As a public school teacher for the past five years, and with many friends of faith in education as well, I have some thoughts about a school system that we all know has changed so much.
I wonder what comes to your mind, teacher, when you think about going back to school this year. The news keeps saying it’s going to be another hard year for teachers, but they’re not the ones who are about to experience it.
The Hard Parts of Going Back to School, Teacher Edition
– Maybe you think of rising housing prices and your still-standing salary. Not to mention the supplies you’ll have to buy out of pocket. Maybe you think about a side hustle that’ll help pay the bills, as if you have time for one.
– Maybe your mind goes to the cultural shifts and how you might have to navigate new topics with your students.
– Maybe you think of an abrasive comment a relative or friend said about the school system recently.
– Maybe you think about how to protect yourself and your students on a day-to-day basis in a world that spotlights violence.
– Maybe you think about the pressures to let your work consume your life: grading at home, creating engaging lessons from scratch, and volunteering to one more extracurricular activity so that your principal knows you’re a team player.
Maybe it’s all of these things combined, and more. Maybe it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. But, my fellow teacher friend, I want to remind you that there is Someone who is far more capable of carrying all of these burdens for you. And He has promised to be a very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
“In this world, you will have trouble,” Jesus said. This is a verse I go back to so often in my own life. “But take heart, for I have overcome the world,” He finishes. Our lives are not guaranteed to be trouble-free; in fact, the opposite. I was guaranteed, by the Son of God, trouble. To me, that is a comfort. And He says, in that very same verse, that He has told us these things in advance so that we will have peace. There is peace in knowing I am not alone in this, and not only am I not alone, but I am also guaranteed comfort because He has already won the victory.
Reframing Our Work
Another thing that helped put my hesitation to return to school into perspective was a quote from Tim Keller on an episode of a popular podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. Keller, referencing an article written for The Gospel Coalition by Missy Wallace, said, “The high you should get from work is that your work contributes to the common good, it helps people, and it makes a living for your family. If it’s doing those things, does your work have to be your passion?”
That line spoke right to me.
If you had asked me the summer before my first year teaching, I would have told you that teaching is definitely my passion. Now, five years later, I don’t know that I would have the same response. I know that my job is important, but I’m not sure I would call it my passion anymore. So instead, I will be happy with my passions that are present in other areas of my life, and I will consider the following questions about my work:
Does my job contribute to the common good? Yes. I teach students academics, and whether you liked school or hated it, you needed it to get to where you are today. Students with knowledge and skills learned in school will themselves contribute to the common good in their own professions, hobbies, and relationships.
Does my job help people? Yes. I can’t count the number of times where I have realized that my job’s priority is not to teach academics, but to show love. My job helps people when I show up consistently for a child who doesn’t have a consistent adult in his life. My job helps people when I can provide an encouraging word or engage with her hobbies in a way that her parents don’t have time for. My job helps people when he tells you that he loves your class and because of it, he has something to look forward to each day.
Does my job make a living for my family? Yes. God has provided what my family needs in this season of life through the means of my job. For that I am thankful.
Let’s Not Forget: Jesus Was a Teacher, Too
A friend challenged me recently to look at the model that Jesus gave us. Jesus was a teacher amongst the chaos of the world. He taught without many resources. He taught disobedient students. He taught a crowd that didn’t want to listen. He taught love through disagreements among His disciples. He taught among authorities that did not appreciate Him and even despised Him. He taught lovingly even when He had to repeat himself. He taught even though violence assailed Him. He taught through mockery, disrespect, and betrayal.
What a beautiful and humble picture of our Savior. What an encouragement to me that He has gone before me. I pray that I would fix my eyes on what it looks like for me to imitate Christ in His example to teach amongst the chaos.
Teachers—when it comes to going back to school, getting your classroom ready and creating lesson plans, you have a lot of decisions to make! We hope this episode helps with those: How to Make Decisions You Won’t Regret – 200