I Have the Power to Shape a Kid’s Life. That Scares Me.

I’m a runner. Not in the five mile/endurance/cardio thing, gosh no. I run from things. I run when I get scared, when I think I’m going to fail, or even in the times where I need to step up and be an adult. I run.

I wasn’t always like that, or so I like to think so. People say that living with someone and/or being in a relationship makes you really get to know yourself and grow as a person. For me it was the opposite.

Living on my own for the past three years has forced me to deal with the person in the mirror. All weird, immature, messy bits of her. That reflection is tough for me to look at sometimes.

You can only outrun yourself for so long, and now that I’ve finally caught up with myself I’ve learned a few things about Jess.

Observations:

*She is a HUGE procrastinator.

*She thinks that living in denial will make all of her problems go away (bills, confrontation, upcoming deadline, etc.)

*She is so scared to fail that often times she doesn’t allow herself to try.

Why am I sharing these observations, you ask? Well, a new school year is just around the bend and like every other teacher at the end of summer break, I AM FREAKING OUT!! Really, truly, I am. Every day I juggle between feeling overwhelmed with the growing list of items on my to-do list and the panic-inducing potential outcomes if I don’t accomplish that list. I’ve been losing sleep at night, having “first day” nightmares, and dreading August 10th more and more as the weeks go on. Aside from my need to be prepared, I wondered why this bothered me so much; after all, it is my calling to be a teacher and is a job I love very much. So why has it affected me so? Then it hit me.

I have the power to shape a kid’s life. And that scares me.

Now you may think, “Wow, she’s so full of herself,” and you may be right. However, I know firsthand how teachers can “make or break” a student, so to speak. I will name 3 out of the many teachers who are the reason I am a teacher today (shoutout to Ms. Basham, Doctora, and my mommy!); I can also name (although I won’t) teachers who made me dislike certain subjects, feel stupid, or dread coming to class altogether. I’m almost 26 years old and I can still remember them all, so I know the power I hold every time I stand up in front of my students.

I’m not scared because of that power. No, I’m scared because of those observations listed above.

I’m scared that if I procrastinate with lesson plans that my students won’t learn in my class.

I’m scared that if I live in denial about something I can do better as a teacher then not only will I suffer, but so will my students. I’m scared that if I live in denial about that student who is struggling in class or having a bad day, that I won’t take the time to pull them aside and offer my help.

I’m scared that I will fear failing so much that I won’t even try to go above and beyond for each one of the precious souls who come in my classroom each day. That I won’t invest the time, emotion, and effort into loving them as my own, because I fear that I will fail even just one of them.

“Teachers don’t have to be perfect. Being transparently imperfect can be one of the strongest messages we can send to kids.”

At one point in the semester last year, I found this quote and fell in love with it. Of course, it was around the time I was behind on grading, struggling to come up with creative lesson plans that supported differentiated learning while still meeting my curriculum, and remembering to refill the candy basket each week.

The quote fit perfectly into the idea of being authentic, showing who you really were and living that out fearlessly. However, the more I thought about this quote and talked with others about it, the less I liked it. I don’t think that boasting in our imperfections makes us strong, just like boasting in our sins and struggles doesn’t make us brave. Rather, I think acknowledging that we are humanly imperfect and occasionally have bad days (or if you’re like me, bad weeks!) yet still striving to learn from those imperfections in order to become better, then the message we send our kids can stay with them longer.

A transparent message that human weakness and potential failure is a part of life, one that can’t be hidden by false facades or outrun (even by me). Nevertheless, I’ve found hope in God’s promise of His power being made perfect in my weakness, along with thankfulness knowing that it’s not my job to shape a kid. Sure, I can love a student as my own, be an influence in his or her life, but my presence in that life is not what dictates their happiness, career choice, or decisions.

As someone once told me, it’s not your job to convert them. It’s not your job to be their mom. Your job is to be their teacher, their coach, and their biggest cheerleader, but that’s it. Everything else is left to God.

So I’m hanging up my running shoes. I’m giving that power to God, as well as my fears. I’m trading in my sneakers for knee pads, ones that will soften the ground where I kneel every day, praying over my students’ lives, their teachers, and for other runners like me.

Being fearlessly authentic means finding a place where you can be transparent in your struggles. But it isn’t a place to stay and sit in after opening up; it’s a way to lighten your load, gather your friends and family close, and start the journey towards a stronger you. One who knows she is messy, a little weird, and a former runner, yet walking steadier every day.

-Jess

I want to hear your story! How have you let fear in your life affect your actions? How can being fearlessly authentic dispel that fear? Comment or respond under the contact section of the blog πŸ™‚

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