“The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?” Charlotte Mason, School Education
Me? A teaching assistant? Looking back, I certainly never thought I would work in education.
In Fourth Grade, I was keenly aware of the ways I was different from my sister and other students in my class. I struggled to comprehend what we were reading. I would have an idea of what was read, yet wasn’t able to put it in my own words and tell it back. I was stuck. My mom and I can recall times when home narrations left one, or both of us, distraught and teary eyed. I had found myself in Charlotte Mason’s very large room and it seemed too difficult for me to care. No one was sure whether or not I was paying attention or if there was really a deeper problem at play. Despite my awareness of ‘being different’, I remember feeling safe in the atmosphere. Every teacher I encountered met me with grace and confidence when I didn’t have it in myself. And that made it possible for me to grow!
In Sixth Grade, I was given the most amazing gift: a mentor, Esther Olwagen. She was perfect for me. She added even more support to my life by talking about the struggles and insecurities I experienced, some normal for middle school but, some as result of the ongoing academic defeat. She helped me gain confidence in who God made me as a person. The confidence I gained in myself transferred to the classroom too and I felt like I could enjoy more of the work before me, particularly as I started to believe I was capable of it.
Ambleside remained a surprising beacon of support even throughout high school. I had the opportunity to attend the Arrowsmith Program at Ambleside to address my academic processing issues. I was angry at first. So angry! A sixteen year old, at 6:45 am, going to school with my mother? I’m sure you can imagine the tension in those car rides. When I look back now, I recognize the ways in which I really grew, not only academically but spiritually and emotionally also. It was a privilege to attend a program that could help with learning difficulties, and I can say that now I appreciate my mom in the ways she deserved then, and I gained an even greater love for Ambleside and for God. ‘I could do hard things’, and because of those who believed it was so, I grew to believe it myself. For those who continually reminded me of it, I say ‘thank you!’
As I transitioned into adulthood, I became aware of the way God takes our struggles and uses them for good. The very thing I struggled with my whole life gives me a unique perspective. As I now sit in staff meetings and recognize my struggle to narrate, the empathy is ever before me. I understand the students who feel stuck, frustrated, and defeated. I recognize a desire in me to meet them in their struggle. I’ve become the “supporter” along with the “supported.” I have a natural sense of empathy for them, and I know God wants me to use it. Every day I am met with new things to learn here and another child to love in their moments of frustration and struggle. The daily care and lending of support to students brings fullness and joy to my life.