current counselor had health issues. I also was contacted to teach a 2 hour graduate course on Family Issues at the most shocking university around this area!!!! (the full-time professor was facing health issues too and is ending up being out of pocket for the semester). Both have been in my prayers as they seek healing.
I would have never thought about these opportunities floating my way. Although I know they are only temporary, they have caused a ripple effect in the job I have done most of my life. I love working with children and having one foot in the professional ministry and the other in public education has given me a very unique perspective. And this is what I have learned thus far:
1) Despite all the attacks lodged against public education, commitment to the children remains high. I have witnessed great compassion come from educators who are never thanked enough. They have a very high tolerance for putting up with a great deal of “crap” from all sides and still are there for the kids.
2) The church has a significant role to play especially today in regards to public education. The church does not quite realize its potential to be a moving force in shaping young compassionate people. I am not just talking about advocacy either. Church still sees its role as providing opportunities to “share the story” (which is important) in a separate part of the building, but only a few are willing to sacrifice time to make an impact in the lives of young children. The church is missing the opportunity to build relationships with the future. No one hardly ever remembers the Bible stories, but they always will remember the relationship and I am saddened to see fewer people engaging with the kids in this environment.
Just like at school, (and by the way, most kids by kindergarten decide if they like school or not and it is a sorry state of affairs when children are burned out by second grade), kids know who really is there for them. I would love to say the church is but somedays I have my doubts. As the gap between the have and have nots continues to rise, the church needs to be poised to work alongside the have-nots to make sure they have the same opportunities as the “haves” and this will require ingenuity and creativiity.
3) Children are complex. As I have worked with children is a variety of environments, I have discovered what you see is not always what is really going on. Most have chaotic home lives. This plays out in the classroom. Ask almost any child to describe their family to you and it is very complex. What I have discovered is because of the chaos of the world, many children do not develop the adequate skills needed to navigate elementary school (let alone life). We have taken for granted, such as working with others or dealing with struggle (whether it is academic, emotional, physical, social, or mental) that we seem to react to their behavior rather than seeing a skill is missing that needs to be developed.
And finally, although I am having a blast at teaching my peers, I find the most joy in working WITH the kids. They really do not ask for much…love and attention. Immense pressure is placed upon children to perform and biologically children really don’t do well under stress especially if they haven’t learned some of the basic skills fundamental to healthy development.
So as this journey continues I look forward to being touched by the most important people in the world—children. They can never have too many people in their lives that are involved modeling care, compassion, and love. Nothing lights up my day more than when a child hugs me even after meeting with me one time. It is pure love and joy given freely and it doesn’t get any better than that!