Reflection on a Journey

Yesterday was my last day teaching at an amazing school

Four years ago

I didn’t know what I would discover when I said yes on the phone

When the principal offered me a job teaching Spanish to elementary kids.

What am I doing? I thought to myself. I told myself I’d never teach Spanish, and here I am.

I just wanted to keep Spanish hidden up my sleeve, like I did with my music.

Ready to pull out randomly when it worked in my classroom.

To wow people, maybe.

I don’t want to be the “expert” on something that I feel so self-conscious about

I wanted to have my own group of students. I would be “their” teacher. 
And they would be “my” kids.

Instead, I had to get to know over 300 little ones. Of all different ages. Needs, desires, histories, social problems, learning capacities.

How could less than 60 minutes per week do anything for all these kids?

For a while it was “just a job” that did bring me occasional joy. But mostly stress.

Little by little, unbeknownst to me…I was falling in love.

I’d wake up each morning energized and excited for work.

What happened? I recently asked myself.

I remember when I used to dread teaching.

There were little things about my job I loved-

Blessings in disguise:

my crazy schedule that changed every day

being next door to the teacher’s lounge so I could run to the bathroom in one minute or fill up my water, ready with a smile on my face for a stretch of five classes in a row

the staff that were so welcoming

my nice “hot” (I was always cold so works well for me!), spacious, sunny classroom.

the variety of kid problems and joys that left me speechless and never bored

the humor and challenge of trying to get a chaotic classroom of kids to line up, while another group of rowdy, sweaty or chatty kids are waiting to enter my room

the “village” feel I soon became a part of

seeing teachers so fiercely adored by children

seeing staff so dedicated to kids

Mostly, I loved learning.

Every day, I realized (again): being a teacher is scary and humbling thing.

Children will believe anything and everything I say to them.

In a foreign language room, especially, they copy EVERY thing I do and say. 

I make them. (Repiten…REPITEN!!! Por favor!!!!!)

So I’d better get it right.

I had to learn a lot because I found out I didn’t know very much.

I leaned where the countries in Central America and South America were (’cause I had to teach it)

Oh and I learned where Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Haiti were located (of course I had to tell the kids where they were).

I learned what Hispanic Heritage was and why the dates are from Sept. 15 to October 15.

I learned the significance of Cinco de Mayo (a great excuse to drink).

I learned that Three Kings Day is a holiday in which the wise men come and put presents in shoes.

I learned that, for Easter, godchildren in Spain receive a gift called “Mona de Pascuas” a cake decorated with eggs, chicks and feathers.

I learned that you shouldn’t say “asi asi” when answering the question ¿Cómo estás? (How are you?) because it’s a made up word that literally means “so so” but is never used by native Spanish speakers. Instead, they say “más o menos.”

I learned that my Minnesota accent comes out really bad when I get tired and lazy. I have to stop and really force myself to roll my “r”s.

I learned what really happened when the Spanish came and conquered the ancient Aztecs, Mayan and Inca.

I learned that I want to travel more after talking to my kids about countries.

I learned how to delicately talk about war with students. (After teaching a lesson on Mexican Independence Day—of course trying not to stress the war at all, but the cultural significance—a little boy came up and whispered to me with big, round passionate eyes, “Srta. Bettger, I know how Mexico won! Jesus helped them!” What do you say to that?)

I learned how NOT to make sugar skulls. My first batch turned into flat cookie-like ghosts.

I learned how to turn on and use an iPad (this year our school piloted a 1 to 1 iPad program). At first I struggled against it. I cried a lot and wanted to throw it out the window.

Over time, I learned how to use QR codes and had a heyday with it. The kids would scan these codes, which linked them to the vocab word (a video I made). It was a little freaky hearing my voice coming out of 20 iPads at the same time though.

Then, I learned how to create using an iPad. I had a lot of fun making slide shows on Haiku Deck and scrappy pages with Pic Collage.

Today I had to hand in my iPad. I had gradually weaned myself off of it this past month. So it wasn’t too bad. It was fun while it lasted and, who knows, maybe I’ll eventually get one again at my new building.

I greatly enjoyed my time at this incredible school.

Change is hard for everyone, but for some reason I have always struggled with it.

For now, I will cling to all these wonderful things I’ve learned.

I will think fondly of the hundreds of people (both large and small) that have crossed my path. Sometimes I feel so unworthy of having a job of “teacher” to so many.

Just like in the past, I am now am incredibly richer person.

