I’ll never forget the moment I learned that my calling in life and my purpose in life are two very different things.
I’ve always used these terms interchangeably, but my knowledge and usage of those words shifted in late 2020.
The world was still in the thick of the global Coronavirus pandemic, and I had finally gotten around to reading a valuable book that had been hidden in a pile of junk since early 2019. The book called Believing Bigger, by Marshawn Evans Daniels, coaches readers on how to discover their purpose and unlock their true potential — skills I desperately needed to master as a four-year teacher.
While many sections in Believing Bigger stood out to me, it was a brief section about purpose and calling that spoke to me the most.
I learned that while purpose in life is set in stone, there are many different callings one can have throughout a lifetime. The author defined calling as the place where purpose has an opportunity to shine.
The book inspired me to deeply reflect on my life and determine what I felt my purpose and calling could be.
When I took a look at my life, I knew without any hesitation that my specific purpose is to teach. It’s in my blood, it’s in my veins, and it’s a major part of who I am.
Reflecting had surfaced many memories from my youth. Surprisingly, many of those memories were filled with me teaching someone else in some capacity.
One particularly prominent memory was from eighth grade. I recall being tasked to teach my classmates about a few aspects of the civil war. I had learned about the war independently and was eager to share what I had learned. All I can fully remember about the experience was that I left feeling encouraged. At the end of my ‘lesson’, my peers had told me that I was a good teacher.
They were some of the first people who saw that I had the gift of teaching.
Another memory I recollected had occurred in high school. I had just finished learning a Bible verse and decided that I would share my perspective and understanding of it with my grandma. Her response emulated that of my peers. I remember her saying, “Wow, Tecora you are an amazing teacher.” I realized from these memories that I had already begun walking in my purpose and stepping into many callings well before I’d even earned a teaching license.
It is so important to remember that our calling (what we teach and where we teach) can change. Our purpose will remain the same, no matter where or how we choose to use our gifts.
It was fitting for me to be reading the book at the time I did because for four years, my career identity had been locked into that of being a sixth-grade English teacher. I did not realize that my skills as a teacher were actually a vehicle that could figuratively take me to different places. Unbeknownst to me, these skills could be applied to areas outside the walls of my school building.
As teachers, we possess many skills — managing, de-escalating situations with children (and sometimes adults), sympathizing, advocating, leading, directing, encouraging, inspiring, counseling, budgeting time and resources, and of course teaching. In reality, the list of superpowers teachers possess is endless.
Yet rarely do we ever hear, and dare I say, believe that we can use those superpowers in careers and fields outside of education. I’m not sure if the reason behind this doubt is due to a sense of loyalty for the profession or fear of the unknown. But I’m here to be a voice of encouragement and tell you that if you are searching and have an inkling for more, it is worth exploring.
For me, the global pandemic served as a catalyst that opened my eyes to just how much knowledge I possessed that wasn’t merely middle-school language-arts related. I was liberated and enlightened enough to acknowledge that I can do many things.
I can teach students in a classroom and teach adults how to write budgets. I can model for students how to use context clues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words, and I can coach adults on how to craft engaging elevator pitches. I can teach a student how to read fluently and teach a group of teens how to budget for a new car. I realize more and more each day how teaching lends itself to so much.
What are some skills you possess that could lend themselves to other forms of work outside the classroom?
Perhaps you’re nervous right now because you can’t fathom using any teaching skills in another way. Perhaps you can’t even imagine your calling ever-changing. Take heart, teacher.
In transparency, I am still learning to accept that teaching does not have to be a limiting profession. There is an attachment to the traditional view of “teacher” and the roles we can perform. Many of us (myself included) forget that teachers come in so many forms.
Dear teacher friend, please hear me, doing K-12 public/private schooling is not the only way to teach! We have permission to use the skills and strategies applied in our classrooms every day to other areas of our lives.
So I close with a challenge and a few questions:
Challenge: Intentionally budget time out this week or next to list as many of your skills and strengths as possible. If you struggle to identify skills, ask a close friend, relative, or trusted individual in your life.
Reflect: What do people compliment you on? What do you enjoy doing for or with others for free? How can you use the skills and talents you discovered in other areas of your life?