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Risk and Reward: Flashes of Crazy

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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I’d seen movies where kids swung from classroom lights and threw desks around because the instructor had lost control. Until the semester of my student teaching, though, I had never experienced it firsthand.

It happened just down the hall. A middle-aged woman taught Spanish there, her story like one of many unfortunate fissures that belie the bulwark structures of inner-city high school buildings. I could often hear the fallout, then I’d see her pass by in a fury, heels taking it out on the floor, hair wild from whatever shock had occurred and was still occurring behind her. If she happened to glance in on her way to the Principal or Security Officer, I'd see in that brief moment a flash of crazy in her eyes.

Of course, I made judgments. At 22 and inches away from a college degree, I presumed to know everything about education and classroom management, even in a school under threat. Best Practices were still shining like fresh paint on my walls; if only I could pass them along to this poor lady.

In October of that fall semester, I was asked by my cooperating teacher to shadow another classroom; the troubled one. I agreed and stepped into the mayhem for less than one day. It was most of what you might imagine now, so I took notes and prayed in the corner until the session ended. Not a week later, the woman suffered a nervous breakdown. She stumbled past our door and never returned. Over the next two months, a daily rotation of substitutes tried their hand at calming the chaos. For each day that I neared my December graduation, the situation worsened.

Then I got an idea. I paid a visit to the Board of Education, looking for a direct link to the top. I wanted to try my own hand at that classroom. I’m not sure what possessed me other than arrogance and a dose of Jesus’ compassion, but I ignored inexperience. I even ignored other job leads. I wanted one thing. So after locating the high rise and squeezing into a metered spot and making my way up the stairs to the gated office where the man I pursued had conceded to my request to see him, I presented the case.

Like a father whose boy asked if he could use the chain saw, he patted me on the head and returned me to my duties.

Five days before receiving my B.S., I got a message to use the school phone for a call. I did and the man who had patted my head was on the other end:

“Mr. Van Eman, are you still interested?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Can you start this week?” he asked.
“Well, I need to graduate first, but I can be here Monday.”
“Thank you, and…good luck.”

*****

Early in every working life, a special transition occurs before you know how to avoid mistakes, yet after you’ve made them. Like when you first rode a bike without training wheels. You know enough to be confident, yet too little to avoid losing skin from your knee. The transition is special because it marks a movement from novice to know-how, from apprenticeship to autonomy. Or, as we might say here at The High Calling, from young to young professional.

I made so many mistakes trying to fix that broken classroom. Yet despite lasting only six months, the experience was priceless. The High Calling recognizes that everyone—moms, accountants, geologists—need vocational growth, so we share past experiences and tell lessons from the future. But what about the early days, when we—like the novice inner-city teacher I was—simply got out there and did it?

In this series, Risk and Reward, we ask, “How did I learn so much in so little time?” Here are a few highlights being showcased this week.

The Risk and Reward Series

Sunday: Vanessa Seifert remembers being challenged as a young professional to develop her character. In this Bible reflection, she points to Jesus’ disciples who took on such a task. Writer and former oil executive, Luci Swindoll, penned a note to Vanessa to help her remember: “If the joy of having it (whatever the ‘it’ may be) is worth the pain of paying it off, then the price is right.” READ more at The Price of Risk and Reward.

Monday: Tyler Charles thought he had stumbled onto the main stage. A writer throughout his young professional years, he was familiar with having ideas and words attached to his name in public, but the lights were brighter this time. Until he realized he’d made a grave error. READ more at Risk and Reward: Why I’m Ashamed of My Brief Moment of Fame.

Tuesday: Tina Howard shares highlights from her interviews with two colleagues: a chef who went from lawn care to a decade of transformational hospitality, and a kitchen manager who got tasked with preparing 90,000 meals in one summer. Both tell of risk and reward on the journey from young to young professional. Tina writes, “Being in over our heads sends us into learning mode whether we like it or not.” READ more at Risk and Reward: Saying Yes to 90,000 Meals.

Wednesday: David Zimmerman had the corner office when he made his big move. Not the executive corner. More like the back corner for “scrubs.” Nonetheless, he raised his hand in a way that made a mark on his company and helped steer the way forward, “All because,” as he puts it, “I spoke up when I had an idea, and because I worked for a company that took ideas so seriously that they included even the new kids, even the low-level employees, in core conversations about our work in the world.” READ more at Risk and Reward: Speaking Up.

And One More...

I guess I've always thought of entrepreneurs as big risk-takers. INC.com claims it's just the opposite. In fact, writer Paul Brown says, "They do everything in their power to minimize it." And it isn't just with money or capital. Brown lists "seven classes of assets at your disposal and risk." They are: Money, Time, Professional reputation, Personal reputation, Opportunity cost, Relationships, and Health and sanity. READ more about these seven classes of assets, and measure your own relationship with risk.

Questions to Ponder: How do you balance loss and gain in each of these areas? Is there one that you handle more liberally; another more protectively? Is there an area you know God would like to stretch you but you simply haven't yet surrendered?

______________________________

Risk and Reward

Early in every working life, a special transition occurs before you know how to avoid mistakes, yet after you’ve made them. Like when you first rode a bike without training wheels. You knew enough to be confident, yet too little to avoid losing skin from your knee. The transition is special because it marks a movement from novice to know-how, from apprenticeship to autonomy. Or, as we might say, from young to young professional.

The High Calling recognizes that everyone—moms, accountants, geologists—need vocational growth, so we share past experiences and tell lessons from the future. But what about the early days when we simply got out there and did it?

In the series, Risk and Reward, we ask, “How did I learn so much in so little time?” Join us and be inspired all over again.

Image by Veveren. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.
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