As ambivalent as I feel, I could not be more grateful for what I’ve been through.


Suffer Ye not the Children

Stripping off clothes

They enter my classroom

Trudging and twirling and yapping from the gym

I’m hot!

I need a drink!

I’m going to throw up…

Okay, Go sit by the garbage can.

My head hurts.

Okay, go put your head down on your table.

Can I have BandAide?

As they protrude a little bloodless finger in my face

I can barely make out a thin red line.

No. You’re fine.

I have to go to the bathroom!

Too late. Sit down.

Pouty and tearful they give me a vicious glare

Which I take in stride.

Tap tap tap on my back side.

Little lips are muttering

Little fake tears are trying so desperately to wince out of half shut eyes

Can I go to the nurse? It hurts right here

I’m sorry to hear that but just try your best

and let me know how you feel in five minutes

My theory is right: They forget.

They succumb to the song and the laughter

And once again

The world is working properly

In their little minds

They stopped thinking about themselves for once

The Path

Staring at the screen of my life

Wondering what I am doing

Am I making a difference

For those who will come

Those who are watching me

Those I leave behind?

Who are those I long for?

Who do not even exist yet?

I long to hold one in my arms

My very own blood

Running through her veins

Fear grips me to think I can lead

They will follow whatever I do

So what will I do?

Where will my footsteps take me?

I mouth the words for the little ones

To repeat

I hear my mistakes echoed in their precious tones

My heart aches knowing she will be led astray

If I step off the path

His little hand copying exactly what I do

Oh Lord, I long to lead these little ones

Toward the lamplit path

Where they can know Truth

My words come out and they don’t stop

Tones that seem out of my control

Chattering and blubbering

Are my words daggers to their little souls?

Or are they salve to soothe the broken edges?

Teach me so my roots run deep into Yours

So my words are not my own

My laugh is free

And my hands are full of grace

My lips form clear truth

Kindness etched in the aftertones

My feet carry me to heights

Out of this world

So my followers are mesmerized

By what they can see above the clouds

I stand here amazed at the power in

Hands and eyes and feet and body

I don’t have to wait

For my very own

I can start to lead today

(written with prompt of “post”)

My blank page

My very first entry in this new space. Blank pages always haunt me. I am so desperate to get something out but I never end up with what I had in mind to begin with. There is a stereotype of “bloggers” which sometimes keeps me from writing and that is “people who blog are very self-absorbed.” I have to admit I am a self-absorbed person much of the time even when I don’t blog. Lately I have been poked and prodded mostly by my own soul to write more. It’s one of a few things that I liked consistently (besides reading) for as long as I can remember. While reflecting on my own and with my counselor, I realized writing is one of the main things I get passionate about.

I have been struggling to uncover my “life’s work.” The blank page I stare at before writing is kind of like my life right now. There are so many things that could appear on the page in a matter of minutes, but I am terrified as to what the result will be. Yet at the same time I am exhilarated. I am not sure if anyone can quite understand what I mean unless they are me or God…or maybe have been through what I have.

There is a significant piece of my life that is slowly drifting away. Because that something was there, I was held in bondage. My future-if, in my mind, I even had one, was fixed, held, grilled into my brain. I saw the “prize” and went for it, all the while stumbling, drowning, like a crazy drunkard. I wanted to reach some end goal that I believed was my dream. If I reached my dream, I would achieve what my soul desperately craved: joy, peace and freedom. But whenever I reached the so called dream (attending college, graduating from college, getting a boyfriend, getting my first job, etc. etc. etc.) I was left with nothing beautiful. I was left with only that something-my closest and yet most wretched of friends. That something is depression, an ugliness I have battled for over ten years.

For the first time in a decade, I truly feel I am free. The freest I have ever been. THANK YOU, GOD!

Right now I am thinking of all the possible things listeners are thinking when they hear about “depression” or “people who struggle with depression.” They may think, as I often do, “depression” is a walking cliche. Why couldn’t I have been struck with something less common or less heard about? Can we move on to something new?

Other responses from people that perhaps have depression is #1) that I am in denial. When you are in the muckiest of muck, you really do not feel you will ever get to the place that I am. And, that may lead to an even more likely response #2) that I did not suffer like you have suffered. I have to agree that I go from questioning whether I really truly suffered (or if it was “all in my head”) to thinking that I am just telling myself I am fine. More about my healing later…as this is a huge topic, one I will not be able to contain in this blog.

