A Time To Teach

Child of God

Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and TEACHERS, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” Those who are called by God to be teachers have that directive straight from God. However, to become a certified teacher for a public school, you must prove mastery in the subject you will teach. This usually means at least four years of college and some internship time. But no matter how many hours of college you attend, books you read, or times you watch “The Ron Clark Story”, a teacher learns the most from other teachers. We pass the torch through example, and comfort the new ones as they are shaped by their inevitable mishaps and mistakes. I was so blessed to have two aunts in my family, who were teachers, to inspire me, but I was doubly blessed to be placed next to some wise and patient mentors my first 3 years of teaching. They were my inspiration, my sounding board, and my comforters. Thank you, God, for each of them!

Today, I had the honor of learning from a very seasoned teacher. A wise person once told me that if a seasoned person speaks, you should listen with every bone in your body. But it wasn’t hard to listen to this woman. I hung on her every word. I knew I needed to soak up any wisdom she was willing to offer. This woman, affectionately termed “Grandma” by so many, is so full of God that her words come out in song most of the time. The Holy Spirit will do that to you…fill you up so that you are bursting forth a melody that touches everyone.

Her teaching began with some familiar methods that everyone would do well to incorporate into every part of their life; giving value to every idea big or small, encouraging us to use our voices and be brave, pushing us to think beyond what we thought we knew. Then, she did something I didn’t expect. She caused us to look at ourselves through another’s eyes in the form of a simple interview. The second question was monumental…”When did you accept Christ?” Someone was asking me what my story was.

It occurred to me that I have not told you, my dear readers, my story…so here it is:

I was six years old. I know it sounds young, but I was a highly curious child and already asking the harder and deeper questions at that age. My mother was always willing to answer my questions and tried to give me as much information as I could handle. We were driving down the road in our old pickup truck. The windows were down and a nice warm breeze was blowing in. I don’t know how the conversation started, but it somehow led to me wondering how I could make sure I go to heaven someday because it sounded so wonderful. My mother didn’t miss a beat as she explained that I only had to ask Jesus into my heart, to be my Lord, and I would be saved.

“…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” Romans 10:9 NKJV

By the way, the best answer to any question is one that can be backed by Scripture. Thank you, God, for my mother! Right there on the bench seat of that pickup, in my jean overalls, I bowed my little head and closed my little eyes. I asked God to come into my heart and be my Lord. The moment I whispered those words, a fatherly voice gently and clearly said, “You are a child of God.” Although I was blessed with a wonderful earthly father, this was my heavenly Father speaking the most beautiful words I will ever hear.

Today, I learned that to be a teacher, we must know who we are first. Not our position in our job, our political affiliation, our socioeconomic status, or our level of sports interest…who we are in our soul. Only then, can we be the teacher God expects us to be.

A Time To Teach

Special Guests

Two of my students came to visit me today. They are twin boys and one is in my biology class, while the other is in my robotics class. They really just needed to pick up a kit for the robotics class, but their mother asked if the teachers were there so they could say hello. What a sweet gesture! Three of us were able to come to the front right away. It was like finding out that a celebrity had entered the building. We gathered around them and giggled like little kids because we were so glad to see students up close. Everyone was smiling and there was this electricity in the air. It was the best moment of the day.

Wow, did we ever need such a pleasant surprise today. We had just that morning sat in disbelief as our administration apologetically delivered the news that our district had come up with another of their never ending idiotic schemes. I say idiotic because I cannot think of another word that better describes the severely misguided decisions of people who are ignorant to the benefits of looking first in the direction of wisdom. They have turned their backs on God and they never consult the field experts (teachers) who are in the trenches every day and understand the students better than anyone, with the obvious exception of parents.

Today we were told that we must give the students 3 weeks of no instruction, allow them to make up ten assignments and base their grade for the semester on those ten assignments only. This is such a slap in the face to all the students who have trudged through this craziness for an entire semester and worked hard on every assignment, even when they felt like giving up. Now, the ones who chose to do nothing will still be rewarded with potentially an A and the message that they don’t need to work hard anymore because someone will always bail them out and do it for them.

At a recent City Elders dinner in Tulsa, a man was giving an illustration of socialism that resonated with me tremendously. He talked about two men, one who goes to work five days a week and one who sleeps on a park bench all day. The worker makes $100 a day. Society says the worker can live just as comfortably on $50 and decides to take his other $50 and give it to the man on the park bench, who chooses to do nothing to contribute to society. However, the worker sees that the park bench guy still gets money for doing nothing and realizes that he likes the park bench guy’s job much more. The worker quits his job and joins the guy on the bench. Now both don’t work and will have their pay pulled from someone else who works all week. That’s socialism. But what happens when everyone feels they deserve the park bench too? When we hand these children a diploma without any effort on their part, are we not merely training them for socialism? How sad.

Proverbs 28:19-20 says, “A hard worker has plenty of food, but a┬áperson who chases fantasies ends up in poverty.┬áThe trustworthy person will get a rich reward, but a person who wants quick riches will get into trouble.” These kids are headed for some big trouble in so many ways.

