The thought of taking care of children used to intimidate me. “What are you supposed to do with kids all day, and what do you even talk to them about?” I wondered. Although I contemplated becoming a high school history teacher, it never would have crossed my mind to work with younger children.
Then, two summers ago, I had a couple of experiences that made me do a 180 degree turn. First, I went on my first visit to Honduras. My expectations for that trip were to work hard alongside the local Hondurans; to labor from sunrise to sunset. I didn’t realize we’d be spending much of our time not only for the kids, but with the kids. My friend Lauren, who had been to Nuevo Paraíso before, inspired me by her enthusiasm to play with the kids during every spare minute she could find, or make. As the week progressed, I grew so very attached to the children there, and rarely a day goes by where they don’t cross my mind.
Second, I began to babysit regularly for a seven-year-old girl upon returning from Honduras. A few times a week I would pick her up from swim lessons and spend the rest of the day with her until her parents came home. I found out that conversation with children actually comes very naturally to me, and we were never bored. We would play school, swim at the pool, host (failed) lemonade stands, go on picnics, and just have a blast. I honestly would have done it for no money, and still enjoy spending time with her and her family to this day.
In the following months, as I entered my junior year of college, I began to seriously reconsider my career path. I thought less about becoming a teacher, and more about finding a way to work with children to address a wider range of needs, one that would allow me to care compassionately and holistically. I also started to think that I wanted a job that felt more like the wonderful volunteer experiences I’d had; the things I did because I loved them, and because they brought good to other people rather than simply money to my bank account.
I believed that the non-profit field would be my best chance to find such an opportunity. Fast forward to early 2013, when I landed my first “big girl” job at Project Lead The Way, a national STEM education non-profit. While I believed in the mission of the organization, and felt very passionate about serving the students, the position there lacked one thing: it did not put me into direct contact with children. My time there was a learning opportunity in many ways, not the least of which was a chance to reevaluate my professional and personal goals, many of which overlap.
While looking for my next job, which I thought would be in Louisville, I was thrown a curve ball and offered my current position at Huntingburg Elementary. It both is and isn’t what I had in mind for my next job; it does let me work directly with kids, in an age group that I love, but it doesn’t meet the idea of the “non-profit” I had in mind, even though it is in the public educational system.
Upon reflection, the path I began down two years ago is nothing like what I imagined, but I am grateful for the experiences God has sent my way, and am intrigued to see what else He has in store for me.
Stay turned for Part Two, where I further explore my surprise at working in a public school.