Due to depression being in the background rather than the foreground of my life defining every thing that I did, I am a totally different person. Similar to the prisoners who were released from death row in the film Shawshank Redemption, I am entering a new world, and it is scary. The “dreams” I always had as a child, teen, and young adult, I have come to realize were not dreams after all, just things to build me up so I could try to achieve love, attention, and acceptance from people (from whom I usually already had love, attn and acceptance).

So I am trying to rediscover my dreams. I do not know if my current job as an elementary Spanish teacher is a job I am called to do. I have doubts about the graduate program I am in (special education). I have always dreamed of marrying and having children at a young age, but now I know that was faulty thinking. I do believe I will marry and maybe have one child, but I do not have a timeline. I try to enjoy each moment as it comes because I will never get this one moment back. I will never again be single and in my 20s! It has been amazing to see what God has done as I have been less frantic about finding a man and simply enjoying His presence through the wonderful people I have been meeting lately.

The one dream I had as a child and continue today (I believe it is a “real” dream) is to be a writer. I do not know what that consists of. I would like to publish something but I know I have a long way to go. The biggest thing is God has given me many gifts and He is directing me to share them despite my terror. I went through what I did and there’s no way to take it back. I have been looking for ways to let people know they are not alone. Because of where I am in life, I believe I have more of an opportunity to do that than I have ever and maybe ever will!  To God be the Glory because without Him, I would literally be dead…He has done miraculous things in my life and I often feel so unworthy. If you are interested in my journey through depression, I hope to post more on that soon!

>Random Thoughts During my School Day

>I am feeling quite discouraged by everything around me. I’ve tried to ask for help. My anxiety has decreased and now this blanket of sadness…if I close my eyes and just allow my emotions to take over, I probably would not be able to contain these tears. Outside the snow falls soft, barely there. That’s how I feel: barely there. I’m not going down into the hole. It’s almost like I am at peace in this sadness because I am not alone. There’s a woman at my school who I’m really worried about. I wish I could tell her how I feel, how I know how it is. I’m still recovering from the black days, from the time where hope was buried so deep there was no way to unleash it. When breathing was a task. So much of a task I didn’t even realize it. I can’t talk to her…yet. I don’t even really know her yet my heart is breaking when I can sense her desperation.

And there’s the students. And this occupation. Everyone’s talking about it. Why are we in this field again? Does what we do make any sort of difference? Sometimes I am so disconnected from what I always that I was, what I could do. I sit and stare at my class of kids and think, this is what I always wanted. So why do I feel empty, so utterly barren in the depths behind my shaken heart. I almost get to the point I want to be. I can feel excitement build, anticipation because my real creative loving self is trying so desperately to be the teacher I always dreamed I’d be. But then frustration which, thank God, does not lead to rage like it once did. But rather disenchantment. I just sit there and all my hope is extinguished because these kids are so needy, desperate, searching, hungry. The way they express this is with their disrespect, their disruptiveness, their meanness to classmates, their obnoxious comments and actions. I do not feel anger toward them. Just sadness for them, their classmates, me. There’s something missing in their lives that makes them think they can do whatever they want. And as every day passes, it only seems to get worse. That kids are becoming harder and harder to teach because of their messed up home lives, our poisoned environment. The questions about why children are the way they are…as compared to a few decades (even a few years) ago…they never end. My mind is bleeding trying to catch my breath, fill up my spirit with answers.

Oh God sometimes I cannot breathe in this world. I am so desperate for your healing. The people around me don’t realize how desperate they are for Your touch, Your life. Especially these innocent kids. But the world just gets worse and worse. I don’t know for sure why I have chosen teaching as a career. It has rarely been what I always dreamed it would be. But I’m not sure I would be confronted with a different picture of the world if I had a different career. In fact, I know I wouldn’t. The world is messed up. The older I get, the more I realize it and the more I long for heaven.

Behind every smile, I see tears and the realness behind the plastic. I want to believe the person is really happy. Maybe he or she is or maybe they think they are. I’m not sure my sadness is really wrong yet. It hasn’t brought me to a blackness where I can’t think about going on. I praise God for my ability to get up when I’m down, which I couldn’t do just a few years ago. And there’s so much to thank Him for in this job. I’m not trying to just survive anymore…I am really working on myself. I generally have hope…well, lately it has been slipping a bit. But I remind myself of all the things working against me that affect my outlook: my history of serious depression, getting off my meds, it’s winter and this is when I’m usually the lowest, my stress levels, and more. The fact that I am still this positive makes me marvel at how God is working through me.

