Finding a Purpose

It’s the end of the first marking period, and it is obvious by the kid’s attitudes and behavior. Some days (like last Friday) they are fantastic and I want to take every one of them home with me because I am so proud, and then others they act like I’m poking them with pins and needles whenever I request they pay attention or try to teach them something simple.

Like I have told you before, I really do love my job and find it extremely rewarding regardless of the frustration I am feeling right now, but working in alternative education, is NOT where I envisioned I would be if you had asked me in college my career goals.

So yesterday, after one of those days feeling like I wanted to rip my hair out, I was recapping all my woes to Ryan and he looked at me and said…

“Doesn’t any of this sound vaguely familiar?”

I stopped to think.

I was describing one of the girls I have had for a pretty long time, and last week I was excited to tell her she had the chance to go back to general population at the high school; an ambition she has had pretty much since I have known her.

Unfortunately she did not follow through with one of the requirements, after being reminded pretty frequently that it was pertinent to her graduation from my program.

She cried and made a ton of excuses why she hasn’t completed the task, and of course I felt horrible standing there telling her she would just be with us for one more marking period.

As I got to this part in the story, Ryan again looked at me with eyes like, “you are totally missing the point I was trying to make…”

So then I paused again. What the heck was he insinuating?!

I continued to explain how much she wanted to be back in high school, how things would be better for her there, she would be successful, she wanted to go to college, yada, yada, yada.

Then I explained to Ryan how I couldn’t handle standing there watching her melt-down because I just wanted her to have a better life and I know CLIIP is holding her back from reaching her potential, and that if only there was something I could do to make her want it more, work harder…

Oh snap. I stopped nearly mid-thought.

She was ME!

I had all these goals and the opportunity to reach them, but I would always make excuses or take the lazy way out! Ryan was ME now, wanting to help this girl but she just didn’t want to receive it.

I literally had everything in place to do well; support, a plan how to achieve health, objectives to meet, but I just kept getting stuck, making excuse after excuse, and thinking one day, all my half-ass attempts might just add up to a completed journey.

The truth is, it doesn’t work that way; not for my student, and not for me.

As Vince Lombardi once said and I think I have actually used this quote on here before, “The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

And that is one hundred percent true.

It takes dedication, work and a lot of ambition to get to where you want to be. And although I may not be doing exactly what I set out for in college, or have the career I always thought I would, God certainly had a plan for me, and that included working with kids that would help show me my faults, and the way to a better life.

Sometimes things don’t always work out as we plan, or a bump comes in the road and these are the things that essentially make us who we are.

Do I want to be the girl who had so much potential, or the one who made it through a challenge and came out on top?

I think we can all guess which one I’m choosing.

Are you a believer of the sayings;

1. Everything happens for a reason?


2. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?


11 thoughts on “Finding a Purpose

  1. wow great post hun.i totally agree with your husband but you know what you can do it!i believe everything happens for a reason and all this you are going through shows you how much to value your loved ones and that you can replace your STRONG commitment to ana with recovery.

  2. Great post, CJ. I love this story…it sounds like you had a great realization in this conversation with Ryan. I love reading about your journey! I’m much more a believer that we are made stronger by the things that we experience. I believe that whatever God brings me to, he will help me through. I usually don’t say everything happens for a reason but I believe in a bigger plan that our experiences all go into. Hope you have a great weekend!

    • i definitely think we grow and learn from what we endure. i always said God wouldnt throw me anything I couldnt handle and I still believe that to this day. Thank you for your positivity 🙂

  3. I really liked this post, especially because I can relate to it whole-heartedly. Being placed in a position where you serve as a mentor can change your whole outlook on things and teach you more about who you are as a person and what you really want from life.

    I’m not exactly sure what alternative education is. Is it similar to the IU-13? In some ways, I think your teaching situation sounds similar to the one I was in. For these young teens, my class was essentially considered a form of “alternative education” compared to classes taught by their Chinese teachers.

    Most classes were only one day a week, and most of them didn’t carry an academic grade. On top of that, they went to school 6 days a week from 7 AM until 9 or 10 PM at night. For many of them, I was expected to entertain and play games with them all the time, while others socialized with their friends (not much time for a social life for them).

    Like you, I found many a day to be frustrating, as it seemed like I had to focus so much energy on trying to get them calm down and focus. But still, there were times where they totally blew my mind and made me feel proud of them.

    One class originally started off as a horror story. I was told I’d have them 3 times a week, would be teaching them with a book of scientific essays (13 year olds reading about simple machines in English?!), and I would have to give them exams. They were a roudy bunch, and it felt like they weren’t taking me seriously. There were days I felt the situation was hopeless.

    On top of that, they were openly cheating as a class during the first exam, even when I continually told them to stop. I was furious, I was even more upset when one of the students said they didn’t study for my class (she asked why I was reviewing so “early” four days before the exam was scheduled). “We see your class as a game,” she said. I should have expected that because, after all, that’s what their other classes with foreign teachers were viewed as.

    When I found that out, I had decided I was going to give the next exam a day early without telling them. Still, I knew I had some very studious kids in there, and I didn’t like the idea of punishing them, too. Once I had time to cool off over the weekend, I took a different approach…I had an open discussion with them. I explained to them why they should take my class seriously, since the school had organized it in the first place. I also reassured them that, so long as they put forth the effort in my class and tried their best, I would take it into consideration when evaluating their grades. I also held an open discussion with them about cheating…even gave an example where I did it, just to relate to them. It seemed to get them more comfortable about discussing the issue.

    After that, they never cheated as a class on exams ever again. Students who were troublesome became more willing participants in class discussions. Grades improved, and so did attitudes. They could still get loud, as most Chinese classes did, but the situation was better than before.

    Things came full-circle in one of the last classes we had. They were pretty excited about something and were really loud. I raised my voice and told them that they couldn’t do that, and they needed to remain quiet for two minutes. Much to my amazement, they sat their silent for the entire 2 minutes…That never would have happened when I had them earlier. It was then that I realized that, while they didn’t make a 360 turnaround, I had made more progress with them than I realized. In that moment, I knew I had earned their respect through showing them that I genuinely cared about them.

    I always encouraged them to do well and follow their dreams. I realized that it was somewhat hypocritical, too, as I had all but given up on mine. I owe it to them to do the same, and that’s why I’m focusing on doing now.

  4. Oh yeah, I almost forgot…Do you remember that letter I told you about that my one student gave me? She was in that class.

    I think that you are doing a great job at reaching out to your kids. Even if they don’t always respond to it right away, I think that students like the girl you mentioned are always going to look back and appreciate you having not given up on them. Even if they don’t personally thank you, it will more than likely be in your thoughts.

    • thanks matt.!!! i can always count on you for such kind words of encouragement. and yes i remember the letter you told me about…those are the things that make all the hard days worth while!!!
      you werent being a hypocrite, you just didnt know exactly where you wanted to be at the moment. thats kinda what i was feeling when i wrote this. alternative ed is a punitive program for kids who violate policies with drugs, weapons, or are just cereal problems in the classroom. They are placed with me for usually a marking period to a year and not only take core classes but also a personal and social development course (which like your kids, they totally think this is a joke) and then we go to camp fridays for team building, trust building, etc.
      its really an awesome experience for me and the kids but they dont often see it that way at the time.
      fill me in on whats going on in your life! anything new on the job front? you may always e-mail me! i love hearing from you. 🙂

  5. I totally believe that everything happens for a reason. We might not always like it, but I think we can learn from each experience.

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