Leaping

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I’ve been so miserably stagnant and safe in my work. Slogging through meetings and spreadsheets and more meetings. Just keeping my head down and doing my job, and then living (really living) on my own time. And I know that isn’t good, but I was loath to change.

Then, one week, my therapist mentioned the story of Nachshon. I needed to look up the midrash to remember, and in doing so, I came across an article/blog post that really sparked something in me. http://www.reformjudaism.org/blog/2015/01/29/faith-fear-and-story-nachshon-and-red-sea

The author, Stacey Zisook Robinson, wrote “I’m in one of those places: stuck, prickly, at the very edge of letting go, trembling with the effort to not tip over the edge into the abyss of the unknown, desperate to take that final leap of faith and soar towards light and wholeness.”

That’s exactly where I was. Stuck. I wasn’t the change I wished to see in the world. I wasn’t doing something I love. I was working to collect a paycheck. No matter how cheerfully it’s decorated, I wasn’t finding fulfillment in my cubicle. And I was really missing it.

My time with my family, and my part time Hebrew school work is where I come alive. I’ll just say this about my family; they are awesome, and I love them to the ends of the earth. And, just check out my Personal Statement for my grad school application to know how I feel about teaching Hebrew school.

The midrash about Nachshon tells that he had so much faith in G-d to part the sea, he walked in all the way.

Maybe it was time for me to take that leap and just trust that I’d make it to the other side. Maybe it was time to stop saying I want to do good in the world, and start doing it.

All of this was going on around the same time that I went to NewCAJE6. In my first learning session, I immediately felt a sense of belonging. It was as if I was in a movie, and suddenly everything came sharply into focus. I was inspired by the energy, buoyed by the connections I was forming.

Galvanized by this new community of peers and sense of my place in it, I did some serious searching in my own, and my husband’s souls. Of course, everything eventually comes down to money. Could we manage on just one salary? How would we make it work?  So we hashed out all of the gory details. And we made plans for me to leave my job.

So here I am.

I’m doing it. I’m really doing it.

I’m leaving my steady 9 to 5 gig.

11 more working days.

I’m feeling elated, nauseated, hopeful, afraid, and so many other emotions all at the same time. I’m feeling grateful that I’m going to be able to put my energy into my family, my education and my teaching. I’m grateful for this second chance at building a career around what I love, because second chances don’t come around very often.

What I feel most deeply though, is that I’m doing the right thing.

I’m diving in, and like Nachshon, I’m going to make it to the other side just fine.

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MAKING A STATEMENT

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Here’s what I came up with:

Personal Statement

June 24, 2015

I began working as a Teacher’s Aide in my Temple Community following my Bat Mitzvah in 1991. Since then I have endeavored to make teaching, especially Jewish education, part of my life. Through my 18 years of religious school teaching, I have worked across many grade levels and subject areas including Judaic studies, the Holocaust, Jewish Arts & Culture and Biblical Drama. I have also worked at a Jewish day camp in multiple capacities, and as a one-on-one Religious school aide for a child with autism. I am currently teaching multiple grades at Temple Xxxxxx in Xxxxxxxx, XX and lead a group of girls in the Moving Traditions, Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing program. In teaching my students, I find I am constantly learning.

In working through all of these different environments, I have come to realize how much teaching really means to me, and how fulfilling it is. My experiences at camp have cemented my commitment to bring a sense of fun to learning. Working with children with learning disabilities has taught me to teach to multiple intelligences using as many different styles as necessary to meet my students where they are. As a youth mentor, I strive to cultivate a caring, safe community for teen girls to explore issues that are important to them through a Jewish perspective.

In the coming school year, I will have an amazing opportunity to lead a program at Temple Xxxxxxxx. This program is for families with Kindergarten and first grade children, featuring learning experiences for the parents as well. My role will be to teach the children and facilitate family learning experiences, while a Rabbi will lead the adult learning. I am very excited about this opportunity, am looking forward to the challenge, but I want to learn more.

I have taken seminars focusing on Holocaust Studies, Teen issues, learning styles and learning modalities. I read extensively to try to keep ahead of my students. I try to stay current on the news. I am always looking for ways to improve my teaching. In researching educational opportunities for myself, I received an email about Xxxxxx College’s M.A. in Jewish Education. As I scanned through the information, I thought to myself, “This is what I’ve been missing!”

I’ve put a great deal of thought into what kind of religious school educator I’d like to be, and how I can best reach my students. I came up with a wish list for myself that I’d like to share here.

  1. I want to be instrumental in creating positive Jewish experiences and establishing connections to the Jewish community for children, teens and families.
  2. I want to understand how to use non-traditional learning environments to facilitate Family participation in supplemental Religious education.
  3. I want to teach to multiple intelligences in multiple learning styles, experiences and modalities.
  4. I want to challenge students to think about Judaism’s stance on important social, environmental, political and personal issues/decisions. (In particular, LGBTQ rights, Body Positivity and Ethics, Social Justice and Building and Sustaining Community)
  5. I want to increase my foundational knowledge, skills and resources to help me share my passion for Jewish education with my students.
  6. I want to collaborate with and learn from other Jewish educators towards these goals.