I don’t feel I am getting out what I wanted to say. I guess when talking with (listening to) some of my coworkers this morning, I realized everyone’s having similar thoughts as me but they only let their guard down just a bit. It’s easy to see how they use good things-humor, friendships, food, etc.- to boost themselves up, to cover up what’s really going on, which I think is good-something I need to do more. Otherwise these teachers wouldn’t be able to do their job. They would end up in the hospital like me.

But I just feel for them…for the students too and wish You could do some sort of miracle to help us out of our misery, to clear up this devastating confusion, to wipe the tears, to instill strength, inspiration.

Love and dedication is not enough. I cannot change these kids’ circumstances with just these. Nothing is changing it seems. But I want to believe what I am doing is making some small difference.

I am kind of going through the motions when it comes to my job. I plan and plan and it seems all this agonizing does nothing. No matter the kids’ behaviors, I still tend to blame myself…Don’t really want to get into this. Maybe I can observe some of the other Spanish teachers to get some inspiration.

I am down but not defeated. If anything I feel kind of comfortable underneath my blanket of sadness.

I want to do more than just long for heaven in this life. I live here right now so teach me what that means. Is this world ugly or beautiful? Beautiful because it is Yours and You are in control. Beautiful because of the beautiful people I meet and engage with every day. Your creations. Beautiful because of the colors, the skies that take my breath away. The crisp white against a spectacular blue sky. Winter’s hues are truly amazing. When I can soak in these beauties, I can escape the other reality. The reality of ugliness. This reality seeps into my conscious and invades my veins and I can barely breathe because of the stench. Somehow we are to live and breathe in the moment. And that moment is in this hideous world, where somehow I am still able to see indescribable beauty. I can feel indescribable pain at the same moment as I sense unfathomable peace and security. Lord, help me live in Your love in this dichotomous world, hanging onto hope despite an aching heart, shaky spirit and downtrodden soul.

>My Life Right Now

>I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, but I have been busier than I can remember being in many years.

I had been doing really well, confident, joyful, and positive amidst my stress and busyness of life. Until the last few days. I could go into detail about why I think that is…but what’s the point?

I woke up this morning to a very disturbing text. The brother of a friend of mine was murdered in Minneapolis by one of his tenants. I am very sad and pained to hear this. What kind of f’ed up world do we live in, I wonder sometimes? I don’t even know how to pray for Kat and her family. Please pray for the Kohorst family if you think of it.

I also seemed to be doomed to fail at my relationships with men. I have been suffering a lot in this regard. But I am trying to get my mind off of it.

In a more positive light, I am enjoying my teaching job as a part time elementary Spanish teacher. It’s crazy of course, because I have to plan the curriculum myself (with some help from other Spanish teachers in the district) but I am SO blessed to finally have a community to call my own and a principal who actually supports me and believes in me, rather than the opposite (like my last teaching job). Oh not to mention students who I actually can teach and who I enjoy teaching! God thank you for this amazing job!

Grad school is a little discouraging. I am not even sure if I want to do special education anymore and with the days getting shorter and my depression setting in again, I don’t know if I can handle the stress of school and work (not to mention all the other crap). So who knows…

I am off work today and tomorrow. It’s so nice to have a break. My roomie and I are going shopping so that’s exciting. I will try to post more…if there’s ever time!

Much love to all (even if you don’t read this)!

>New Things

>My mind is busy as always. The last two weekends were pretty fun. I went to IL to see family. Got to stay with my beloved cousin, Becca and her husband Dan. It was refreshing to get away. Then, on Monday, my first day of Teacher Workshop Week, a really bad cold hit, from which I am still recovering.

My parents came this past weekend, as well as some friends from out of town. Although a little overwhelmed with thoughts and discussions with my parents about theology, my weekend was, for the most part, refreshing.

Tomorrow I start my first day of teaching at my new job. I also started my Special Ed grad program last week. Lots of thoughts are floating around about faith, God, and Christianity; getting back into teaching; people with disabilities and why I decided to go into special education; depression/mental health; my upcoming trip to OR for my brother’s wedding; relationships with friends; and an important decision I must make about a particular relationship with a good friend who happens to be a guy.

I am feeling mostly at peace about all of these new things. But the dreariness outside has put me in a strange mood. I feel tranquility that is on the edge of a kind of nothingness, blah-ness. I want to be ready for my week but it’s like there is a strange something blocking my path toward awareness. I would like to get out of this funk but I am not sure where to turn or what to do.