49: Meant to Be

49: Meant to Be

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers

Meant to Be

As long as we are persistent in our pursuit of our deepest destiny, we will continue to grow. We cannot choose the day or time when we will fully bloom. It happens in its own time.

~Denis Waitley

I had graduated from college and was looking for employment when my oldest sister brought home an application for an alternative teaching program. Those accepted would earn a Master’s of Art in Teaching while working full-time in the classroom. When I was a little girl, I had a list of careers that I wanted to pursue and teaching was one of them. So, I decided to apply to the program.

They were looking for a hundred teacher candidates. I made it through the first round and was invited for an interview. I made it through the first interview, but not the second. I received a wonderful rejection letter in the mail extolling my virtues as an excellent candidate for urban teaching. The letter contained a list of urban education programs, but none were offering a free master’s degree.

I had gotten really excited about the program, and I was disappointed when I wasn’t accepted. I was sitting in the back yard talking with my sister about it when she pointed out that people are not always able to keep their commitments. “You never wish anyone any harm, but things happen,” she said. “What God intends for you, no one can take from you.” Her words soothed me.

Because I had a bachelor’s degree, I was able to become a substitute teacher. I was subbing when I received a call from the director of the program a few months later. They had a vacancy at a school, and I was on the list in case any of the one hundred candidates selected didn’t work out for some reason or another. He told me to report to the school the following morning. I heard my sister’s voice in my head and smiled. “What God intends for you, no one can take from you.”

The next morning, I traveled by two buses and a train to get to the school. I saw a bald guy with a big smile on his face. I asked him for directions to the office. He pointed toward the stairs and said, “Second floor on your right.” When I got there, a dead ringer for Al Bundy and a heavily made-up woman were sitting in a back office talking. The woman ushered me in. He was the principal, and she was the teacher mentor for the program.

I could feel the butterflies fluttering. Even though I was a full grown woman, all of my fears of being in the principal’s office came flooding back to me as I looked at this blank-faced man who did away with all formalities and asked, “What took you so long?” The mentor introduced herself and explained what was expected of me: sit in the class and observe.

The mentor took me up another flight of stairs to Room 301 and instructed me to sit in the back. There was a young Clark Kentish-looking guy looking clueless. He didn’t appear to know anything more about teaching than I did. The classroom reminded me of my seventh grade classroom — chaos and confusion. He was talking, but nobody was paying attention. Little did I know he was teacher number three, and it was only October.

I stayed in the classroom watching him “teach” until lunchtime, and then the mentor returned and took me to the three-in-one — lunchroom, auditorium and gym — for more observation. At the end of the day, I found myself once again in the principal’s office, and the butterflies had returned and brought a few friends. I sat quietly while the principal and the mentor discussed — debated really — my fate. I had been called to fill a vacancy, but the program director had sent two of us — me and Clark Kent. Clark had arrived an hour before me and was immediately placed in a classroom.

The principal suggested that Clark Kent and I both remain for the rest of the week, alternating teaching, and whichever one of us was still standing by the end of the week would get the job. But the mentor did not agree. She thought that since Clark Kent had arrived at the school first, he should fill the position. She argued that grad school classes had started, and that waiting another week would put the teacher even further behind.

My fate was decided. I had to leave; Clark Kent stayed. I went home confused and disheartened. I had come so close that I could feel the chalk dust on my fingertips, but it was all for nothing. The next day, I returned to subbing with the words of my sister still playing in my head: “What God intends for you, no one can take from you.”

The following week, the principal called me back. Clark Kent had quit. The next day, I reported to work without a clue as to what to do. I didn’t even want to be a middle-school teacher! I didn’t want any grade higher than fourth grade because my middle-school years had been so awful. I didn’t want to return to that even as a teacher. But once again, my sister’s words came to me and calmed me. “What God intends for you, no one can take from you.”

It was a trying experience that first year. I was the fourth teacher in four weeks, and the revolving door of teachers had become a game to some of the students. They told me they were waiting to see how long I would last. Some of them tried to help me find the door, but I refused to leave. Others confided in me that they were tired of new teachers. They needed stability, and I didn’t want to let them down.

I thought back on my junior-high days, and I vowed to give my students a different experience from the one I had — a better one! There were many days when I didn’t know what I was doing, when I asked myself, Why am I here? But I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I was at my first school for ten years and this year marks my twenty-third year of teaching. My sister was right. What God intended for me, nobody could take from me.

~Stephanie J. Gates

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