August 17, 2015
Figuring It All Out
In truth, I am ready for a change of season. I am so ready for some fall color, some cool days and nights, and the start of the football season. If I could have my way, I would choose to live in a place where college football was a BIG deal. It is not that football is not a big deal in AZ because it is. It is just that in the midwest and east/southeast, football is king, and the start of the college season is a really BIG DEAL. I miss those trips to Purdue when I was a child. I loved going to visit my brother, then a student, and getting to see a college ball game. I loved wearing sweatshirts and sitting in the warm afternoon sun as it dipped down behind the stadium and the chilly afternoon winds kicked up. Yes, there is just something about enjoying a football game outdoors, in the fall, in packed stadium, with another 50-60k fans! LOL!!
Hope and Future
As I think about my day, I am feeling the pinch of panic. Yes, tomorrow is my first official day at ACU, and while I am blessed to be teaching there again, there is part of me that wishes I was only out at GCU this fall. I really like teaching at GCU, and I enjoy the classes there more than the classes at ACU. I guess it is just personal preference, but there is part of me that likes the way GCU is setup, the tech stuff, the classroom size, and the whole "package" that comes with that school. Still, the Lord has provided good opportunity for me to teach at both schools, so I say "yea and amen," and I thank the Lord for His gracious provision of four classes this fall.
Before next week (when everything is in full swing), I have quite a bit of prepping to do. Hopefully, I will get most of that done today and Wednesday (that is the plan, anyway). I am a bit sad that my plans for pre-reading my books (for Regent) never materialized though. I had all these great plans -- read ahead -- and even attempt a paper before class starts on the 24th. So NOT happening now. In fact, if I get to one of my books (Nicholi, Jr.) I will be pleased. Right now, I am thinking that this won't happen, and that my best laid plans are to get through this last easy week before the BIG GRIND begins.
It is funny, but I feel like I did on that first day at GCU back in August 2013. I feel so nervous and awkward, like you do at the start of every new school year. Yes, I have that "butterflies in the stomach" feeling right now. Sigh! The good news is that I am now fairly seasoned, and I am not as panicked as I was back then. Furthermore, I am settled into my routine. I know what I need to do, and with my Regent studies coming to a close, I am in this really good place, a comfortable place, whereby I know what is expected of me, and I know what I need to do each day. I guess the "scary" days are gone now as the "feared" worst that can happen to me has already happened (LOL!). I mean, I've had days when I rushed into class unprepared and I "winged" the session. No damage was done, no one died, and my students just went with the flow. I don't like to do that, but I did it a couple times because I was pinched, and guess what? Life went on. Yep, life went on. I made up for my goof on the next day, and my students survived and finished my course well (most passed!) I think about all the energy I expended back then just because of worry, doubt and fear. I thought I would be called out by my chairs and then given the short notice (as if they said to me "pack your bags, you worthless and rotten teacher!") Ha ha ha! So far, I have only been asked to return to teach -- and I know it is because of two things -- God's grace AND the fact that these schools need qualified teachers.
The more I do faculty training, the more I realize that colleges and universities do not expect teachers to be perfect. I used to think that way, always worried that I would be "found out" as a fake or failure. In truth, most schools devote a lot of time to developing their faculty. Sure, some of the pricier schools want topnotch researchers and professors, but most really need good teachers to handle the undergraduate COM and ENG classes (like the kind I teach each semester). Faculty development and training professionals work along side the faculty to help them learn how to be better teachers. I love this about higher education. There is no where else you can work where you are in an environment of 100% perpetual learning. I've worked in a lot of businesses, and most of the time, while you do receive some training, the majority of your work day is spent on doing your job. In teaching, my days are spent teaching students a specific subject AND are spent being a student learner. I stay abreast of my field, I study pedagogy, and I observe more seasoned instructors to learn from them. I love, love, love the fact that I am expected to "learn on the job" and that in a nutshell is a blessing to me.
For many years, I was afraid of teaching because I thought I wasn't good enough or wouldn't be good enough to teach. My desire was to teach, but I thought I would be evaluated like I had been evaluated in business -- where it was all about performance. I never liked to be reviewed, and I never felt as if my bosses were interested in encouraging me in any way. They seemed more bent on keeping me from being promoted or getting a pay raise. I have found that in college teaching, this is not the case. My pay is fixed as an adjunct so there is no reason to tie my pay to performance. Of course, should I fail miserably, I would be cut from the roster, so to speak. I like that I can go to work, do my best, be paid, and then receive "free" training in order to help me become a better teacher. It is a good thing, a really good thing.
Today as I think about my path, where I am, how I feel about it, and where the Lord may intend for me to go, one thing is certain: I am right where I belong for now. Yes, I feel confident that right now, I am where I belong. I may not be the best teacher ever, but I am competent, and that is good enough. I know that each semester I teach, I will get better at it. There is a limit to my abilities, for sure, but like in all education, the more I practice, the more I benefit. Thus, to teach is to do and to learn all at the same time. It is such a good thing, such a good thing. I marvel at my change of heart, and how in just a year or so of time, I have come round to this idea of being a full-time teacher. I wish now I would have followed this path years ago. I think about how I could have had 25-30 years of experience, and be at the end of my career (ready to retire with a good pension). Still, I am thankful for God's timing, and for what I am getting to do now. It is all good.
Education vs Business
One thing I have come to understand is that teaching and business are two different worlds. Both offer good work opportunities, but teaching is vastly different in so many ways. As a teacher, I am evaluated on my skills rather than my performance. It is all about learning, developing, progressing, and improving. It is long-term as well, and the expectation is that the learning process will be progressive, over many, many years of applied work.
