I have never worked so hard for a minimum wage job. I recently was hired at the YMCA of Columbia-Willamette as a Program Aide for a before- and after-school program at an elementary school. It's about five hours a day and I've never been so tired. It's good though, because it's tons of fun working with the kids and I am learning something new every day from them. I could start a whole new blog solely devoted to telling learning experiences from working with school age kids. I love it.
My goal with working with this age group is to gain experience. I could probably get a job that pays better right now, but I'm thinking more long term. After many talks with my wife, friends, and family, I'm heading in the direction of becoming a middle school teacher. Most people are afraid of middle schoolers, but I find it to be a pivotal time in their development. I want to be an influence on the lives of kids, and I think that this would be a better opportunity for me than a counselor or a pastor. The younger elementary school kids are a bit too high-pitched, crazy, and pee-their-pants problematic for me, which is why I'm more drawn to having good conversations with the 4th and 5th graders in our YMCA program. I am very appreciative of this experience as I can see the phase before they transition into middle school. But who knows? Maybe I'll end up doing something completely different! But right now this is the path I'm on.
Jen hasn't had as much luck with her job. It has been very draining on her physically and mentally. She works with Pre-Kindergarten kids at KinderCare and unfortunately there is just too much chaos every day in her particular classroom. We have been working through trying to figure out what she will be doing in the future. This is one of the reasons I have been so proud of her this past month. She has been so strong and diligent in going to work even when she often feels that it is the last place on Earth she wants to go.
With both of us now working with kids, you can certainly guess correctly that our stress levels are high when we both get home. But we are actually doing relatively wonderful! Yes, we have had our fights and arguments in the recent weeks that we've both been working with other people's psycho kids. However, we have been working hard to resolve our arguments before we go to bed and make sure that we are both on the same page and in peaceful agreement (Eph 4:26-27).
I can only credit our successful and joyful marriage to God and His gift of Jesus' sacrifice to us. How can I get upset at my spouse when I myself am just as sinful? I must show her mercy and grace just as God showed us grace through Jesus. I have no excuse not to be patient, kind, and humble towards my wife.
Lastly, don't get me wrong about working with kids. I absolutely love it even if they are psychotic sometimes. Anybody who works with kids knows that. Just today, I had such a fun time teaching chess to a girl in my class. She is one of the most disruptive, disobedient, and devious Kindergarteners I have ever known. But today I saw a glimpse of intelligence, respect, and humor in her that reminded me without a doubt that this is a job is worth doing well.
[Photo: Artwork on my fridge, given to me from some kids in my group]