Learning the Hard Way

I quit teaching a few years ago.   I could tell you all the reasons that I quit, but really, there was just one–teaching wasn’t my passion.  If it were, I could’ve dealt with all the problems that caused my frustration.  With that being said, one of the biggest frustrations for me during my time as a teacher was the lack of responsibility that the students (and parents, too) wanted to take for their own success or failure.

I didn’t enjoy carrying all the responsibility for a student’s failure, especially if that student missed eleven days in my class and failed to turn in every major writing assignment.  However, when I thought about this issue further, I realized that responsibility wasn’t the whole issue.

If my students were in a class that they enjoyed, they were happy to take responsibility for their work.  Likewise, when they did well, they wouldn’t hesitate to take credit for their success.  The issue wasn’t responsibility so much as it was this underlying idea that school shouldn’t be hard; if a class were difficult, then the teacher was doing something wrong.  Nothing in life worth doing should seem hard.

I remember feeling shocked after calling a parent whose daughter’s ‘A’ average was suddenly plummeting.  He informed me that she was very stressed from soccer.  And that was it.  He didn’t say that she needed to turn in her English assignments, that she needed to find a way to balance both.  He simply explained away why she wasn’t turning in her work without any reassurance that she would find a way to do better in my class.  Balancing her schedule demanded too much effort, was too difficult; therefore, not turning in assignments would make juggling priorities easier.

This tendency of my students to avoid the difficult shouldn’t have surprised me; our society perpetuates this idea that people shouldn’t struggle.  From government programs to weight loss gimmicks–even to different childbirth options–our society embraces fast and easy. I’m not suggesting that any of the above are bad, but finding something is hard isn’t necessarily bad, either.

In fact, many times pain, whether physical, mental, or spiritual, has a specific purpose. If  I grab a pot whose handle is hot, I will feel pain and let go before I severely burn my hand.  I know from my own life how Matt and I struggled when we couldn’t sell our home in Oklahoma.  As a result of those difficult four years, we arrived at an understanding about our finances that I’m not sure we would have had we not lived on so little for so long. Would I ever want to go through that experience again?  No, yet as a result of that experience, we learned lessons that we never would have learned had we not faced hard times.

As I was thinking through all the ways my students and society avoided anything hard, I had to do a little self-examination.  For all my preaching that difficult times are what really refine us,  I realized that I was no better than anyone else. While I might know, even experience, the good that comes out of the hard, I don’t want to deal with it.  I want my marriage to be perfect now, but I don’t want to bite my tongue before letting an unnecessary criticism leave my lips.  I want my children to respect me, but sometimes I want to look away when they do something wrong, leaving the discipline for another day when I have more energy. I can’t avoid difficult times, knowing they will find me, but I sure do try.

One night, I was praying over my baby as I rocked with her in her room.  For some reason, I remembered a poster that used to hang on the wall where I did gymnastics.  Nadia Comaneci was on the balance beam, holding her body in a pike position with all her support on her hands. On the poster the words read, “Don’t pray for an easy life.  Pray to be a strong person.”  I began praying those words for my daughter.

I need to repeat those words to myself every day, remembering that my reaction to the hard is what makes me better. And when my children see a mother who didn’t quit, who was tough and persevered when life was difficult, they will be better, too.

“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us”  (Romans 5:3-5).

6 thoughts on “Learning the Hard Way

  1. Jen, really very good points. Life is a test and there are always trials. The reward comes at the end when we meet our Savior. This is a serious blog for you but a good one.
    Looking forward to reading about the adventures of the wee
    ones. ♥ mom


    1. Mom, I replied to your comment almost immediately after you sent it–I don't know why my replies are not posting. Anyway, thank you, and yes, this one was serious. My kids are taking the fun out of me! 🙂 I have a silly one planned for tomorrow!


  2. Thank you Jen. I don'tr think I've ever prayed for an easier life; at least I don't think I have. I think I pray to God to help me find the solutions through wisdom and knowledge that He through the Holy Spirit has given me. But it's a great thought.
    Even as old as I am I keep striving for goals that may never be attained but I will add in my prayers to God "to make me a stronger person." Not to give up my goals or dreams; just keep trying. You can get older in age but stay young in spirit if you have something to shoot for.
    Love you


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