It's been an eventful few weeks for me, hence my silence on my blog. Last week I began my work in New Orleans East. The YMCA has an adult education program out there as well with different students and different hours; part of my job is to assist the instructor and help teach part of the student population Mondays through Thursdays. I was extremely excited to take this leap because it is with different students from those at the main branch I work at during the week; New Orleans East is also a very different neighborhood than downtown New Orleans, and I was curious to see that difference in the students and the program.
While I was excited and thrilled, I am two weeks in and still having difficulty learning my new routine. I am now working 10 hour days, commuting from the main branch to New Orleans East midday, and getting home around dinnertime. Safe to say my weekends are now mainly for sleeping.
With this change comes a natural stress that I place upon myself. I want to do right for the program, for my students, and for myself. Teaching has been my passion and my vocation for about a decade; this job is my first experience into this vocation—I don't want to mess it up. I also want to make sure I am giving everything to the YMCA that I can. As a YAV, I am a volunteer with them, but I am also a member of their team for a year and while in this role I want to engage in discussions about my students and the adult education system.
So I found myself going to bed frequently unhappy or frustrated over the past few weeks. All I could think about was what I wasn't doing or how I wasn't contributing; basically, I thought about all the things I could be doing better. Now, I am not a therapist of any kind, but I am sure that is not a healthy mental well-being.
However, over the last few days, I have been forcing myself to see the good in things rather than the bad. It reminds me of a movie my brother had me watch in the last year, About Time. Without getting into too much, a father told his time-traveling son to go through every day normally, then go back and live through it again but notice the small things. Basically, go watch the movie, I recommend it; but the most important part is that you can have bad days, they definitely come. But you should also remember to notice the good in days as well. There is always good around you, you just have to open your eyes to see it.
So I tried that, and this is what I noticed.
- I drive back from New Orleans East right around sunset. If there are some days where you honestly can't find God, trust me when I tell you that you will find God in a New Orleans sunset. The picture above truly does not do it justice, but when my new home is stretched out beneath the holy glow of pink, orange, and red, I am at peace.
- My students are a true light and gift. One of my many roles is testing administrator; this is not a pleasant role in the eyes of many of my students, mainly because testing is negative and frightening to them. I am required to administer tests to them periodically to map their progress through their program, but it can easily be viewed by them as an all-day chore that can lead to a serious talk about their lack of progress. But, over the last few weeks a number of our students have made huge gains in their academic goals, jumping whole grade levels in testing. This is every teacher's dream, watching their students shine. And it is somehow sweeter when you get to tell a man in his 50s that he jumped from a second grade reading level to a fourth grade reading level and see his eyes well up with tears. THAT is why I teach.