• S.E. Burr

Good and Bad--It's Complicated

That mistake may be a blessing...

I love a Taoist story that I first read in a wonderful children's book called Zen Shorts. In the story, a farmer encounters a series of events, some of them seemingly good, some seemingly bad. When his neighbors come over to congratulate and/or commiserate with him, he says, "Maybe."

Maybe something that seems bad, is truly bad, but maybe it's not. Maybe good will come of it and vice versa.

Years ago, I got a job as a teacher in a high school. I was utterly unqualified. I had a bachelor's degree in Psychology, which made me eligible for alternative licensure, but I knew nothing about teaching. I quit my secretarial job for it. That job was part time, didn't pay very well, and I didn't like it very much. Still, I was taking a risk.

After hiring me, the school immediately sent me and some other faculty and staff to a conference in Chicago to learn about teaching reading. The whole trip was funded off of a grant. I could never have afforded it on my own, and I had a ball.

The conference was interesting, and the hotel was downtown, in walking distance of amazing things. I went to the Art Institute of Chicago where I saw the painting, American Gothic, and another painting I'd seen in a book somewhere, with the words, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe," under a painting of a pipe. I walked through Millenium Park and saw "The Bean Sculpture," and I strolled along a marina, which I wasn't expecting, somehow not having realized that Chicago was on Lake Michigan. Before going, I knew astonishingly little about Chicago, but once I was there I loved it. This was a big city vacation for a poor, small town girl.

The one downside was that when I checked into the hotel, which was much fancier than anywhere I had stayed before, they asked me for my debit card. The room was paid for, but it was as a deposit against incidentals. I didn't realize they'd put a hold on my debit card for, what was to me, a huge sum of money. Since we weren't getting per diem until after the trip, I was literally hiding the complimentary muffins at the conference in in my bag so that I'd have something to eat for dinner.

After Chicago, I had a week of training on how to be a teacher, which was also interesting and enjoyable.

Then school started, which was a disaster. In my defense, it was a rough school, not an easy place to start. Since the school had a policy of accepting students of all ages, many of the "kids" were actually adults, older than I was, and there on court order. The school was experimenting with a schedule of two hour classes with only three minutes between them. I taught three different classes, so I couldn't reuse lesson plans. Also, I had the stomach flu that whole week. Think about that in the context of that class and break schedule. It was a nightmare.

The core issue, though, is that I really do not have any talent for teaching. I also have no grasp of classroom management, and I realized then that I didn't want to learn it. The job didn't fit any of my strengths and it highlighted a number of my weaknesses.

It was clear to everyone that I sucked. I knew. My students new. The administration knew. Enrollment in the school as a whole was less than they'd anticipated; they'd hired too many teachers. The administration started strongly hinting that I should quit, so, hanging my head in defeat, I did.

It was a humiliating experience at the time, not less because multiple friends and family members had warned me against becoming a teacher, especially at that particular school. A close relative, who actually was a good teacher, had briefly taught there and hated it. Others just thought that despite Pollyanna-esque ideas of teaching , I'd hate the reality. They were right. I was so embarrassed, particularly since the school had sent me to Chicago. For years after that when I would see teachers or members of the school's administration around town, I'd blush with shame and try to make a speedy exit.

But, the one paycheck I received from that job seemed unbelievably massive at the time. My salary, I think, would have been $33,000 a year, so it can't have been huge, but at the time it was the biggest check I'd ever received. I was unemployed for only a month before getting a job that didn't pay great but that I liked better than the secretarial one I'd had previously and certainly better than teaching. And that job led to one I liked even better and that paid more. So, all in all, that teaching job was a win for me.

There is a caveat to this, of course. I know now that this misadventure had a positive impact on my life. Despite that, if I could make the choice again, I would not take that job. The money spent sending me on that trip could have gone to a better teacher, one that would have made a lasting difference in those students' lives. My own naivete about the profession of teaching and my lack of understanding of myself and of what kind of job I'd enjoy and be good at, prevented that from happening. Taking that job was a mistake, and, at least for me personally, it was a blessing. Life can be complicated that way.

What experiences have you had were things didn't turn out the way you expected? Please comment below. Also, I'm thinking I'm going to start a book of the week recommendation thing, so scroll down to see that.

My Books:

Some Previous Blog Posts:

Speaking Kindly About People Behind Their Backs (and to their faces.)

Goblin Winter Preview

Book of the Week:

Prudence Pursued

I was thinking I might start doing posts about the books I read and like. I don't often read these sorts of books; I think it would be called Regency Romance, the sort of books Jane Austen wrote. I know the author of this one slightly and was able to get a coupon to listen to the audible version and couldn't resist. I really liked it. I was fascinated by this whole side plot of anti-vaccers opposing the smallpox vaccine. I had no idea that went on then. People would say things like, "God intends some children to suffer and die." Wow. I was really impressed with how much the book sounded like it had been written by someone in Jane Austen's day. I thought it was actually a little more readable and gripping than Austen's books. Sorry! Sorry! I know, Austen was amazing. I liked the narration on the audio version, too. Although occasionally I would find myself wondering "Is that really the British pronunciation of that word?" I decided that the narrator might have just been unfamiliar with a few words and mispronounced them. Also, at one point it sounded like she had some sort of mishap which didn't get edited out. Very startling, but overall I thought it was good. I really enjoyed listening to this, probably more than if I had read it. HIghly recommend if you like this genre of books and tentatively recommend even if you don't.

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