It’s been nearly two years since I hatched this hare-brained scheme of mine to reinvent myself as a special education teacher. Inch by inch, I’ve carefully stepped through one hoop, then another. I spent last summer studying for the GRE and WEST-B. I slogged through grad school applications and the tedious process of transferring my Pennsylvania teaching certificate to Washington. I volunteered and subbed, taking extremely challenging assignment after extremely challenging assignment, finally finding a full-time parapro job at my kids’ school.
Want to have a big juicy existential crisis? Try going from being a special education parent/advocate to working in a special education program in a large urban public school district. What a trip. What a humbling, baffling, heartbreaking, face-in-the-mud trip.
And yet, I’ve loved every minute of it. It hasn’t scared me away. It’s made me stronger and forced me to see a much wider, more complicated world than the one I thought I knew. It has super-charged my faith in human children (and somewhat resolved my faith in human adults). It’s taught me to recognize the small successes that happen every day, and to embrace them for the miracles that they are. It’s showed me the endless mountains of work that still needs to be done. It’s let me accept that I still have a lot – a lot – to learn. And, yes, there have been times when it’s made me feel a little broken and deeply sad.
But here we are. This is my path. I’m sure of it. I started out as a teacher, gave it up too soon, spent the next 20 years trying other things, and somehow found my way back here again. This is absolutely where I belong. It’s a calling. And when you feel this passionately about something, you feel everything deeply. The good and the bad. The sad parts, the frustrating parts, the downright demoralizing parts – it feels that bad because it’s lighting you up in the first place. You care. Don’t avoid it. Go even deeper. There’s something in there that needs you.