Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Complexity of education

There is something that must be said for all the teachers, educators, mentors, after school activity leaders and youth workers who put in much unnoticed and under-appreciated effort. I am not talking about the teacher who does not get recognized by parents or other staff, I am talking about the teacher, mentor, youth worker who does not notice or appreciate what they do themselves.

It is of course easy, and in some respect healthy to be aware of ones own pitfall and needed areas of improvement, but for the people who are loving on youth, teaching them to believe in their own abilities, teaching that mistakes are a part of life, explaining and showing that everyone is unique with their own strengths and weaknesses, being aware of the human spirit - the teacher must remember, these same truths apply to himself as much as they apply to the students.

The realities of life do not change for someone who becomes an adult or an educator. The same realities exist, no matter the age. Life is messy. Relationships are messy. Circumstances are messy. We do the best we can, but sometimes things are out of our control. We do not always see the impact of what we are doing and we will always feel we could do better.

What now? Do we wallow in our inadequacies and beat ourselves up for all of our failures (failures that only we see in ourselves!)? Never! Even if there is room for improvement (which there always is), it is important to remember that you are human and you are learning. Life is a process. If an educator or mentor stops believing in their own abilities and stops being confident and positive, their attitude will rub off on the students. Youth pick this kind of stuff up fast. It is especially important to live what you teach! It is when you stop believing in what you are teaching that what you are teaching becomes ineffective.

Teachers, mentors, youth workers, activity leaders, must remember that what they are doing is important! You are not doing it for the money - you really care. And your care manifests in ways you cannot even imagine. You may not see the fruit of your work today - you may not see it tomorrow - but you are not producing widgets - you are helping build people. People do not live in a vaccuum that you solely control. People live in a system, with many influences, and you are one of the people who is showing warm light into the child's life. That is amazing and has more impact than any structured lesson or super organized activity can produce.

Be yourself. Love. Do your best. And don't beat yourself up if it doesn't work out as you imagined, because reality is - most things in life are not as you imagined! Live what you teach.

It has been my personal realization over the years (and I am still realizing and fighting it myself) but we are often our own toughest critics. We must realize we cannot make life perfect or solve all of the world's problems. We can only live, shine our light, love, and do our best. The rest is not in our hands and we must be willing to let go and realize the rest is in God's hands. He created mankind and he cares about mankind. It is not our place to make things grow. We plant, we water, we nurture, but in the end, it is the heavenly father who makes the plant grow. Sometimes we get to see the fruit, sometimes we don't. It's okay. We must always be still and know that God is God!

And what an awesome reality to live in!

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