I love being a teacher. I really, really do. But it’s not the teaching of the subject matter that I love so much, although definitely one of a teacher’s greatest joys is that ‘a-ha’ moment that a student has, when things finally ‘click’ with something they’ve struggled to understand. But that’s not the greatest part of teaching for me.
Since I first began my career in education, I’ve tried to enter into each school year with tons of prayer and expectancy that each child that was in my class was in there for a reason. The Lord has some purpose for me being in their lives for these nine months, and my prayer is that I wouldn’t let opportunities pass by.
What I’ve found in entering each school year with this mindset and prayer is that my eyes are more easily opened to those kids who really need an extra measure of love, encouragement, support, and just someone else who will come alongside them and say, “I believe in you.” When I start the year with expectancy for God to do great things, He does. Now I’m definitely not perfect and I still let too many opportunities pass by, but I love how at just the right time, when I’m feeling especially tired or overwhelmed, God will cross my path with a former student who will say something like, “Thank you for caring. Thank you for believing in me. It really made a difference.” Then I am quickly brought back to the reason why I became a teacher in the first place.
Since returning from Botswana, where I was blessed with many opportunities to love on and disciple so many teenagers around me, I’ve felt a renewed purpose in connecting with my former students and maintaing the relationships built with them. If they’re in high school, that has meant supporting them at games, concerts, and plays. If they are still in middle school, that meant having them in for lunch or chatting with them in the hallway; just little seeds planted in their lives to let them know that just because they’re not in my class anymore, doesn’t mean that I’m not still invested in their lives, that I care any less about their success and making sure they are walking on a good path. It sometimes means giving advice, sometimes lovingly correcting them, and sometimes just listening.
This summer through many conversations and catch-ups with several former students, the Lord has deeply encouraged my heart. He has shown me how little it really takes to make a small difference in a child or teenager’s life. Heartbreakingly, some of these kids don’t have anyone in their lives who are supporting them and believing in them. It doesn’t take much to be that person, and who knows what kind of impact it might have in their life. Maybe a tiny one…or maybe a huge one. Regardless, the time and effort invested is well worth it; sometimes immeasurably valuable.
As another school year is about to begin, I’ve tried to ready my heart in prayer and be expectant about what’s in store. This year I will have around 135 kids. Such a big number! A little overwhelming. But what an incredible opportunity! That is 135 lives I have the opportunity to touch in some way. 135 kids I get to believe in, coach, mentor, and love on. And maybe, just maybe, one of those 135 lives will be changed for the better. This is my prayer and this is my encouragement to all of my teacher friends. We’ve been blessed with such a gift. I pray for each of us to grab ahold of the opportunity set before us, the opportunity to not only be educators, but to possibly be real life-impactors.
“Teaching is leaving a vestige of one self in the development of another. And surely the student is a bank where you can deposit your most precious treasures.” ~Eugene P. Bertin