July 20, 2020


Around this time last year, I got an itch for change and newness in my career. I've always wanted to go to graduate school but struggled pinpointing exactly what I wanted to get a degree in. I debated between special education, social work, speech/language pathology, and occupational therapy but nothing ever stuck or could "top" teaching. 

And that's when I came upon counseling--and that was the first path that I could see myself doing for the long haul. A career that would pay a little more (education isn't for those looking to fill their wallets) and would have a little more flexibility in time and hours but still have the ability to influence and work with kids and families--a true passion of mine. 

I started looking into schools that summer and fall (of 2019) and happened upon a local one that would allow for a relatively short commute, the ability to work at the same time, and the option to pursue a degree with a Christian foundation. It was the perfect fit. It was exciting to plan for and just as exciting to talk about with my parents, close friends, mentors, and boss; all of whom gave me the thumb's up and excited prayers along the way. 

I spoke with the admissions counselor and sent in my resume, transcript, references, and application last December. It was exciting and it felt like the next right thing to do. I found out a couple months later that I was invited to participate in their interviews in March. After buying a new outfit, Googling tips for group grad school interviews, and then bringing something for a group "show and tell," I was accepted into the program the day after the interview (which, as a side note, was a total blessing to be able to participate in--the following week COVID-19 hit and everything closed!).  
Yet there was this feeling underneath all of the excitement and celebration of getting accepted that just didn't sit right with me. At the end of the essays, movie discussions, and role plays during the group interview, each applicant was quickly interviewed by a faculty member in the program. The faculty member I was paired with asked me what I do for a living and when he asked me why I was leaving such a good job, I frankly told him that I didn't know. I loved my job. I loved teaching both preschoolers and college students (more on that here) and yet I was eager to find a new challenge and adventure. 

So while I was excited and relieved to have been accepted, the news wasn't actually exciting for me. They say timing is everything and it really is. Because while all this was taking place, the pandemic was also in full swing, too. One week at work I was playing and laughing with the kids and the next day I was unexpectedly forced to say goodbye to all of my students without actually getting to say goodbye. 

I took the next few weeks after getting my acceptance letter to pray it out and just let things settle. To be honest, I had to put grad school on the temporary back burner because I had to rethink teaching in the form of online distance learning. During my journaling time, I often found myself asking God for clarity in making the right decision. I felt truly conflicted. Part of me was worried that I was keeping myself small by not going back to school. Or that I was just acting out of fear for leaving a job I loved. The other part of me was excited about new opportunities to come! I mean, I applied because I wanted this--and yet, now I wasn't so sure. 

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder and that's exactly what this pandemic did for me and teaching. When all this started back in March, I asked God to teach me and grow me during the social distancing--and now I can see that He did just that. 
I'm writing all this to say that I'll be in the classroom this fall...as the teacher. I was afraid that people would be disappointed in my decision, but my friends and loved ones that I've told have been supportive of my decision and I am SO grateful to have a job that deep down, I truly love and feel like I was created to do. Sure, there are parts of my job I wish I could change, but isn't that the truth for every career out there? And yes, I'd love to make more money, but in thinking about switching careers, I realized that my motivation to switch careers cannot be solely in making more money--it should be about my passion and excitement for that job as well. 

So how did I see clarity? I love this question, because there are so many times in my life when I wondered what clarity from God looks like. Does it come in the form of a booming voice from above or from a quiet whisper? Does it come in the form of a sign flashing in front of me or from a little pebble on the ground? Or what about a text from a friend or a song on the radio?

That's the mysterious and marvelous thing about God, though. He works in ALL ways, many of which are unexpected and unimaginable. He works in our surrender and His plans are always 100% better than my own (something I wish I was better at humbly admitting to!). 

For me, knowing I am called to teaching came from a lack of excitement and drive to pursue grad school further than the acceptance letter. I placed my deposit and honestly, didn't feel one bit excited to look further into the registration process because my mind and heart were on my own students as I tried to come up with a way to continue teaching in the fall because I knew how much I'd miss teaching them.

I also realized that I was excited about the career change because of the chance to earn more money and gain a better "status," so to speak. And that is the last thing I want to be known for doing. If I was going to make this jump just for money or to look more successful on paper, then I knew I wouldn't be happy or at peace with my decision in the long haul. 
I feel like people think that courage is found in leaving things but I'd argue to say that there is courage in making the choice to stay as well. There will be times in life when we will need to uproot ourselves to grow in better soil, but there will also be seasons where courage looks like staying put and planting those roots a little deeper. And for me, that's what I feel like teaching is. It's going to take faith that He will provide in the long run, but I'm willing to lean on Him instead of myself to meet my needs. And I'm trusting He will. 

Further clarity came from the application process itself. While in the midst of the applying, I found myself running into past students and their families and had multiple parents speak into my gifting and calling for teaching. My boss repeatedly told me that she'd keep my job for me as long as I could take it because she knew that teaching was a talent of mine. And I'm not saying all of that to brag, but because sometimes trusted people can speak into you because they have an outside perspective that you don't. 

Lastly, I felt the most clarity when I was in Zoom meetings with my kids. In all of this pandemic, I have missed being in the classroom the most. Sure, it's fun to live-stream and record videos, but nothing beats the in-person conversations and laughter and silliness from a group of kids all together. They have brought--and continue to bring--so much joy into my life and that classroom dynamic is something that I look forward to going back to when all the pandemic is over. 

All this to say, this journey was not easy nor was it something that was resolved overnight. And to be honest, life isn't like that. Not everything in life will have a quick or easy answer, but I think God's done that with the intention of bringing us closer to Him--to have the faith and surrender to trust that He will do what's best for us and that the best is yet to come. 

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© IN ITS TIMEMaira Gall