In this age of instant gratification, it is no surprise that people are now trying to find ways to appease the cries of our youth with unearned grades and certificates. Anything to stop their moaning and wailing. Oh no, you’re upset again because your teachers are asking you to do homework? Here, let me just put some A’s in the gradebook. Does that bring you happiness? I have seen the other side of homework and I can testify that they do forgive you and end up having more respect for you down the road when they are able to understand what their college professor or supervisor is telling them. We have to help our children. We have to love them enough to make them work hard and learn to wait, or we are helping raise a generation of poor fools.

A Time To Teach

Day 238

For most teachers, this school year didn’t start last August. It started last April with the first national quarantine we had ever seen (approximately 238 days have passed since then). No matter what our view of the situation was, every teacher was asked to invent new wheels over and over, and then asked to throw away those ideas and learn multiple new things their state and district dreamed up without telling them. It has been such an exhausting year. For the most part, teachers who stay in it for the long haul are a strong breed. We learn that to keep our sanity we must be willing to learn new ways, throw out work we have spent months or years developing, and make whole system changes with only a day’s notice. On top of that, we must maintain a countenance that leads the students to believe everything is just fine. You know…grace under fire. We listen to a new directive from our district leaders, that we know is going to cause complete chaos, shake our heads in despair and then walk into our classroom with a smile and extra sweet voice. Somehow, I think the students see beyond the smile. They’re pretty clever. Oh how I love those little teenage turkeys! And don’t worry, I actually passionately love teaching, even in all of the insanity.

Hopefully you have derived from my writing that I am oddly extra joyful and usually don’t struggle with the despair as much as some. God gets ALL the credit for my joy! But everyone has an off day and today was mine. During a normal year, I am known for being firm, expecting hard work, and not being a pushover. However, I am also known for being fair, compassionate, and kind. They know I expect their best, but they hear every day how much I value them. I don’t believe in giving someone credit for something they didn’t earn. I teach high school science; biology, physical science, forensic science, advanced biology, AP environmental science, and Robotics. It is an important yet tough subject to learn, but I absolutely love science and hope my students will come to love it too.

However, this year has been anything but normal. Fake excuses have abounded amidst a few truly legitimate struggles. The truth is, most of the students in our district and probably everywhere have simply decided not to do school. Their parents feel helpless because most cannot be there to make their student stay on task, and consequences are complicated in a city full of single parents who feel forced to compete for their child’s love or presence. I have the much dreaded task of determining what is believable and what is merely a convenient excuse…”Mrs. Cook, my hamster got Covid and gave it to the dog who ate my computer and spread Covid through the internet to half the student body. And by the way, this went on for exactly one semester and just now resolved the week before final grades go out…sorry about that.” Ugh!!! I actually just reached for my snuggly Hallmark blanket as I typed this.

So why was today so bad? I had to apologize to someone. No one was making me do it, but I have learned that I am only the best version of myself when I immediately own up to any wrongdoings. I was extremely uncompassionate, snarky, and downright rude to a parent about their child. I received an email from administration about a parent who said her son was experiencing multiple technical difficulties…oh and by the way, he has Covid. By now, this has become the most popular excuse. They know we cannot question the legitimacy of their claim. Now, I know some students actually are getting sick, but I also know the statistics and am aware of the very small percent of students who are likely to experience anything beyond mild symptoms. I’m no fool. Some are lying. Although I give them extra time, I still expect them to come back and do work eventually. The email about this particular student was copied to several teachers and counselors and I didn’t bother to look at the entire list of recipients (rookie mistake). I immediately replied (another rookie mistake) with an email, and pretty much called the excuses horse pucky and awful convenient in the last week that grades can be entered.

Well, I was about to receive the biggest humble pie of my entire year. Better grab some popcorn because this one is a doozy! Unbeknownst to me, the parent was in that list of recipients. Wait, it gets better. This student had just transferred to my class in the last month (I have 180 students and had forgotten he was so new) and…icing on the cake…I had encouraged a counselor to send him to my class to try to get him back on track (sometimes they just need a change). Forget the shovel, I was going to need a backhoe to get me out of this mess I made. I had spoken in haste and was not delivering love and grace, therefore I wasn’t representing God. Sadly, my district probably would have stood behind my bad behavior, as they almost always side with the teacher first. Thankfully, my parents taught me that apologies are not contingent upon discovery of guilt and should be offered immediately. I wasted no time in emailing the mom a sincere apology, along with some ideas of how to rescue her son’s grade. Then, I called her and bawled like a baby as I blubbered out another apology. She was so kind. She had already forgiven me and said she understood that we are all stressed out and not ourselves. Thank you, God, for showing me mercy today. Even teachers need mercy. The truth is, we have meltdowns, make poor decisions, misjudge people and situations, and fall into depression just like anyone else.

James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

So, I pray Lord that you bless that sweet mother and her son tonight, that you completely restore his health and protect their household from any more sickness. May they see You, Lord, in the healing, and may they experience Your peace that passes all understanding. I pray that they will be so filled with peace and joy that it spills onto everyone around them, and that they cannot deny that You carried them through it all.

In Jesus name, Amen.