By Andrew Nilsen, Peace Corps volunteer, Nicaragua
O LORD, who may abide in your tent?
Who may dwell on your holy hill?
Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,
and speak the truth from their heart;
who do not slander with their tongue,
and do no evil to their friends,
nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
in whose eyes the wicked are despised,
but who honor those who fear the LORD;
who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
who do not lend money at interest,
and do not take a bribe against the innocent.
Those who do these things shall never be moved. —Psalm 15 NRSV
Being a first-year teacher is hard. Being a first-year teacher in a subject you haven’t studied in-depth is hard. Being a first-year teacher in a subject you haven’t studied in-depth in a different country and education culture, while sharing a classroom with another teacher, is hard.
Teaching is a vulnerable profession. Although I had never taught before coming to Peace Corps, I had intimate knowledge of this from supporting Emily through her first three years of classroom teaching in the United States. For those that care deeply about the learning and well-being of their students, teaching can be quite psychologically demanding.
In the ups and downs of working as a co-teacher trainer in the Nicaraguan public schools, I have, at times, found it easy to be stuck in excuse-land, trying to explain away my frustrations: Well, I don’t have a degree in teaching or Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), so they’re getting the best they can get. If the school just had money to buy materials for the students in class, then things could be better. How can we do any effective teaching with classes this size? If the school wouldn’t keep scheduling these random assemblies maybe we could advance in our topic and get somewhere.
I don’t find that these excuses give me much ground to build from, to pick myself up and keep trying after a difficult day of teaching. Instead, trying to keep perspective and setting the following expectations have been helpful for me:
• This is not supposed to be easy.
• It’s OK not to feel like an expert. I’m not.
• Focus on where I have influence.
• Celebrate small victories.
• In time, and with patience, things will change.
Setting healthy expectations is a crucial skill for a Peace Corps volunteer. In order to stay motivated and resilient we strive to recognize the successes and the differences we are making, even if they are not what we originally envisioned. Therefore, I am committed to cultivating a reflective teaching practice, keeping things in perspective, and continuing to learn and grow for the rest of my service.
God is with us.
Invitation to Spiritual Practice
Ordinary time is a season for awakening to God’s presence in all the details and circumstances of our everyday, ordinary lives. Wherever you are, pay attention to your surroundings. Allow yourself to be fully present for a time with whatever is before you. Where do you sense God with you right now exactly where you are?
How does today’s story invite you to discover God in the realities of your everyday life?
Today’s Prayer for Pe ace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.