First the Student, Now the Teacher?

23 03 2011
"AUM Graduation"

Me, sharing my story before 3,000 people at my master's degree graduation ceremony, June 2008. Could it have been a sign of things to come? Photo credit: e.l.hubbard.

It was an ah-hah! moment. But not one I came up with on my own.

This one came from my friend Jennifer Hughes Alkoum, whom I’ve known since kindergarten. When I read the words she’d written to me, I had an ephiphany. I’d never thought of it the way she presented it, but once I did, it just made so much sense.

To make sure it wasn’t just me, I picked up the phone and called my friend Diane. I shared Jennifer’s words with her. And she said, “Wow. That is so profound.”

That confirmed what I’d suspected: I needed to share Jennifer’s words with you.

I asked Jennifer if I could share her words on my blog, as I can’t say it any better, express her idea any more profoundly, than she did. She said yes, so here they are:

“You once asked in a post why you have to go through this lesson again,” she wrote. “You asked: ‘Didn’t I learn and grow enough the first time?'”

Yes, indeed, that’s exactly the question I posted on this blog just a short time after my latest breast cancer diagnosis on Jan. 12, 2011. And the question I’ve been sending up to heaven and asking God over and over again ever since.

Sometimes, I just look heavenward, throw my hands in the air in exasperation, and shout, “Really?!!!! I have to go through this AGAIN?! Are you kidding?!”

We know that God not only works through us, but also speaks to us through people. I don’t believe it is such a big leap to say that God worked through Jennifer, communicated His words for me through her, in a way I could understand, touch, hold on to, truly hear: “I think that the first time around, you were the student,” Jennifer wrote. “This time, you are the teacher. And what an incredible teacher you are.”

It has never crossed my mind to think of it that way, to think of myself as the teacher this time around, in that kind of capacity.

I know the Great Teacher, the Great Physician, the Great Healer. I have a personal relationship with him that I treasure, one that has, ironically and to my great surprise, grown even stronger through my recent trials.

But I’d forgotten this basic truth: He depends on us, His followers, to be the Messengers of His Word, to be the example, to give all that we have, to share everything we can with the people around us, messages that can help to shed light on and pull them through their own struggles and circumstances.

Still, could I really be a teacher in this capacity? It seemed a job so, well, above me. One that I was unprepared for. One that should go to oh, I don’t know, someone beyond my mere mortal status. At the very least, someone more qualified.

It’s true that I spent more than a decade as a part-time Writing and English Instructor for Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Mich., loving my students with all my heart, so proud of their ability, in many cases, to overcome the tough and unfair circumstances they’d already encountered so early on in their young lives. So moved by their accomplishments as I watched them not only thrive and succeed in my own classroom, but go forward with the skill sets and confidence to become teachers, nurses, writers, lawyers. To pursue their passions and use their God-given talents to bring to the world what noone else can — what they alone were uniquely created to do.

But that was a “teacher” in the earthly terms in which we are used to defining it. It was a career — one that I trained for through years of schooling and experience. One where I applied for a job, got the job, did my job, collected a paycheck. The terms in which all of us think of as “employment, job, career.”

This, what Jennifer suggests, is different.

When I went through career counseling as a high school senior, pressing buttons on a computer screen, making choices on some grid that was going to tell me which careers I’d be best suited for — well, let’s just say this one that Jennifer describes didn’t appear anywhere on that grid. Nor did the training, preparation, or degree required. Nor could it.

What Jennifer speaks of is one where the training would be “Unique Life Experiences” and the position, well, is one that will never appear in the Classifieds along with a laundry list of Job Responsibilities.

Yet, I know what they are. At least, some of them, for starters:

Write about everything I’m experiencing as openly and candidly as possible, even if it means I feel a momentary twitch of fear when I press the “post” button.

Live the example as best I can, knowing that I will have “my moments,” that I’m but a mere mortal, and that’s OK.

Share all I know and learn with others who can then, in turn, spread the knowledge more quickly and efficiently than one person alone can do.

I can do that, and more. I will do that, if that is what He is asking of me. And I believe it is.

There have been signs all along the way. Hang in there. I’ll be sharing them in future blog posts.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson.

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11 responses

23 03 2011
CaroG

Love this. More than you know! Thank you, thank Jennifer, and thank the Good Lord that both of you were receptive to what needed to be shared. :)

23 03 2011
pinkfund

Love this student/teacher analogy . . . .

23 03 2011
Julie

Yes, that is a new angle on it … and one that gives me a lot to ponder for any repeat negative experiences I’ve gone through in my life.

23 03 2011
Kate

Very true, as He was a teacher also throughout his life on earth and we his students are still learning. Great post! Thanks.

23 03 2011
Pam

What a remarkable insight that we can all use in our daily lives! Thanks, Amy for sharing it with us.

24 03 2011
susan mettert

I agree with your post. But I also know when the student is ready, the Teacher will appear.

24 03 2011
Kelly

WoW! You amaze me everyday! Thank you

24 03 2011
Jennifer Bopp Stegbauer

Your living the experience is what opens the ears of your “students.”

24 03 2011
Jennifer Alkoum

You’re teaching again, Amy. By reading this post, it is clear to me that the career “sidestep” I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years is what I really need to do. Is this what it feels like when I use my mother’s catch phrases back to her? She never seems to appreciate her own wisdom much when it comes from her kid. Just like they say, “physician, heal thyself,” or “teacher, teach thyself.” Heal yourself, too, while you’re at it. Keep up the good work.

24 03 2011
Maggie Stark

Oh Amy! You have ears to hear and eyes to see…that makes your witness to others a most meaningful blessing from Our Lord himself. Your journey is not only yours…it is all of ours. We are traveling with you — yes, as students, as faithful, hopeful, prayerful friends in Christ, and as the lost in many other battles. He knows what your needs are and He will fill them, all Glory is His through you and your testimony! Thank you for being a good listener…for everyone :)

22 04 2011
Chris Lahm

I just wanted to say that you were a very inspirational teacher. As I continued my education, I realized that you were a rarity that actually cared about her students. I wish you all the best and I have the feeling that you will make a speedy recovery! Take care and best wishes!

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