I don't know why most of my meanderings begin in the early morning hours in front of the bathroom mirror, but they do!! Oh, I guess I could just get all philosophical and psychological and think it's because the mirror replays our image back to us and how we "see" ourselves and get all deep thinking about the universe and stuff...but I don't think that's it! I think it's the only time my mind has time to slow down and really think!! ;) The rest of the day I'm continually trying to remember all those things I hope I don't forget, but early mornings are just for ME! Once again, I found myself in front of that mirror, thinking back on the school year.
I look forward to the end of the school year mainly because I'm tired by the time it gets here and I just want a break from having to think, plan, nag, drag and all those others things I feel like I have to do throughout the year with our students. I'm also a little saddened...being in the education field you spend a lot of time with other peoples kids, and personally, I think you just can't help but make them your kids as well. In our program a lot of the students start out with us in their freshman year and many are there for the entire four year stint...they become YOUR kids! You see them happy, sad, mad, glad...all range of emotions that teenagers are prone too. You, yourself, get happy, sad, mad, AND glad watching them grow up...just like a parent does! Some years are more bittersweet than others because there will be that one kid that comes along that you just can't help but get more attached to than the rest. The one kid you can see so much potential in and you want them to see it for themselves so you put a little more "work" into helping them see it. It is tremendously sad when you lose that kid, whether it be to graduating and going on with their lives, or losing them to the world earlier than need be and knowing their lives are going to be tough. Just like a parent you find yourself sending up a prayer for guidance in doing all you can to make sure they are able to get on with those lives.
This particular morning as I was "thinking", a memory came to me from many, many years ago. I probably was not more than 10 years old and one of my older brothers had just got back to the states with his family. They had been stationed in Germany and therefore, we had yet to "meet" his boys. I had four nephews and nieces prior to these two, but they were so close in age to me that they were more like my little brothers and sisters. When Jeff and Joe came on the scene it was my first experience of being an "aunt" and even as young as I was, I rather liked that idea! I also relished the idea of being older and therefore wiser, so it was my job to teach these boys the way of things! ;) These two boys were as different as night and day...Joe, the youngest, was the sweetest little guy, probably 2 years old at the time, but he was quiet and steady. Jeff, on the other hand, was four and full on rambunctious! I don't think he could have been still if you'd of tied him down! He was constantly on the go, into everything, talked all the time, and generally could just wear you out pretty quickly!
On one particular day Mom was keeping Jeff, not sure why only him, but it was and we were on our way to town. Somewhere in the process we stopped by my aunt's house. My aunt's house was very nice...hers had the matching furniture with the couch pillows and things all arranged in a neat and orderly fashion. She was also my dad's sister, which meant she followed the rule of "children were to be seen and not heard", and I had a pretty good idea she wasn't going to care for "hearing" Jeff! :) In order for Mom to visit with my aunt I knew it would be MY job to entertain the nephew and hopefully keep him from disorganizing that well put together living room!
In truth, the visit went very well and Jeff was very good! I took him to the living room and had him set on the floor where I proceeded to try and keep him occupied. I don't remember what toys my aunt rounded up for us to play with, but I do remember trying to teach him how to play "quietly" and in my best grown-up, mother hen, voice I would admonish him on how to do this or that...but mostly I was just trying to teach him what was appropriate for inside play! I hadn't really paid attention to the fact that my mom and aunt had walked to the edge of the room and were watching the happenings in the living room until I heard my aunt say, "She'll grow up to be a teacher some day...look at how patient she is with him...".
Throughout the rest of the years ahead I never gave any thought to that statement...my first real thoughts on what I wanted to be when I grew up was just...a mom! I recall thinking at one point I would like to be a lawyer, but only because I thought I could right the injustices of the world...when I got much older I realized that very few lawyers actually concerned themselves with right and wrong! I also played with the idea at another point of becoming a nurse, and again because I thought I could help overcome illness and make people better. That didn't happen either because my fear of needles and the idea of jabbing one into somebody nixed that thought pretty quickly! ;) Being a teacher? Never crossed my mind!
So I settled on the mom part and was perfectly happy with that....until my kids grew up. Oh, I did do a stint working at the nursing home, got my CNA license, and truly loved it. I later took a med tech course which also gave me license to jab a needle into people and I had a short stint of that as well when working at our boarding home. I also had the opportunity, at one point, to test my lawyer skills when I was asked to represent some families down here on our road at an arbitration board...we won! ;) A little later on I took a job at a developmental center where I was engaged with clients of varying degrees of mental retardation... that job required MANY skills and it was amazing!! It was this last job that ended up pointing me in the direction of psychology and the desire to return to school and earn a degree...I had no idea that what I learned while earning that degree would be put to use in a whole different perspective!
Within just a few days of graduating I received a phone call...I had a great niece and nephew that were in need of a place to stay...quickly! We left out immediately to pick them up...one would soon be turning 12, the other 14...both of them carrying a lot of extra baggage and I don't mean in the form of suitcases. Over the course of a couple of weeks it became apparent they would not be returning "home"...it was either our house or foster care and for me, foster care was NOT an option, so we became surrogate parents to two fast becoming teenagers! I had thought to begin my master's degree that fall, but determined instead these two needed my undivided attention, at least for the first year and I put those thoughts on hold....they ended up staying on hold for a very long time! :)
I've always believed that God has a way of bringing things into and out of your life that is always preparing you for the next step in that life....once again, I was called upon to try and fill the shoes of a mom, argue like a lawyer, try to heal the "hurts", and hopefully teach these kids some skills that had been left undone, having no clue that all that experience was eventually leading me on to the next phase...the one I find myself in right now...the teaching field! I figured out pretty quickly that one year was not going to be that magical time frame when all was well, but having spent the time and money on a degree I felt like I needed to be doing something with all that spending, something that could help pay back that time and money, yet would also allow me more time and energy needed at home...I got what I prayed for!
I've been an education paraprofessional now for 8 years, working in a program designed for students who are close to failing or could possibly fail without intervention of some kind. I can tell you the pay for this job in no way compensates for the degree I earned, however....the degree I earned has more than compensated in helping me do the job! The one gave me the opportunity to be where my niece and nephew were throughout the day as well as in the evenings, holidays, and summer times all through their own high school years and it was great! One has allowed me to have a better understanding of kids weighted down with problems. Both have given me an opportunity to work with kids that I might not otherwise have ever known and both have also allowed me to live out those words, spoken by my own aunt, many years ago! Prophetic? Yeah, I think so...I'm still being called upon to argue (and win) like a lawyer, to try and heal the hurts (mostly of the heart), and more importantly to be a mom to kids who seem to think their own isn't interested. But, I also get to teach...everything from Algebra to English and I enjoy every minute of it...well, almost every minute of it!! :)
I'm not sure how long this particular ride will last, but when I look back I can't help but see all the steps that were put in place to bring me to where I am today. I considered this past year about going back to earn an actual teaching degree, but I decided I really didn't need one. I love what I'm doing, the area in which I'm doing it, and how it all works out for my own stage in life right now. I feel like I've been fulfilling all my dreams, (partial though they may have been) and I don't think a person can be blessed much more than that! My aunt didn't live long enough to see me fulfill her statement, but I'm pretty sure she's smiling there at the edge of heaven, watching the happenings, and all the while telling my mom, "I told you so!"