I started a new job in January. How I ever was offered the job is still a mystery in my mind. I left my interview thinking, “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe I said that.” Of course, to be fair, that thought goes through my mind numerous times daily…so I guess the interview was not much different than my actual everyday life.
It was a whirlwind of movement for me. I applied for the job on Jan. 10. I interviewed on Jan. 13 and I was offered the job on Jan. 14. On January 15, I turned 50 years old. So, yes, at 50 years old, I started a new job. A new phase in my life. And I was scared to death.
My new position was to be an Administrative Assistant for one of the Assistant Principals at Temple High School. Temple High School is huge…and full of kids. They were everywhere. All sorts of kids. Big ones, little ones, happy ones, angry ones, even some really scary ones. Some that want to be heard, some that want to be seen, and some that want to disappear. Teenagers are fairly daunting when you face them one on one…but when they are in a small army they are, frankly, terrifying. Temple High School felt more like a small college to me… And I was hired to serve these kids and the amazing administrators who “direct” them, along with talented people who teach them.
I realized quickly that I was out of my comfort zone. And I was not sure I was the right person for the job… Faced with a building (honestly several buildings) full of high school students, I quickly remembered how awkward I felt in high school. I came face to face with young, insecure teenage Marleea. That girl had absolutely no self confidence. Always felt out of place. And was terrified of new places and faces. At 50 years old, as I walked into a new high school ready to start a new job… all of my teenage fears and insecurities threatened to choke the breath out of me.
And then, my daughter in law showed up at my desk. I was sitting and learning about my new job and my responsibilities… and someone walked in the office door, I looked up and saw my beautiful daughter-in-law. As a teacher at a local elementary school, she had taken her “lunch time” to come see me!! She came bearing colorful sticky notes in a range of sizes. A face of someone I love, in the middle of a sea of strangers who were now my co-workers and an ocean of frightening teenagers who were now my “kids”. When I saw her, I knew I could make it through that first day for sure. And I did.
And I made it through the next, and the next, and the next…until suddenly I realized that I was no longer scared. I was no longer questioning whether or not I was going to be able to do this job. I casually fell into a job that I feel like I have searched for all of my life. It was soon glaringly apparent that the whirlwind was not a fluke…it was a movement in my life orchestrated by God.
I was immediately impressed by the administration that I was assisting, and how much they loved the kids. I fell in love with the students. All of them. For real. Even the ones that make me want to throw dodge balls at them just to get their attention. Or shake them until their teeth rattle. Or sit in front of them with tears streaming down my face begging them to make different choices. When it comes to the kids at Temple High School, I am all in. They are now my babies. I love their faces. I love when they knock on my window just to wave at me. I am blessed every time they come into my office to say “Hi Miss!” I love taking care of them.
Talking to them while they sit in my office waiting to talk to Mr. Korompai, it is so easy to recognize now that they are all scared. They are all insecure. They all don’t feel like they fit in. They are all awkward. Like puppies sort of…all arms and legs and all over the place on the emotional spectrum. And they each disguise these feelings in different ways. And I recognize teenage me. And I wish she could know then what I know now.
All teenagers don’t react well when they are faced with the day to day challenges. They don’t bend to authority. They can’t make it to class in the 6 minutes given during each changing period. They don’t respond respectfully. They use colorful language. They get loud. They get angry. And each teacher tries to continue to manage a classroom while dealing with these kids who are fighting against something they don’t recognize or even understand. And when all the tricks of the classroom fail, the teacher sends them to our office. Some we see often. Once they enter our office, they become one of mine. They are a student that needs something. And I love them. Completely. Unconditionally. And I believe in them. Completely. Unconditionally. And I make it my goal to make sure that they know it.
I started my job terrified of my boss, but I was immediately amazed with the ease and the calmness he has when he deals with discipline. As I watched him work, and listened to him deal with students…my fear of him was replaced with a deep respect. And I began to realize that I could work well with him. And that I could learn a lot from him. And I do.
And I learn something from the kids. Every day. Recently, one of my aides came in to my office to just say hi. He asked the aide I have during that particular class period, “Is this your favorite class?” When my aide confirmed that it was indeed his favorite class, my first period aide said, “Mine too.” I told them both that technically being an office aide is not a class. I said, “I don’t teach you anything.” And my first period aide replied, “Yes you do!! You teach us life lessons.” No, buddy, that is what y’all teach me.
I love how they all want to know my name, but still call me “Miss.” My heart is full when they call me Mom; and even more so when I hear them tell their friends that I am their momma. I love when they come in and call Mr. Korompai “my Dad.” I love when they tell me I am “Clutch”… I love the kids at Temple High School.
This last week our kids received their first report cards for the year. And one of our girls came into my office, handed me her report card and said, “Hey Mom! I just wanted you to see how great your baby girl is doing!” And guess what? She is my baby girl.
I read so many blogs, articles, and posts by people and about people who are so much more gifted than me…people who have been blessed with a passion for those in our world who are lost and needy. They travel all over the world to minister to those in need. They teach these people the power in the name of Jesus. They minister to the people who need food or just clean drinking water. They work with children living in orphanages with no parents, some even work for years to make these children a part of their families. People who minister to families who are refugees…People who haul supplies halfway across the world to minister to the needs of others. The physical, emotional and spiritual needs of others. And I am in awe of these people. They are all rock stars in my mind. I pray for them. I repeat their stories to people. I give them money. But I have not been called to that ministry.
And yet daily, I look into the precious eyes of children who need hope…I want to give them hope. I want them to know love and security and acceptance. I want bring them home, into my family… to love. To feed. To protect. To raise. I talk to them. I give them water. I get hugs from them. I wipe their tears. And I listen to them. But what I really want is to show them Jesus. I want them to know the saving grace that only comes from a relationship with Him. I want them to know that if I come through in a “clutch” for them, it is only because I am a child of God. I pray every day that these kids see Jesus in me.
A couple of weeks ago the emotional toil and stress of our offices was high. It was a very hard week. The brokenness of human nature was apparent; and in this broken state, our administrators were forced to bring calm out of the chaos. Teachers were expected to instruct in the midst of these situations. And day after day they came through with shining colors.
Our schools are a mission field. And daily gifted missionaries go to work in them. As teachers, administrators, staff, nurses, janitors and food service workers. They walk in the doors of school buildings and spend time, face to face with the future of this nation. Sharing our faith is limited by the laws; but showing Jesus is limitless. Our hands are tied in many ways, however, we have opportunities that are overwhelming every day. My daily prayer is that I seize every opportunity that God gives me to impact any life that I come in contact with.
I love my job. I love the change my life took in January when somehow, through a bumbling interview, I was given this opportunity. I have learned so much from these students and from the amazing people I work with.
During my interview I was asked about my strengths, my weaknesses and an area in my life that I would like to see improvement. All three of them were difficult to answer, and after the interview, I certainly felt I could have done a better job at articulating my thoughts. But the answer that stands out in my mind was the area where I needed improvement. My answer: “In my faith. I think I can always grow in my walk with Christ.” Who knew the growth that would be provided through a job at Temple High School, in a tiny office in the L Wing surrounded by all sorts of teenagers?