In one of my favorite movies, The Holiday, Jack Black’s character tells Kate Winslet’s character about the amazing soundtrack from the film The Mission. It was a scene I watched over and over but never thought much about the composer that’s specifically mentioned: Morricone.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of studying and often need to drown out the noise of my family or students (in my shared office/classroom). I’m listening to classical music on Amazon Music and Pandora daily at this point and have discovered many beautiful songs. My favorite though is Yo-Yo Ma’s performance of Gabriel’s Oboe which is from The Mission and was composed by Ennio Morricone.
I suppose I knew life would feel unsettled during my first year of teaching. That’s totally to be expected, right? I don’t have any established and practiced routines for lesson planning. Everything is new to me: taking attendance, classroom routines, software programs, you name it.
But, my ability to suppress unwanted feelings is incredibly strong. It’s a gift, really. I’m able to reframe situations and circumstances so I don’t feel the anxiety of the unknown, for awhile anyway. This typically takes the form of avoidance of reality. Then the ensuing panic hits and I hit my knees in prayer as I recognize my control strategy has backfired.
The irony isn’t lost on me. While I love history and enjoy the process of studying and preparing lessons, my desire to teach well combined with inexperience triggers anxiety. However, when I’m able to make room for my feelings of anxiety and engage in the work, both with students and the preparation beforehand, wonderful feelings of joy and purpose pour in!
My mindfulness strategies from The Happiness Trap have served me very well lately. Likewise, lessons about embracing a growth mindset, which our school deeply values. The harsh inner voice that whispers that I’m not capable, don’t know enough, or will not measure up gets louder in times of stress and anxiety. Being able to accept these feelings and defuse these thoughts allows me to fully connect to the present moment. Then, in the present moment I can connect with my students, the class content, and whatever needs my attention. I then make room for growth: for them and for me.
God has equipped me for this vocation, in this place, for this time. When I rest in this truth and trust that God will daily provide for my needs, the harsh inner voice gets a lot quieter. God isn’t asking me to be a perfect teacher. He doesn’t expect me to confidently know what I’m doing in my first full week of classes! My job is simply to use the gifts he’s given me and the passion he’s put in my heart to engage in teaching his beloved children.
At lunch after church today, I shared my feelings of anxiety with Dennis, Sienna and Mateo. Getting out of my head by talking about these feelings brought such relief. I needed to be honest with myself and my family by saying aloud that I would be working a lot this year. I want to study and be well prepared for teaching. It’s not a burden, but a gift. This vocation is what I’ve prayed about for years. Growing in my skills as a teacher will take devotion and effort, but it’s so worth it. They were completely supportive and tears prickled my eyes as I realized, once again, that I can ask for help and rely on my family for support.
So, this is where I am right now. In the messy middle of learning, growing, engaging, and praying.