I wanted this year to be neat.
I remember sitting on the porch of the Brick House last year, imagining my first year in the “real world,” wanting it to be nice and tidy, with a perfectly organized and filled planner, a neat desk, and categorized binders stuffed with lesson plans.
I wanted this “neatness” to be my path towards success, because if I could somehow categorize everything into tidy little boxes in my head, I would somehow be fulfilled and an effective and liked first-year teacher. If I could anticipate the mishaps and prepare for each day way in advance, I could lessen my stress level and maybe, just maybe, skip over some of the hardships.
If I’ve learned anything from my first year of teaching so far, I’ve learned that it’s the messiest thing I’ve ever gotten myself into. My weeks are filled with bantering with my students and watching my soccer girls play with intense focus on the field and participate in ridiculous antics off the field. They’re filled with running to the copy room between periods to make extras because I misplaced the pile somewhere and long planning sessions after practice complete with ranting and storytelling. They’re filled with eating out way too often and being home for an hour most days before crashing my head on my pillow, hard, only to realize that I have no idea how I’m going to teach that lesson the next day.
My desk at school is a disaster most of the time, with random piles everywhere while my filing cabinet sits mostly empty behind my computer. I have Expo markers littering random places in the room because I always set them down when I get distracted and I didn’t open my planner for the first nine weeks. My binders, intended to be filled with curriculum plans and unit ideas, sit empty and dusty while the materials to what I have taught are a disheveled mess in file folders stacked on my back table.
What I’m realizing is that this mess isn’t as scary as I expected it to be. I’m learning that it’s ok to leave my desk unorganized after a long day, that the Lord somehow gives me the capability to improvise when lessons completely flop, and that He’s using the chaos of first-year teaching to force me to be present.
I love that the chaos of first-year teaching is forcing me to be present.
This chaos is taking up some of the space my critical voice typically inhabits and I’m learning to make quick decisions without over analyzing—a pretty impressive feat in my book. I’m learning that being an effective teacher has less to do with being organized and more to do with being present in each messy, unexpected moment I get with my students, drawing strength from the Lord who loves them a whole lot more than I ever could.
Most importantly, I’m learning that I can, indeed, trust the Lord to provide for each moment I’m not expecting or assume I can’t handle. I’m learning if I keep leaning into to this messy season filled with new things and unfamiliar obligations, I’m giving Him the space He needs to work, free from my need to keep things neat.
If you’re finding yourself in some unfamiliar spaces, seek the Lord in the midst of every moment there. Embrace the unorganized chaos and accept His grace for not having everything together. Remember that your ability to be effective where you’re at is dependent on the Lord, not your ability to anticipate and attempt to minimize the struggles ahead.