Call me crazy. Call me weird. Call me whatever you’d like, but I actually enjoy this time of year. I love stepping into my room for the first time wondering what new seating arrangement I’m going to try, what new bulletin board ideas are sprouting, what young energetic minds will be passing through my classroom soon. How will I connect with these kids? How will I teach them to master not only my curriculum but to likewise get a grip on life. I love seeing old friends, colleagues who have been blessed with taking a few months off like me, and checking in on them. You’ll see a smile on my face during teacher inservice days for that reason.
(Well, most of those days, right? Alright, let’s be totally honest here … put me in a meeting from 1-3 in the afternoon after lunch, and you better be doing a song and dance for me if you’re presenting because otherwise I’m off in la la land. Or at least get a pot of coffee going.)
I digress … anyone else feel the same way? I hope you do! I hope the fire that burns in the heart of the passionate teacher is contagious for all to catch. It’s fun being around those people, isn’t it? The people that actually care about their students. The teachers that do more than just assign paper and pencil workbook pages for students to complete. The teachers that grade papers until their eyes are bloodshot and sore. These people inspire me! They make me want to do my job even better, and it pushes me to find that fire that burns in the teacher’s heart. That fire is already started inside me right now. How about you?
Then of course you have the teachers in the middle. The ones that teach for a paycheck, smile on occasions, isolate themselves, and go about their days like robots. The passion is gone from them yet they still do their job halfheartedly well. They go through the motions impeccably. They arrive right at contract time and leave at the end. They eat lunch in the teachers’ lounge and listen to the gossip, venting, and rest of the cynics that want absolutely no part of eating at the teacher table in the cafeteria. They might even contribute to that gossip and venting. They complain a little, not a lot. They don’t attend sporting events, drama productions, or band/orchestra events because that would just be too much for them. Ever seen these teachers around? Maybe you are one of them, but the bottom line is that their fire needs kindling. It is still sparking tiny flames, but it is nearly dead.
Then you have the saddest of all teachers out there. These are your cynics. They complain constantly. To be around them is exhausting. They hate working with kids, yet they still get paid to teach. Students fear these teachers and try to avoid them like the plague. Sadly enough, they avoid the students like the plague. They might pop in videos all year long, injecting apathy that makes even the students not care anymore. If a kiddo falls asleep, they let that kid sleep. One less kid to worry about, right? To get this teacher to smile is beyond rare. You might see them smile on their way to their car after the day is done, but once they arrive home their life is more than likely bland. Doing the job of a teacher sucks the life right out of them. They need to hang it up, but they work solely for a paycheck. Maybe for the benefits of having the summer off. Who knows why this person continually signs their contract. Their fire is dead, finito, caput, and it’s been out for a long while. Know this person too?
I am blessed to work in a building where I’d say the majority of our faculty is burning bright! We’re a family, we support one another, and our school pride runs deep, much thanks to the leadership from above. But I know there are those few teachers in my building who will walk in that first day tomorrow and say, “Summer wasn’t long enough!” (I’m sorry, but tell me another job that pays you all through a summer when you are blessed to spend time with family and friends.) Or how about those snarky, bitter, sarcastic comments like, “I wonder what WONDERFUL things we’re going to have meetings about today?” (How about you try running an inservice and see how you feel.) Or my personal favorite, “I’m not getting enough time in my room!” (How about using your time wisely when you can, maybe going in a day or two early if needed. And weren’t you the same person who was just chatting it up with your friends the other afternoon during work prep time?)
Sheesh, even my own tongue here seems a little critical! I apologize for that by the way. It just frustrates me when I see others abusing a profession as important as that of an educator. We don’t just teach for a paycheck. We mold lives. We shape character. We inspire. At least that is what God calls us to do. Colossians 3: 23 states, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men …” I am pretty sure working for the Lord means giving your best. God doesn’t call us to give half of what we are capable of. God wants your motor to be running 24/7, utilizing every second of every day to spread His glory. Think about that this week as you step into the classroom for the first time. Think about that when you’re tempted to gossip, complain, or disrespect whomever may be presenting by updating your Facebook status on your smartphone, or in my case researching whom to draft in fantasy football. Which reminds me that I haven’t heard from my buddy Josh who has always held the draft … Josh, if you’re out there, what’s up dude? Are we doing this this year or not?
Am I ADHD today or what? Back to my concluding point. You will encounter all three of the teachers above this week and throughout the rest of the school year. The passionate Christian teacher has a choice … they can do their own thing, or they can reach out to help others. What do you think God would want you to do? Would he say, “Hey, way to go, big guy! Heckuva lesson! PowerPoint was AMAZING! No worries about that teacher next door to you who is drowning in depression. Keep to yourself! You’re rocking it, baby!” It seems odd even entertaining that thought! If you have a heart, you’ll help them out. If you call yourself a Christian, you’ll model Christ to them, reaching out in love. I am reminded here of Acts 20: 35 which we hear a lot. Paul reminds us of Christ’s montra, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Did you catch that? More blessed to give that receive. I challenge all teachers out there to give this year in whichever spiritual gift the Lord has blessed you with. Are you the counselor, mediator type? Help out a colleague or student work out a problem! Can you write? Hey, there is nothing preventing you from writing a sincere note of encouragement to someone! Love sports? Volunteer to coach! Do you have an artistic flare? Hey, why not help out creating a sign advertising the extra-curricular activities! Do you know your way around a computer like Lebron knows his way around a basketball court? Help out a technology illiterate such as myself! I’ll sign you up to help me out with the new philosophies behind flipped learning. And don’t just give a little. Give a lot! Give until you’re spent. Give until people start calling you the Giver or Santa or Super Awesome Helper Person. Yes, I just came up with that name on my own. Thank you!
Time to bolt. My two toddlers, both of whom think napping is overrated, have gone from playing with blocks quietly to playing with their superheroes to playing “let’s see who can wrestle the other to the ground the quickest.” That wrestling game might result in some boo boos, so I am going to GIVE my time to my sons. Hey, I still got a half day of summer left! Living large, baby! May God bless all your first weeks back to school.