I strongly feel that the program at Xxxxxx College would support me in my pursuit of these goals. The courses Xxxxxx offers would enhance my knowledge greatly, and give me the tools I need to go from being a good teacher, to a great teacher.

My principal often says that we are all standing on the shoulders of the previous generation, and nowhere is that more obvious to me than in the classroom. When I teach my students about the meaning behind our traditions, I know that we are instilling a sense of belonging; we connect them to past and future generations of Jews. When we light Shabbat candles and recite the blessings in class, my students share their memories of Shabbat observances with their parents and grandparents. Truly, one of my biggest sources of pride and fulfillment is seeing the faces of my students as they experience those moments of recognizing their family’s traditions in what we’re learning in class or as they begin to see the Jewish values in their everyday world.

With a Masters of Arts in Jewish Education from Xxxxxx College to support me, I could inspire and energize my students in deeper ways. I would be able to better challenge them to think about their place in the world as Jews, and give them stronger tools to carry their Religious education through their lives. I hope I will have the opportunity to study with you.

PERSONAL STATEMENT

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I’ve been feeling for a long time that I should be doing something positive in the world. That my work should be useful to others, and be helpful. I started considering alternate paths, and then a few weeks ago I got what I consider to be a sign. It came in the form of an email offering a fellowship opportunity for a Masters program. The subject area happens to be something that both inspires me and makes me feel whole, needed, useful, and helpful.

Suddenly it seemed obvious that this was what I’m meant to do.

I’m applying to graduate school after 15 years since my bachelor’s degree, and I need to write a personal statement. I suppose that I’m trying to redefine myself; to give myself a new start. How do I integrate the Now Me with the Me I want to Be? How do I fit that into 3 pages, double spaced? How can I convey my passion without sounding insincere? How can I translate my ramblings into cohesive, structured sentences?

I found this motivational picture online and am I trying to embrace this as my new motto.

Lucky Me

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I’ve been asked to speak at a ceremony this weekend to honor a dear friend who won an award for Excellence in Teaching. She has been an incredible mentor and friend for many years. And I have some serious writer’s block going on about it.

I feel like everything I try to write either sounds saccharine or cliche. And I need to get it done, like NOW!

I really do feel so lucky to have been able to work with her, learn from her and for her friendship. I wouldn’t be half the teacher I am without her guidance. And she’s been there for me during some of my dark times too. At the risk of plagiarism; How DO you thank someone who has taken you from crayons to perfume? It isn’t easy but I’ll try.

 

Is it Friday yet?

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Did you ever have to work with someone you absolutely cannot stand?

Ok, let me rephrase. You know what it’s like to work with someone you absolutely can’t stand?

That’s me right now.

One of my coworkers is making me nuts. I take some comfort in knowing that a few of my other coworkers also find her irritating. She’s one of those fussy, prudish, up-tight women who don’t get it when someone makes a joke, and heaven forbid anyone mentions something she finds inappropriate. She feels the need to criticize my clothing choices, but her wardrobe looks like something out of a 90’s mail-order catalog. She talks down to a few of us, especially when we’re not living up to her shining example of professionalism. She has some kind of perverse need to be the only one our boss relies on, and defends his bad behavior like a battered wife. She is always the first to complain about workload, but is too much of a control freak to delegate, and would never tell the boss she can’t take on anything more. She makes herself out to be a martyr (“I have so many meetings I can’t get anything done!”, “I wake up before dawn to get the bus and then I don’t get home until 9!”) and makes me feel like leaving at 5 is morally wrong. She’ll send emails with phrases like “Just a friendly reminder, but I’ve already completed X, Y and Z…” or “I find it helpful to color-code my files and Mr. Boss appreciates when I do…” It’s so condescending.  

I think part of the problem is that she reminds me of every full-of-herself, holier-than-thou, teacher’s pet, tattle-tale girl who made me feel insignificant in High school. She thinks it’s a competition, when really we’re all on the same side.

If anyone out there is reading this, how do you handle people who make you want to scream?

Finding My Way

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It’s been a long time since I’ve kept a journal, so please forgive me if I ramble or abbreviate too much.

I’ve had depression since puberty, and it got much worse in college. After being diagnosed with PCOS (PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome), I started various medications and things improved. In the last 10 years, there have been many changes and many ups and downs. I was in therapy for a couple of years. Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by everything, so I started therapy again. I’m going to be seeing a psychiatrist too, to get my meds in balance, which will hopefully make some difference. In the meantime, I’m exceptionally grateful to have a supportive husband who does everything he can to try to make the load lighter.

So I thought maybe writing my thoughts down could help me to make sense of what’s causing this episode, or help me to cope.

Let’s see how it goes.