Sunday, September 23, 2007

104. Decisions

It seems that being inspired to write a blog post by the Sunday morning sermon is going around!

I didn’t take detailed notes, like Just Me did, though… but there was one particular thing that my pastor said this morning that resonated with me (well, there were a few things, but one that made me think about writing this blog post) during his sermon on “Seeking the will of God”. He showed this little artsy video clip of this guy trying to figure things out, and the guy says at one point “Truth be told, I’m terrified of making the wrong decision,” and I thought “that’s me!” Absolutely terrified.

Let me tell you a little story… when I was in teacher’s college I had two separate teaching placements that put me in two very different classrooms being mentored by two very different teachers. The first teacher was a man I’ll call John who was, to put it mildly, a control enthusiast. He would stand in the room, while I taught, with his arms folded, and should I vary slightly from the ‘approved teaching procedure’ he had agreed to or laid out, he would jump in and set me back on track. If the children got a little restless while I was teaching he would very loudly get them focused again (it scared me as much as it did them)… and if ever the children seemed to not entirely understand what it was I was saying, he would completely take over and I would observe him, whilst taking notes, to see what he did differently. It was very stressful, but I totally felt safe when I was teaching with him there (well, except when he was yelling – he was very loud). I knew I couldn’t go wrong, because he would correct me. He would always direct to do things the way he thought was best.

The second placement I had was with a woman I’ll call Cindy. I don’t think it would have been possible for her to have been more different from John if she’d tried. She was even more laid back as a teacher than I know I’m naturally inclined to be, which came as a shock, especially after John. And she immediately put me in front of the kids, without so much as a 5 minute briefing on how or what she thought I should teach. And when I was teaching, she was almost always doing something else – cleaning the cupboards, departmental paperwork, preparing art projects… anything. And it worked out fine, until one day I went to teach a unit on counting money (it was a grade 2 class). I had prepared a lesson, I had the kids sitting in a circle, and I started to teach. It was a disaster. Within 5 minutes it was obvious that the kids were not able to follow me at all, and when kids can’t follow the teacher, they are easily distracted. I sat there (and stood and jumped and waved and did everything I could think of to get the kids to focus on me, even though they really didn’t understand the lesson I was teaching), trying so hard and knowing I was failing and wondering why Cindy wasn’t helping me. She was in the room, she was sitting at her desk. I could see her, going through some papers, and there was no way she could not know what was going on a mere 5 feet away from her. The math period ended, I got the kids dressed and outside for recess and then turned to Cindy, not sure what to say. Before I could think of anything, she looked up from her papers and very calmly said, “Well, that didn’t go too well, did it?”

I was angry. I admit it. She knew, she had sat there and watched me fail, and now she was mocking me. But before I could reply (which is probably a good thing) she said “So… you’ll fix it tomorrow,” and went back to her paperwork.

I stared at the top of her head for a few seconds, and then turned and started tidying up the mess my math lesson had made, kind of in a daze. And I did it. I went home, prepared a completely new lesson, came in the next day and taught it… and it worked. The kids got it, they were engaged, it was fun, and I felt wonderful… and once again, I got the kids dressed and outside for recess. As the last child was leaving, Cindy came up behind me and said, “Every teacher has bad days and bad lessons. Most mistakes are reversible. You did a great job today.” I stood there, and let that wash over me. And honestly, of all the things I learned in university (both my undergrad and in teachers college) that lesson has stuck with me the most.

Of course, I tend to mainly apply it to teaching, not to my general life. In my personal life, I tend to get stuck when making decisions. Something I’ve often said about myself is that I’m “very good at doing what I’m told”, and it’s true (although, I’ve learned recently that I am not good at taking direction if I either don’t respect the person I’m taking direction from or if the directions they’re giving me are stupid). I’m very good at doing what I’m told. I’m not so good at figuring out what I should be doing if no one is telling me what to do. I often get stuck in a decision and end up frozen, unable to do anything at all, because I don’t want to make a mistake. And, if I’m honest, I kind of think this is what has happened with the whole gay Side A/Side B thing. I don’t know what to do, I don’t know which is right. And I don’t want to make a mistake. I want God to speak up (even if He has to speak loudly and scare me) like my first mentor teacher and just give me the answer.

A movie I saw recently that really spoke to me was an indy-arthouse flick called Julie Johnson.

Now the preview kind of makes it look like it’s all about being gay, but it isn’t. It’s about a woman who figures out pretty late in life that she’s made a lot of wrong choices (and yes, the gay part does come in there, but it’s not as all encompassing as the prevew makes it seem), and when she turns around and starts making new choices how her life opens up. Oh man, the yearning I felt as I watched this movie, this woman who honestly isn’t much older than me, finally coming into her own… it kind of hurt, but in a very good way. It made me feel hope. And it made me think that I need to do something, need to take a step, any step… just get moving. Maybe I’ll make a mistake. Maybe that isn’t the worst thing in the world.

I’m still scared though.


just me said...

I LOVE that teaching analogy and this is such a wonderfully thought-full post! :) And I just finished watching that movie...I have many more thoughts... I shall have to share them later.

Zuzu said...

I like making decisions - it's when I feel "best" - because I feel like there's really NO way to make a mistake. One way or another I'm going to learn something and mostly I think I have to do things in order to "feel" whether or not they're right. I would have hated teaching under John - so alpha to interrupt someone who has the class. Better to let someone faulter and figure it out.. like you said, it's such memorable learning. - Zuzu

Peterson Toscano said...

What a wise mentor "Cindy" became for you--a brilliant example of letting someone grow in spite of mistakes. She sounds a lot more like our spiritual Parent than "John". I think sometimes we have more faith in the power of our mistakes than in our Maker.