Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stuart Smalley's Guide to Getting My Groove Back

Source: google.com via Shelly on Pinterest

Today I embark on a new adventure.

After a five-year hiatus—five years of blessing during which I started this blog, had many opportunities to speak, and made lots of new friends—I’m heading back into the classroom. (Classes actually start next week, but today I’m attending a New Faculty Orientation.)

I’m returning to a classroom where I’ve taught off-and-on for the past 20 years. To teach a class I’ve taught 12 or so times.

So why, this time, am I so apprehensive?

Why, this time, does it feel so much harder?

The first time I taught this class I was 28 years old, working full-time, and pregnant with my first child. I had finished my master’s degree a few years earlier and wanted to give teaching a try, so I didn’t think twice when I was asked to teach at my alma mater (where I was also working). I taught on my lunch hour and loved every minute of that semester.

Never once did I think about failure. (Even though I had no idea what I was doing.)

But now? Today? I think about the possibility of screwing up every single day. I wonder just exactly how I’m going to handle the sudden busyness of life. I wonder if my students will laugh at me. I wonder what I’m going to say to them every day.

So why the change? Why do I doubt myself now?

I’m listening to the wrong voices. I know it. I try not to do it. I battle it. But I still listen to the wrong voices.

Yesterday I read a wonderful post by Michael Hyatt in which he talked about this very thing—self-doubt--and he gave five suggestions for changing the voice we’re listening to. I thought it would be helpful for me to just walk through Michael’s suggestions as they pertain to my current situation.

Hyatt says:

1. Become aware of the Narrator. Hyatt says to ask ourselves: What is the story I am telling myself right now?

I’m listening to a story of failure, of ridicule, of incompetence. Sad, but true. I’m wondering why God would choose me to teach this year when I thought I’d be doing something else.

2. Evaluate the story the Narrator is telling. Ask: Is this storyline accurate?

No, it’s not accurate. It’s not even close to accurate. The way things “fell into place” for me to have this position, the timing of everything, was absolutely God’s doing. I have no doubt that this is where He wants me this year.

3. See the story from a larger perspective. Ask: How does God intend this situation for good?

From the day I said “yes” to going back to teaching, my family has been so supportive. My girls are obviously older now, and our family situation is much more manageable than it was five years ago. It’s time. I know that.

I also think one really important aspect of the “bigger picture” is my students. I’ve always enjoyed my students, but now, as a mom to a college student, I feel an even greater affinity to these kids. As someone in my family pointed out one day, “Mom, maybe God wants you there to minister to your students.”

I know He does.

4. Affirm what you know is true. Ask: What do I know to be true?

The truth is, I’ve always gotten good evaluations from my students. My department chair always has positive things to say about my work. I know in my heart that I’m a really good teacher.

What is true is that I can do this. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. With excellence.

5. Write a new script. Ask: How can I make the choices that create the best possible story?

The way I see it, I can choose to just “get through” the semester, or I can choose to see my job as God-given, God-ordained, God-blessed. I can choose to be unprepared when I walk into the classroom, or I can be well-prepared and teach with excellence. I can choose to have surface conversations with my students every day, or I can choose to show true interest in their lives.

Now that I’ve written all this out, I kind of feel Stuart Smalley-ish. Remember Stuart Smalley? He was the SNL character of long ago who used to say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

But, hey, maybe that’s the voice I should be listening to right now. And if that's what it takes to get my groove back as a teacher, I'll Stuart Smalley-speak into my life every day if I have to.

(Thanks, Michael Hyatt. This exercise has been really helpful.)

As I head into this new adventure, with all of the changes it brings, I could sure use some extra prayer. Thanks in advance!

So how about you? Are you listening to the wrong voice about some situation in your life? Spill it!



  1. Shelly! Praying for you today as you head back into the classroom. I love the way you said "things just fell into place." When that happens, you know you heavenly Father is right there paving your road. How EXCITING to see what He's going to do. I'll be waiting with anticipation for the post next spring where you look back in awe and what He accomplished by you being in that classroom. Thrilled for your new adventure!

  2. You will be spectacular! Remember though to share the load. I've always worked so my family is very used to sharing the home chores. I see so many Moms though who return to work and still feel obligated to do all the housework themselves. It will burn you out, share the load with your husband and kids.

  3. I hear ya, sister. When it comes to confidence in what I can do, I find that those who know me well have no doubts--it's I who supplies all the doubt! I need to change the voice to which I'm listening, and pronto!

    I hope this new season of teaching is fruitful and thrilling for both you and your students!

  4. Oh my goodness I know you'll be wonderful! What are you teaching? As for me, I think my current Incorrect story is all about my parenting these children of mine. I feel intimidated by the hugeness of the responsibility and frustrated by my humanness, which should be an asset, really, but is instead something I'm constantly having to overcome.

  5. You'll do great--the best teachers, moms, etc. are the best because they care so much that they are doing well and are willing to look critically at themselves. You will be a blessing in the classroom because you are constantly trying to better yourself! Good luck!!

  6. Shelly, I'm still so excited about your opportunity! You are going to knock your students' socks off in the best possible way. It is hard to ignore the negative scripts but I do believe when we replace the negative with the positive (even if it's good ol' Stu), the truth will set us free.

  7. Doggone it, I like you! :) I have NO doubt that you are a fantastic teacher and will bless your students in countless ways this semester. Thank you for trusting us to write through your concerns. I read Michael Hyatt's post, too, but it's even more encouraging to see someone apply it. Can't wait to hear about this semester!!

  8. Somehow being a mother has humbled me very much. And being a widow has left me wary of over committing and not being available for my children. As I begin Seminary this Fall, I am cautiously optimistic, that what I lack in speediness and free time, will not deter me from accomplishing God's will.

  9. Oh my goodness! I just got home from my first day of Orientation and here are all of your good wishes. I can't thank you enough, friends!!

  10. Oh, Shelly, I love this post! And I understand. Today was sort of a first day for me, too (for different reasons than my first day in June)! I will be praying for you. I'm so glad you know the truth. You will be an incredible teacher and blessing to these students!

  11. This is a powerful post and yes, you are writing a new story. You have SO much to speak into the lives of others. What a gift to your students. That might not realize it now, but it's true nonetheless.

  12. I'm so excited for you and will be praying for you - along with my children - as this school year begins! What an exciting blessing from God to be back on the campus you love. You will be a wonderful blessing to the students!

  13. I have utmost confidence in you and respect for you!

    Gosh, darn it, people like you!