Friday, August 21, 2015

The Gift of a Smallish Life

So everybody knows Preston is a teacher, and I used to be one. 

From the time I could talk my parents knew I would have to have a job where I would get to boss people around. I tried to boss my brothers and often my parents, but they were pretty much having none of that mess so I knew I needed to figure something out. 

Therefore, I would be a teacher. Knew it from age 4. Never changed my trajectory. I would be boss of all 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who would come into my classroom. I loved it. And I think they learned things. But I got to boss, so that's what's important.

Preston, on the other hand, didn't really know what he wanted to be when he entered college. He messed around, mostly majoring in partying, until he finally landed on P.E. a few years in. He didn't really know about teaching, but he knew he loved sports. He figured P.E. would enable him to play sports all the live long day.

So he graduated about 5 years after he started college with a degree in P.E. But there's a problem with that degree: most schools have one or two P.E. teachers. And everybody knows this so once a job is landed it is never to be given up. Like Packers season tickets. Don't people leave those to their kids in their will? Thus it is with P.E. jobs.

So Preston went back to school - for the first time - and got an endorsement enabling him to teach Biology and Physical Science. This landed him a job.

Teaching those subjects took a ton of work. Then his principal threw Advanced Chemistry into the mix. It was like cramming for college finals every night. But he did an amazing job and was soon handed all the advanced upper level sciences. 

(And remember, he really wanted to teach P.E.) 

Everyone knows if you plan on staying in teaching very long you should go ahead and get your Master's so you can cross the $30,000 threshold and make some real money - like $40,000. So while Preston is studying up on all these sciences he's having to teach, he's also going to school online to get his Master's. This took hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. But he got through. Because he did online school and is the most low-key person around and didn't want to go walk the line, his graduation really wasn't recognized. The two of us went out to a nice dinner, and that was celebration enough. 

One thing led to another and soon he was on the path to administration. Since he had gotten his Master's in teaching and learning, he needed to go back to school yet again. So he re-enrolled into the online university where he had gotten his Master's and set about getting his Ed.S. (Education Specialist Degree for the non-teachers out there.) This was a huge undertaking, huuuuuge, and left the man a mere twelve hours and a dissertation shy of his doctorate. And again, no line-walking for him, so we celebrated quietly with a nice dinner out, and that was it. (If it were me, I would have had signs made to put up all around town announcing my accomplishment, but whatever, Mr. Introvert.)

Then one extremely difficult test later, he found himself in the position of Assistant Principal at a local high school with 1500 students. We had just had our first baby and were thrilled. This meant I could stay home; money wouldn't be an issue. He was young, only 31, and had already "made it." We were swollen with pride. When we dreamed, we talked about Superintendent someday. It was obvious God had so much more in mind for him than a P.E. job. He would be somebody in the world of education. 

But after the first year things changed and rapidly deteriorated ultimately leading to his resignation. We were crushed. We knew it was coming in October of that school year, and still he had to go off to work and do his job every day. It was a nightmare.

To say that year and the year following were awful would be a understatement. There was much controversy involved in the resignation situation. Lots of consulting of lawyers, and filing of papers, and meetings, and it became quite "the thing." Preston, who is of the never-exaggerate-and-no-hyerbole-camp, has said it was "hell" for him. 

But the season passed. And God, not time, has healed the wounds of those two years, and we are now able to see that difficult season as a gift of refining fire. A pruning so more fruit could blossom. And that fact in itself is evidence of God's mercy. Those years could have left us bitter and jaded, and did for a while. 

But God.

We soon noticed a job opening in our county teaching Physical Education. Preston's original endorsement. Something he still had yet to teach. 

He put in for an interview not really expecting much seeing as he had no P.E. experience. We also knew there were tons of applicants, and we were worried those extra degress he had slaved for would make him "overqualified." (How is that even a thing?) One of the other interviewees was the hometown shoe-in. The cards were stacked against at every turn.

But God. 

God gave him the job. The decision amongst the interviewers was unanimous. For some reason, Preston was their guy.

We were so glad, mostly because it meant work, but I remember thinking, "It sure isn't very fun to tell people my husband teaches P.E. 'Assistant Principal at the big high school' could be said with pride. But P.E.?" I wasn't as proud of my husband's job anymore. From an office to the gym. A real step down. 

What happened to the path to greatness? 

How can a P.E. teacher ever become Superintendent? P.E. teachers kick back on the bleachers and blow a whistle all day. Their job is cake. Preston even made jokes like, "Me teach P.E." Because that is how we perceived teaching P.E. (And lots of other smallish jobs like it.)    

He is now in his 6th year as a P.E. teacher. Longer than he was in any other position. He gets to wear Nike shorts and hats to school. With the exception of a few sports seasons, he's home in the evenings. He doesn't have to deal with crazy parents (much) or decide how far to go with disciplinary action for the most unruly kids. His job is mostly low-stress, especially when compared to the years of administration. 

So far all those reasons, we love it.

But's P.E.! Can't anyone throw out some balls and play with kids? How is P.E. important? Plus he has all those degrees, and he's so qualified to teach subjects that actually matter, or even run a school for Pete's sake! 

But God. 

And now:

We think this is the most important job he has ever had and ever will have.

Preston is the only person in that building who gets to teach all the boys. All of them. No other teacher will teach them all. No other teacher will have the opportunity to offer an ear, a word of advice, a suggestion, a shoulder, a laugh to all of the boy-men who are in this crazy, awkward, pressure-filled, three-year stretch of life that so often proves to be the "make or break" years. There's sex, and braces, and girls, and the right sneakers, and try-outs, and getting cut from the team, and parties, and grades, and drugs, and so much more than any generation before has had to deal with. 

And Preston is there. 

Which means he gets to show Jesus to Every. Single. Boy that comes through that school. 

Teaching soccer...showing Jesus.

Coaching basketball...showing Jesus.

Playing football...showing Jesus.


All those awkward, awful, awesome middle school boys.

That is huge.

God chose PRESTON for that role. He looked at him and knew he was the instrument He wanted for the job. 

So today, when we think about the cut in pay, the fact that he is no longer "the boss," that he sometimes roller skates for a living, or all the hours he spent to get all those degrees..."Jesus" is the thought that screams louder than the others. Because HE worked on us and changed our perspective.

And now, instead of dreaming of greatness for us or for our girls, we dream of how God will use our family and these girls He is letting us borrow a bit from the creed at their school...will they be a doctor? a teacher? a preacher? a carpenter? a banker? a nurse? a mother? a mechanic? a toll booth attendant? a missionary? a lawyer? a waitress? For His name's sake?

And how can these smallish humans He has given us glorify His name today? Because we believe with everything in us that God has and is and will use them each day. Even smallish as they are.

God is so kind in graciously allowing us, His flock, to participate in His work.  

Maybe in great Billy Graham and Jim Eliott and Superintendent kinds of ways.

Or maybe through dodgeball.



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