Miscellaneous,  Teaching & Learning

Jason Frieling: Wanderings 

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Twenty-four years. That number represented close to half of my life at the time of my departure from teaching in the Michigan public school system. Twenty of those years were spent as an English teacher at the middle and high school levels, with the last four serving as an instructional technology coach and the district’s virtual academy coordinator. For the past two plus years, I have had the distinct pleasure of first working for Cedarville’s Continuing Education as well as Assessment and Accreditation departments and now an instructional designer for the Center for Teaching and Learning.   

While it may seem that I had planned my career with care and diligence, the closer we inspect something, the clearer the imperfections become. What is recounted in the first paragraph is true, yet it is not the complete story. 

During my senior year of high school, I took a survey to identify what career would fit me best— and the best fitting job for me was undertaker. Really. I was reluctant to embrace that necessary and useful career because I knew that there were many aspects of that job that I would not be able to perform. To help, a classmate suggested I pursue a teaching career, and I can still see and hear this memory as I responded with, “What idiot would want to do that for a lifetime?” 

I entered college without any direction. My mother died from cancer between my freshman and sophomore years which further cemented my directionless education. Eventually, I had to declare a major, so I chose English based simply on the reality that I had earned the most credits in that subject. I graduated, just barely, at the end of four years with a BA in English, a subject I had failed multiple times in high school and college due to a lack of motivation. 

Eventually, while looking for a “real job,” I fell in love with teaching. I had been substituting as a lead-teacher in a self-contained, severely emotionally impaired middle school classroom when I realized I would have to eat my words about teaching. I returned to the same school I barely graduated from and went from the bad dean’s list to the good dean’s list in a single semester as I earned my teaching certificate.  

I entered my master’s degree program in much of the same way as my undergraduate.  The middle school I was teaching in was suffering on standardized test scores in reading, so I enrolled in a 7-12 Literacy program. The application of my studies turned our scores around, but I had little vision for its use beyond that.  

During that time, I held the chair position for the middle school English department for a decade, as well as the position of chair of the school improvement committee for almost as long. I served as acting principal on occasion and led in-services on a variety of subjects frequently. All these undertakings were without real focus. I just did what had to be done. 

I could recount much more about what I would call my “wanderings in the wilderness” that would exemplify what would appear to be useless endeavors at first glance. But even as I craft these sentences, I am seeing even clearer how God both directed and used these seemingly random undertakings to do His will and accomplish His purposes in my life and others. Many of these seemingly random experiences are now used here at Cedarville University.   

Do you have any students that seem to be wandering like I did? Encourage them. Challenge them. Remind them that God will get them to where they need to be. He certainly did that for me, despite my resistance and apathy at the time. Perhaps you have spent some time in the wilderness yourself. Might I suggest sharing these times with your students? I fear that too often, our humanity is overshadowed by our degrees or titles in the students’ eyes, leaving them feeling like they are wandering alone. But as is evidenced in the pages of Scripture, God can use our wanderings to teach, to humble, and to prepare those He calls His own.  

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Jason Frieling
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