Navigating life after college inevitably teaches you some hard-earned lessons. However, I think that serving as an ACE teacher brings with it a different type of wisdom. Thinking about ACE? Read the fine print one more time. You have no idea about the challenges and joys you are signing up for!
In honor of my ACE cohort, here is an attempt at consolidating what I have learned in the past 15 months into 22 things, for better or for worse, that I now know.
1. Cockroaches can, in fact, fly … and maybe even land on toothbrushes.
2. Anybody can cook who has a crockpot (thanks Fr. Scully!).
3. Even at 23 years of age, there's not much that cannot be solved with a phone call home to Mom.
4. There will be days when you forget about who you were pre-teacher. That person still exists! Take an art class or join a running club or plan a weekend excursion. Make time for what you love. Teaching will be your life, but your life should not only be teaching.
5. When the secretary comes over the intercom saying that glitter is needed immediately in the principal's office, you'll know there is no way anything productive is happening in class that day.
6. When other teachers said not to smile for the first three months, don't try to do that. You'll fail miserably on the first day … and anytime you call on Kevin for the rest of the year.
7. When other teachers said not to attempt group work for the first three months, listen to them! You'll save yourself a broken bookshelf.
8. The friendships formed and strengthened during two summers of ACE will become some of the best in your life. You just might be in those friends’ weddings pretty soon:)
9. You'll fall in love with golf again thanks to three teenage girls whose ingenuity creates the Gulf Golf Gals. Taking out golf-cart insurance would not be a bad idea.
10. Mississippi can get cold y'all. (Or maybe I've become wimpy.)
11. The silence of Adoration will revitalize you like no pump-up speech or inspirational video ever could.
12. Without question, three days on a bus with fifty of your favorite, not-in-the-least-bit smelly high school students en route to the March for Life will be worth it for the ten-minute, full-scale snowball fight in the middle of the blizzard. Revel in the victory, not the fact that most of your students have never made a snowball before. Irrelevant.
13. Make friends with the custodian—and the local ice cream shop owner.
14. If you find yourself at school more than twelve hours after you arrived there, at least have some fun with it! Blast music and do cartwheels down the hallway. Then please go home. The work will be there tomorrow. (Resist the temptation to curl up on the couch in the teachers’ room!)
15. You were sent to this state…to this school…to be with these students, for a reason. Hold onto these beliefs on the hard days. Surround yourself with people who remind you of their truth.
16. It's also true what your friends have told you for years. You have no pop culture knowledge. Don't try to talk about Kanye West if you are going to mispronounce his name. Save yourself the embarrassment and just don't say anything.
17. Believe it or not, you will have a chance to make use of your prom dress again. Mardi Gras is not just a day; it’s a season! Enjoy the pageantry, parades, King cake, and those two days off from school.
18. Every day, you’ll confront the reality that God’s love cannot possibly depend on what we do—the lesson plans that crashed and forgetfulness in checking-in with a housemate would not bode well for me if it did! God’s love is poured out simply because of who we are. What peace that brings.
19. Over 200 school days later, and the Sunday scaries are still a thing. If anyone has found an antidote for the Monday blues that creep in Sunday nights, please pass it along to ACE Biloxi. We are quickening our paces as Monday morning approaches.
20. Your weekend highlight will be going to bed at 9 p.m.
21. You’ll never understand why you never appreciated your own teachers for the past eighteen years.
22. Finally, you’ll wonder what you did to deserve spending each day with the wittiest, most curious, kind-hearted, liveliest bunch of young people. They’ll keep you up at night, frustrate you beyond measure, say the most head-scratching things, make you feel like you’ve aged twenty years due to stress, and then shock you with a nugget of wisdom beyond their years. Your maternal instincts will emerge, and eventually it’ll be impossible to imagine life not knowing them. They may just even plan a surprise fiesta for your birthday with piñatas and homemade cake, and then continue debating how old you really are.
Beyond grateful to my musically inclined, stylish, green-thumbed, juggling, arts-and-crafting, Rosary-praying, YMCA-joining housemates who truly make ACE Biloxi ACE’s best kept secret. #theBKS