Yes, I know, I know. It’s ironic. I’ve not had much to do with public schools during most of my adult life. I did attend public schools as a child K-12th grade, but I chose to homeschool my children for various reasons. One of them being the school districts we lived in doing a poor job of servicing children with special needs. Another was that I believed, and still do, that a good homeschool education is light years better than a public school one. (Notice I said good homeschool education. Too many claim to homeschool and really don’t.) We provided so many more opportunities as a home school and cottage school than public schools ever could. (I do talk quite a bit about our cottage school in my book, A Pair of Miracles.)
Both of my biological sons, like their father, had a difficult time learning to read and spell. I didn’t want them to fall behind when it came to learning. But I also wanted them to have a Christian education. That was very important to me. I wanted my children to know the Bible well.
My adopted twin sons have autism, intellectual disabilities and speech issues. The public schools couldn’t meet their various needs, especially socially. Ironic, isn’t it?
So how does a passionate homeschool mom end up teaching in public school? Easy. I want to be a special education teacher to help improve, in some small way, the delivery of special education to students. God has called me to work with special needs children, and public school is the best opportunity for me to do so.
(And then, there’s that pesky detail of needing insurance, food, and rent. <sigh> Yeah. Adulting is hard.)
Unless you’re a New York Times best seller, or get a generous movie deal, writing doesn’t pay the bills. I haven’t broken even financially with my writing career. Between travel, networking and website, no profit has been earned. Still, I will always, always write because it’s who I am. Ducks swim. I write and teach. I guess you could say this teaching job supports my writing habit. Maybe someday my writing will support our family completely. That will be a happy day. Until then, like Paul in the Bible, I “make tents” to help take care of myself and my family, and also to be a witness.
I can’t tell kids in public school about Jesus. I can’t give them the whole hope of Who He is. But I can be kind, validating and helpful. I can show compassion to those students who don’t get a kind word at home. I can model good character and tell students stories about how I’ve overcome hard things in my own life. Life is tough, but these students need to know they have a purpose. It’s my job to guide them in discovering what they’re good at so they can have hope.
Because I work with students with disabilities, including learning disabilities, my charges have little confidence in themselves. I let them know I can’t imagine what it’s like having to come to a building everyday where you’re asked to do things you know you can’t do as well as your friends. By letting them know I get why they’re angry and frustrated, emotionally shut doors slide open to conversations. Conversations lead to interesting life questions. And trust me, eighth graders have some pretty deep, scary questions.
This kind of teaching feeds me as much as writing does. I love my job. I love my principals and co-teachers. I’m blessed beyond measure that God placed in me in such a lovely school. I’m not going to deny it, when doors kept slamming shut for me over the summer on my way to a teaching job, I was freaking out a little. Apparently age was a factor for some schools. I was rejected in my own local school district for reasons I couldn’t understand then, but completely get now. It wasn’t about me. It was about God’s Providence and the plans He has for me.
You see, God planted me smack dab in the middle of my dream job. I know I’m still in the honeymoon phase and I risk gushing too soon. But I have had confirmation after confirmation that I’m right in the center of His will. And there’s not a better feeling.
I had actually asked the Lord to slam doors shut or swing them wide open to help me decide where to teach. The rejection was painful. It made no sense. But now it does. And even though I did feel a bit sorry for myself in the months of June and July, I’m so grateful for the grace God gave me to say, “I trust You. Things aren’t making sense, Lord, but I trust You.”
It was worth going through all the interviews and rejections to get where I am now. After all, as a writer, I’m experienced at rejection. Still smarts, though. But wow, when God plants you, He plants you real good. I am now on staff of of an award-winning special education department. People travel from all over the world to see how we do things in my school’s corporation. The people at my school are positive and kind. There’s no snarky gossip or drama. People are too engaged in meeting the needs of kids. It’s all about the students all the time.
But it’s not all unicorns and butterflies. I don’t care for the commute. I will admit, the commute is something I’m still not used to. It does take me 45 minutes from the time I leave my front door until I’m sitting in my office chair. It bugs me only because it’s time that takes away from my writing. But the other day I had the best praise and worship time in my car on the way to work. Glorious. And I thought, “Maybe God wants me to have this commute so I can hang out with Him more.”
Maybe. I don’t know. But I do know I’m working on seeing the commute as a blessing, too.
When God does things, He does them up so good. He is always up to something good.