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Confessions of a Home School Co-op Teacher

May 7, 2010

Subtitle…or how a survivor of severe abuse was actually able to teach children!

This year…I went outside of my comfort zone. I actually taught a class at a home school co-op. Now…I realize that may not seem like such a big deal to a lot of people…but for me…it is. The fact that I could even do it is really a testament to how the L-rd has used the co-op to help me grow and to heal a bit.

A little bit of background might help you understand. You see, as a survivor with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), I am not comfortable in most social situations. It is fine if I know the people fairly well, but when there are a lot of people I don’t know, it is VERY (did I say VERY?) challenging for me. There are things I can do to help, but they are not always available to me.

I try to mentally and emotionally prepare myself. I think of what it will probably be like and what I can do if I get overwhelmed. If I can, I will go to the physical place ahead of time to check it out. I make sure I know how to get there and where to go once I am there. That can really help a lot. I also try to find someone else I can go with…whether we ride together or meet there.

Another thing I try to do is arrive early and find a way to help so that people are coming into “my space” rather than me into theirs. If I have not found someone to be with me, I use that time to find someone to sit with. I find out if others are meeting someone or if they, too, are alone. I have often saved someone else the discomfort of being alone in the crowd by joining with them. It is much easier to feel comfortable if I welcome people rather than depend upon others to welcome me. That is why I hate being late anywhere or coming in at the last minute. By then, the groups are formed and I just stand there feeling very unsure of where I fit…or even IF I fit as all the old messages start to get triggered.

The flip side of that is that I am very comfortable being in the front of the room. I will gladly tell my story or talk about the L-rd or give a devotional, etc. I even used to sing and loved doing solos. Standing up in front of the room meant that you were coming into my space…which was cool! I love sharing of myself and welcoming you in. But being down in the crowd with a lot of people I do not know can be incredibly difficult for me.

When I first came to the co-op, I did not really know anyone. Our living situation was challenging (and still is) and we really had no way to even go. They graciously figured out how we could go, working out the logistics and helping us financially. That first year was an ice breaker and helped me to feel more a part of the group.

At that time, they had dinners they shared for any who wanted to participate. That enabled us to get to know the other parents. It was especially helpful for Dave because dinnertime was really his only opportunity to meet the other parents. It was a very long day as we had to leave around 6 in the morning so he could drop us off at another location on his way to work. We hung out there until we could catch a ride to the co-op location. Then he would come by after work to eat and to get us. We often did not get home until close to 8. Although I enjoyed it, it did make for an exhausting day.

The next year, we were only able to do the second semester. It was much better because, by that time, we had another vehicle again. It made the time away from home much shorter. I was better able to relax and enjoy it. The second year was so much easier. I was getting my bearings and feeling a bit more like, just maybe, I actually belonged there.

Another struggle for me was being around the children. It is difficult to explain to non-survivors, but I have always tended to feel uncomfortable around them. I am not the kind of person who sees an infant and wants one. I do NOT do nursery duty! I don’t rush to hold babies or to play with children…although I love my own. I actually had one mom, years ago, tell me that she thought I did not like children at all…until she saw me with my own. The older children were…the more uncomfortable I felt around them. Then again, it is not like I was comfortable around adults, either. So, maybe it was just being around all people…period…that made me uncomfortable. Adults were people I could get to know, though. I felt on a somewhat equal footing with adults, but not with children and youth. It is something I still tend to struggle with if I do not know the people really well.

Being around the home schooled children and youth changed a lot of that. I was gradually able to overcome that discomfort. I don’t know if it is the difference in attitude and respect? It is not just a matter of them being “Christian” because I was never any more comfortable around “churched” children than I was around non-churched. Perhaps I was just ready to move forward?

At the end of the year, they said they were really hurting for elementary teachers. I sat there thinking about it and it was like a light bulb went off. I thought about the “Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution” DVDs we had. We love watching them and they are appropriate for different ages. I figured I could show one or two segments each class and we could talk about what they watched. Pretty simple. In my mind, I was thinking 3rd through 5th grades. I actually ended up with K through 5th. I wasn’t quite sure how that wide of an age spread would work…but it did. I came up with worksheets and found pictures online of the creatures that they could color. I gave them information sheets to take home. We did it! We made it through and it was not as stressful as I first thought it might be.

I actually enjoyed it and the feedback I have gotten is that the students also enjoyed it…a lot. Of course, I am sure it did not hurt that Dr. Martin (who does the DVD’s) just happened to be scheduled to come to our neck of the woods for a convention. He graciously consented to come out with his wife, Jenna Dee, and speak to us. He was a definite hit!

There is something else I want to share…something even more important to me. The first two years, the other children there were pretty much unknowns to me. I got to know some of their names, but only a few. I did not feel connected to them. Now, I feel a connection. I know some of them and I know who their parents are.

I was at a women’s brunch and it just so happened that some of the students were there with their mom. One of them saw me and ran up to me to hug me. It was a spontaneous thing and it totally surprised me. It touched me so deeply. Being hugged and being waved at by my former students…well, it is difficult to explain what that means to me.

I am so glad that I pushed out of my comfort zone and taught. I am going to do it again next year.

Here is a random photo for your enjoyment:

5 Comments leave one →
  1. emily l. :) permalink
    May 12, 2010 4:51 PM

    Going to the church to hear Dr. Martin was fun. (: Thank you for organizing that!!
    -emily l. (:

    • May 12, 2010 5:34 PM

      I am so glad that he was going to be in town and that he was kind enough to come out for us. I know everyone who went really enjoyed it. By the way, Emily, I had your brownies last night. They were WONDERFUL!! Seriously, they were some of the best I have tasted. 🙂

  2. Teddybear permalink
    May 14, 2010 10:22 PM

    Congratulations! You have moved out of your comfort zone to help and teach others. I know the courage and strength and faith that it takes to do that. God’s strength is all you need. He will never let you down. BAP and I took a Purpose Driven Life program by Rick Warren a few years back. That opened our eyes and minds and answered the question; What On Earth Am I Here For? God Bless!

    • May 16, 2010 9:13 AM

      Thanks, Teddybear. It always feels good to conquer an area of life. Even if it turns out to be something that is not a good fit for me, it feels good to have tried it. One of my biggest concerns was whether or not it would push me over the edge stresswise. I did have one or two days that were difficult, but most of the time it was OK.

      Personally, I do not hold to Rick Warren’s teachings, nor do I recommend his books. That is because I have found that he gets off base in his thinking and in his theology…even though he also says some things that are spot on. He is inconsistent, which is a very dangerous place to be, especially for a popular leader.

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