In business, it is the opposite. There is learning for sure, but it is limited. You learn OTJ for the most part, and then you perform, jump through hoops, schmooze, and try to impress your boss so that you can be considered for advancement. Skill improvement is important to some extent, but most employers expect you to come into the job with skills in hand. There is little improvement in skilled areas (unless you are doing hands-on work like artisan, carpenters, etc.) As business analyst, I needed to how to manipulate data, draw conclusions, perform analysis, etc. before I was hired. I wasn't taught on the job, but I was expected to be able to do this work right away. I learned early on that the only way I could improve my performance was through efficiency and productivity. I didn't improve my abilities (skills), but rather, I just got better, quicker, and more thorough in what I did do each day by being clever.
Conversely, with teaching, I am actually gaining new skills every day -- skills that I didn't have before -- and that is a whole different ball game. These skills are learned and then practiced -- demonstrated through effort -- and that is time consuming work. I get it now, really I do. I tried so hard to be perfect and to perform better than peers. Why? Well, this is what you do in business. You are only as good as the pack that follows after you. Meaning, if you want to keep your job, you gotta be better than everyone else. In teaching, it is different. There is no better than because we are all equal. Some have better skills, more practice for sure, but we all are similar in how we approach the courses we teach. The improvement comes in skilled areas such as presentation, curriculum design, and in effective classroom management. All of these areas are required for instructors at my level, so improvement takes time. I know now that my time at GCU and ACU has been foundational, and that it will provide the training ground I need to become a successful college instructor once I finish my PhD. I am relieved in many ways to know, finally, that this is the path the Lord has me on, and that for all intents and purposes, this is my CALLING (vocation). It has been such a long, long, long road to get to this point, and I cannot believe that I seriously almost gave it up (again). I am content, finally content, to know that I am right where I need to be and that in time, I will become even more confident, bold, and determined as I improve my skill and learn how to teach at this level. God is good, so very good. All the time, He is good. Selah!
What is Next?
Great question. I have this wonderful, excited, and optimistic feeling inside of me right now. I feel as though something wonderful is about to happen. I don't know what might be up for me, but I sense that the Lord is moving again, and this time, change is going to bring me good news, very good news. Right now, my plan of action is to hunker down and settle into my normal school mode and routine. I have my classes set, my books on tap, and assignments to present and complete. It is all rather complicated, but God be praised, it is all so very good. My hope is to be able to complete everything with the same level of performance as previously, and to finish my time at Regent with my steady 4.0 GPA. I feel good about my courses, my last two, and I know the Lord has plans for the content (Theology and Philosophy). I have let go of my need to prove myself, and I have settled into my deep desire to allow Him to work through me. I am done as far as striving goes because I know the next two semesters are His. I can do nothing without His help and strength, therefore, there is no need to panic or worry. I cannot do what is on my schedule -- no way, no how -- without His help. Thus, I have let it all go (not to be a slacker, but in the sense of trying to control it) in order for God to do this work and for the glory to shine on Him, rather than on me. Yes, I let it go, and I am letting God receive all the glory. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. He is good, so very good.
Just some thoughts about what might be up…
I know that for now I am to remain in Phoenix. At the least, until I finish my exams. I feel confident that once my exams are passed, I will be ready to move. My prayer is that the Lord will open a door for me to teach at a college or university in Alabama. I know, I know…Alabama. I believe that the Lord desires me to move to here for a number of good reasons (most namely because of the person whom I love), but to do that means that I need to have a job, a good job. Right now, I am open to teaching in any capacity so long as the Lord provides 1) a place to live, 2) a job that pays a decent wage, and 3) a way for me to get there (as in move across the country). Until then, I am content to stay put. I know the Lord knows my needs. I also know that between now and then (next spring), I have a lot on my plate, and that I must focus on these last two semesters. Once that is all done with and I am working on my dissertation, then I can think about moving. God knows me well, and He understands my need to know details. But at this point in time, details seem to cause me concern and panic, so I believe the Lord has purposely kept His plan veiled to some extent. I sense that I am to go --> to move. I just don't see how yet.
My son is set now with school, and Lord willing, he will graduate in 2017. My parents are doing okay, as best as can be said for their age and infirmities. I realized this weekend that I am not responsible for their care. Yes, I do care for them, I care greatly, but it is not my responsibility to provide for their eventual care. I will do as the Lord leads and guides, but generally, my parents are responsible for what they can and cannot do, and I believe the Lord does have their needs covered. I know that may sound heartless, and I don't mean it to be taken that way. It is just that sometimes there is an expectation assumed, as in "you are single and available" so you must do this thing (as in care for Mom and Dad). Yet, I believe God has a great plan for my life, and while He may ask me to help care for my parents in their last years, I don't believe He desires me to assume a full-time caregiver position. In fact, I would say that the Lord intends me to pursue the life He has for me, which more than likely includes being married again some day. Furthermore, the Lord is moving me, physically, to a place where I can work and live comfortably. I have known that He intends me to move from Phoenix for about 10 years. I just didn't know when He intended for it to happen. I think I will be moving within the year for sure, but how that will come to pass, well, that is in His hands alone.
It does seem that the Lord is closing things out here in Phoenix. He has kept me in transition, living in such a way so that I could pick up and go when He says to do it. More so, I believe that timing wise, it is all as He has ordained it. I feel that everything is good, everything is working together for my good, and that in a very short while, I will know, I will understand, and I will see His plans come to pass. Selah!
For now, I am content. I am content to remain where I am until everything comes to completion, the plans are processed, and I am finished and ready to go. I am excited for my future, for the plans the Lord has for me, and I know that they will be good, so very good. God is good, all the time. He is good.