I’m back in the blogging world, people! At least for now. After keeping up with this blog at least once monthly for three and a half years (you can tell from the archives on the right side), I finally let it slide this past fall and have had a hard time getting back into it. I guess getting your first grown-up, full-time job in a new state will do that to you. To those of you who have been following me for some time, I mentioned my new life adventure briefly in some of my last posts, but never really had a chance to talk about it much. That’s because, quite simply, life has been crazy. But that’s part of what I want to talk about today.
For those not in the know, I moved from central Virginia to southern Maryland back in August, and have been up here for nearly seven months now. I’m teaching high school English at a private Christian academy, fulfilling a career goal that first surfaced in my mind way back in my own sophomore year of high school. I’m starting to make friends in the area, and the school is full of some pretty great people–from administration to coworkers to students. Three quarters of the way into the school year, I can honestly say that I love my job.
Well, pretty much. Usually. Mostly.
Last week it was my turn to prepare a brief message for faculty devotions. (Side note: how cool is it that I work at a place where the faculty do devotions together? I think it’s cool.) And I talked about how it was getting to the point of the year where things are getting tough, challenges are arising, and some of the youthful fervor and idealism that I had at the beginning of the year from being a first-year teacher are starting to wear off. I was young and foolish back then, thinking that merely my love for children and my positive energy in wanting to impact their lives could carry me through my first year without too many major issues.
Now, six months later, I’m obviously much older and much wiser, and I’ve come to realize that amidst piles of grading, discipline problems, and some consistently difficult students, this job isn’t always all fun and games like I might have hoped. I’m tired more often (see? Told you I was getting old) and, as much as I love teaching and I have a good group of students overall, there are certain days when I don’t look forward to going into work or seeing a certain class. If you’ve ever taught–or worked in any job, even one that you love–I’m sure you can relate. It doesn’t mean that my job is bad or that it’s cause for me to give up. It doesn’t mean that this isn’t what God has called me to do. It just means that real adult life is a little more complicated than maybe I had imagined initially, and even my quixotic crusade of idealism isn’t always enough to keep me going.
(I learned the word “quixotic” this year when I was teaching an excerpt from Don Quixote. I think it’s a fun word. If you don’t know what it means, then go look it up!)
I’ve been watching the show Gotham on Fox (viewer discretion advised), which is kind of a prequel to Batman. More specifically, it’s about Jim Gordon long before he becomes the police commissioner of Gotham City, when he’s just starting out as a young rookie detective. And it also functions as a coming-of-age tale and a complex allegory for the average working man and his struggles to succeed against the hardships of life. Well, not really, but I’m going to pretend that it does, because I’m finding that I can really relate to this version of Jim Gordon.
Ben McKenzie as Detective Jim Gordon on Gotham.
See, at the beginning of the show, Jim was this idealistic young rookie cop. He didn’t really know what he was getting into, but as one of the few “good cops” left in a city full of crime and corruption, he thought he could save the world, right the wrongs, and single-handedly turn the city around, because what could possibly go wrong? But as things progressed, that goal became harder and harder. During the first season, tough-guy rule-breaker Jim had some problems with his administration (which I could also relate to at the time of the first season), making it difficult to live out his noble ideals within the confines of an imperfect system.
Now, in the second season, Jim has a more positive and supportive administration (as do I), but the criminal element of Gotham is still quite a challenge for him. He’s finding that, in order to fulfill his noble ideals and protect the people, he’s got to get tougher and make sacrifices and compromises that he may not have been comfortable with when the show started a year and a half ago. He’s trying to hold onto his ideals of keeping the city safe and doing the right thing, but that’s getting harder and harder to do without getting his hands dirty, and it’s often a thankless job that takes a huge personal toll on him.
I posted this two days after moving. Do I look like a tough cool guy too?
Admittedly, teaching at a Christian school isn’t quite as dramatic as being a cop in Gotham City (see? Told you I was quixotic), and so I don’t really see myself making most of the moral compromises that Jim has been making in service to the alleged “greater good.” But overall, I can really see where he’s coming from. Like Jim, I went into a job where I thought I could save the world and serve the people and make a positive impact in the lives of the future generation. But now I’m finding that, despite my experiences in student teaching and graduate student assistantship, some aspects of teaching are harder and tougher than I was prepared for. Yes, there are days when I have a really positive moment with a student and I pleasantly remember why I wanted to teach in the first place–and then there are days when the job seems more like babysitting and crowd control than anything else and I wonder how much longer I can keep it up. Heck, sometimes I can have both types of days within an hour of each other. Like any job, there’s a balance and the circumstances can really go back and forth at any given time.
When I gave my devotional message, I spoke about trying to recapture some of my youthful idealism and the passionate zeal that had first made me want to impact teens in a positive way. And, as much as I love shows like Gotham, I’ve been finding that melodramatic fantasies about being an epic action hero aren’t always quite enough to reignite that flame. Rather, the best way to renew my vigor as a Christian teacher is to fill myself with God and His Word. I need to let Him replenish my motivation, my love for others, and my servant’s heart for the students. I need to let Him show me in the midst of each difficult day where the real, practical opportunities are to make a positive impact. Am I always doing this perfectly? Far from it. But it’s only my first year and I’ve still got a lot to learn.
Teaching isn’t always easy, but I still believe that it’s worth it for those who really want to make a difference serving God and others. And that’s what I plan to do to the best of my ability for the rest of this year and however many years are still to come. I just have to be transformed by the renewing of my mind and take on the idealistic faith of a little child yet again.