This year has been a whirlwind. At times, I didn’t even know if I would make it past Christmas. Moving to a new city and jumping into teaching all at once. I didn’t think I was qualified for this. I was never taught to teach, much less taught things about classroom management, discipline, lesson planning, or the other thousand things that teachers do. I didn’t know what I was doing.
Luckily, or so I thought, one of the courses I am teaching is physical education. I was pretty athletic growing up, so I could do that. The lesson planning of that was easy. However, trying to get 24 students to listen to the skills being taught, the instructions, get into groups, and participate all in a gym with bad acoustics, was frustrating and discouraging. I tried the whole participation point system, and that worked for a little while, but didn’t last. Reality check, I am not going to get all 24 students happily and willingly participating. Forcing participation wasn’t helping anyone. It just wasn’t going to happen, and it was time for me to accept that and adjust. So, I learned how to adjust my class and give them options—options for their participation comfort level and options for the activities.
The other class I teach is digital literacy. I’m definitely not qualified for that. I still have to look up the shortcut to copy and paste things. How am I supposed to teach computers to middle schoolers? They’re 12 years old, and most of them already know more about technology than I do. What am I supposed to teach them? How am I supposed to manage these 24 seventh grade students at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday and teach a subject I’m not confident in? This is the 21stcentury, of course a lot of kids are technologically savvy, it’s natural for them. However, even though they may know how to use a computer, their safety on the internet was not the best, so there was indeed something I could teach them. Another thing I realized was that they are the age that when they see something online, they believe it. So, reliable sources was another thing I could work on with them. I did indeed have things I could teach them. I also learned that that class, especially at that time of day and week, did not just want to sit there and learn things about computers. I had to start doing a lot of group work and activities, which in turn made the class go by easier and quicker. Class management and discipline are two of the biggest skills I’m slowly picking up on, not perfect, but definitely something I am continually learning about and growing in.
These are the thoughts that went through my head daily: I can’t do this, why am I here, what am I doing, I shouldn’t be here, can I leave? Then one Brother shared this quote, “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.” Wow, God’s a trickster. Of course He didn’t place me here to get everything right—good thing too because that wasn’t happening. Knowing how to do everything and doing great at everything wouldn’t have helped me learn, grow, or rely on Him. Even more so, being a know-it-all teacher doesn’t help me connect with the students. I think when students see me struggle or admit that I don’t know something, they respect me more for it. It is okay to not know something. It is okay to not have everything planned. Even if you do, things are not going to go that way.
In the long run, students are not going to remember exactly what you taught (or didn’t teach) them, they’re also not going to remember the times you didn’t know something, or the time that the math major got a sixth grade problem wrong (yes, it’s happened). They are going to remember the times you connected with them, laughed with them, and encouraged them. The times you asked about them and were interested in them as people, the times you went to their sports games and cheered them on, and maybe the times you gave them candy as a bribe to behave.
I am qualified to develop relationships with students, and to care, because there are no qualifications for that. It’s part of being a Christian. Once I realized that, I really started to try focusing on the good things that were happening, and not so much all the ways I didn’t think I was good enough. Developing relationships with students is the most important thing I am doing here. The students don’t actually have to become computer masters or the most athletic kids in the country—especially in middle school. They need adults to care about them, as my coworker said, “mentorship and/or high-quality time with adults is so important for children’s development.”
At times I didn’t think I was doing well in this area and the questions about qualifications started popping in my head. But then I started to notice the little things: how many students would say hello, smile, wave in the hallway, or come talk to me during breaks and tell me about their weekends. The student who would have a frown on their face until I said hello and shook their hand. The student who would run up to me the first time they saw me during the day to tell me about the book they found or finished, or the math scores they got. The ones who instead of playing at the park, would sit next to me and talk about their families and life. The students who would always make eye contact with me as they saw me trying to teach digital literacy. Those are all the proofs that I am succeeding where I am, that God is using me, that I am qualified to be right where I am, even when I don’t see it all the time.
I don’t have to understand why here or how exactly God thinks I’m qualified to be here. He placed me here as a part of His greater plan, and He thinks I am qualified for this job right here right now. He is continually making me into the person He calls me to be to be qualified for the next step. He is using the gifts and talents He gave me where I am right now.
Besides, other people thought I was qualified enough to become a part of the LV program, and that was worth something right? I was called to this program. I’ve known since I was in high school that I was meant to do post-grad volunteer work. I knew I was called for that and doubting that calling was doubting God. God knew I was qualified for the program, and He is still qualifying me every day to face whatever may be thrown my way. I may not feel it, but the process isn’t done yet. God called me, so I am qualified in His eyes.
Rachel Aubart is a first-year volunteer serving at De Marillac Academy in San Francisco, California. She is a 2018 graduate of Lewis University and a 2014 graduate of DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis.