Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December 2008

--This is an excerpt from a bigger blog entry that I wrote in January 2010--

On Dec. 5, 2008, I returned to Unity Christian High school, where I had done my first session of student teaching, to say goodbye to my former students and coworkers. The 7 weeks that I'd spent at Unity were a tremendous blessing, especially when compared to the waking nightmare that was to follow in my 2nd placement at LeMars. At Unity, I learned how to prepare lessons. Not only did I learn how to lecture, I delivered some stirring orations on a level of quality comparable to Cicero...'s dog (who I hear was a pretty decent speaker, actually).

Most of all, I loved the students. This isn't to say that there were no behavior issues or tense moments. Every class brought its own unique challenges, but I honestly don't think that I could've had a better introduction into the teaching career than the one I had at Unity.

I digress... I'm supposed to be talking about the day my life changed. So, on Dec. 5, I said my goodbyes, including far too many cliché "have a good life"s and "oh, the places you'll go"s (I couldn't resist...). As I said my final farewell to one of my favorite juniors (encouraging him to consider teaching as a profession; again with the clichés), an older man who I didn't recognize shook my hand to wish me luck. I surmised that he was a long-term sub, filling in for the math teacher who'd been about 9 months and one week pregnant as I was finishing my Unity placement.
"Any particular job waiting for you this spring?" He asked.
I shook my head. "Maybe I'll do some subbing and work part-time at the grocery store."
He leaned in a little and said, "Y'know, a good thing for a young teacher to do, is to look for jobs overseas."
"Yeah, maybe," I replied (and what I really meant was "No, never", but I was sacrificing honesty for politeness here).
He must have seen through my mechanical and artificial reply, because he raised his eyebrows and offered a testimonial: "I started out my career at a small international school in Japan."
Funny, I thought to myself. I KNOW people who teach at a small international school in Japan. The Vander Haaks were close family friends, and had been in Tokyo for over four years.
"It's not the Christian Academy in Japan by any chance, is it?" I asked.
"So you've heard of it!"
I mentioned Brian Vander Haak's name, which he recognized.
"He's the headmaster, right?"
That was news to me. Last I'd heard, Brian was the high school principal, but I figured that this fellow with ties to the school would know better than I.
"Well, think about it. Even if you are only volunteering, an overseas teaching experience is something that you will take with you for the rest of your life."

And I did think about it, for about 10 minutes or so, at which point I got hungry and started thinking about Pizza Ranch instead.

Six days later, I'd submitted my final education portfolio, graduated (no ceremony this time) and was busy packing my car for the 1800 mile trip home. Sitting in the driver's seat, I turned on the defrost. My phone vibrated. It was my mom.
"Did you check your email?" She asked, unable to conceal her excitement.
"No, I've been packing."
"Brian Vander Haak sent me an email, and I forwarded it to you... there's a temporary volunteer opening in the resource room at CAJ; they had someone go on maternity leave and their replacement fell through."
I think that some part of me knew in that moment that I would take the job, that there could be no other option, really. Nonetheless, I spent the next few days on the road trying to find reasons NOT to take the job, stressing about the decision and praying about it.

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