My dream of being a teacher is finally coming to fruition. Each day I experience moments of this realization and all I can do is take deep breaths and do my best to hold back the tears. Tears of complete relief, insane amounts of joy, and so much thankfulness.
For at least 15 years I have dreamed of the moment when I would be the one teaching rather than the one being taught. When the sweetest of voices would call me Ms. Colander. When I would be gifted with the sweet blessing of holding and impacting the hearts of His children. When I would get to call twenty children my students. That moment is less than a year away.
In preparation for that moment my time spent teaching in the classroom is slowly becoming more common than my time spent in college classes.
Each day I enter the classroom I am overwhelmed with the needs and the standards to be met. I am baffled by all that needs to be accomplished in seven hours. I wonder how I have it in me to be a teacher and do all that is required.
In my state of slight fear and angst I have found one answer.
Each morning before entering the classroom I say these words, “Father, help me to be Jesus to each one of them.”
And that is my mission statement. That is my goal. That is what I strive for.
As I do my best to resemble the qualities of my Friend who knew no sin, slowly my mind is renewed and my eyes are refocused to see each of these kids the way their Father sees them. The ones that won’t obey are the ones that need that extra bit of assurance and attention. The ones that won’t speak up are the ones that need that a few more words of encouragement. The ones who are quick to catch on, but also quick to create problems, are the ones that need the extra challenge to keep them growing. The ones that cry easily are the ones that need to be hugged a few more times than most.
When I enter the classroom each morning my main mission behind all the math and reading is to speak life into each one of the students and be sure they go home each day feeling worthy and loved.
When a child shows me their work and every answer is correct, I rejoice with them. I celebrate their hard work. When a child shows me their work and one out of twenty problems is half correct, I do the same thing and rejoice with them, and I celebrate their hard work.
The corrections come after the celebration.
When a child makes an improvement, no matter how big or how small, I tell them how proud I am of them.
When a child tells me they can’t do it and it is too hard, I remind them how able they are.
When a child gets discouraged and continues to fail, I remind them that mistakes are what create learning opportunities.
Each child deserves to hear these words. Each child deserves to have someone cheering them on. Each child deserves to have someone who believes in them.
Each child deserves to experience Jesus.
While I know good and well I am not Jesus, nor do I come close to being like Him, I believe that when I ask Him to guide my actions and give me the words, He will. When I ask His Spirit to shine brighter than my flesh, He will. When I offer myself as a vessel and ask Him to love His children through me, He will.
It is not my words, it is not my actions, it is not me that will reach these children. It is Him.
He desires to reach His children. He desires to display His love for them. He desires to meet their needs. And He does. Through His own means and through people like you and people like me.
People who desire to be Jesus to the people who need it.
Walking into the classroom each morning can be jarring when I am reminded of the challenge put before me.
18 six and seven year olds. Three of them with speech impairments. Two of them that are limited in their English. Plenty of them experiencing a real struggle with math. Many of them still learning to read simple sentences. One of them that doesn’t know the letters.
In our best attempt, teachers and faculty gather together to decide what we can do to help these students, and we come up with a plan to meet their needs.
Two and a half hours of writing and reading practice each day. An hour and a half of math each day. Speech therapy. Tutoring for those with limited English. Lunch to keep them fed. Recess to respect the child in them. Related arts to allow them time to be creative. Behavior plans to keep them in control.
This plan to meet their needs is fine and necessary to do what the school is asking of me, but I won’t allow it to be what guides my heart and what I consider to be my true mission. Just simply following through with this plan allows me to blindly go through the motions each day, which is far less than what the students deserve. The students deserve for me to be fully engaged each day and not only feeding their brains, but more so caring for their hearts. Simply following through with this plan is a decision to see with my earthly eyes and think with my human-minded heart. This plan can easily control my mind and actions more than it should because it is the one the world pushes down my throat. To meet the standards. To have 100% proficiency in the classroom. But this simply isn’t possible. The demands of the world are too much, and if I pour myself into only these demands, I will come out exhausted and discouraged, having found little fulfillment in trying to follow a plan that isn’t completely attainable.
So instead, when I walk into the classroom each morning I choose to see past the piles of grading that needs to be done and the new assessments that need to be mandated. I choose to see what my Father sees.
18 six and seven year olds. 18 personalities. 18 stories. 18 home situations. 18 dreams. 18 hearts.
And when I see that, the only plan that comes to mind is this– Do my best to be Jesus to them each day.
This is the real mission. The real reason why I am in a classroom. I am here because my Father placed a burning and unrelenting desire in me to love His children. When I attempt to have the eyes of my Father and the heart of my Father, I am able to see the real reason. The one that seems impossible but is achievable when I choose to partner with Him. It is the reason I too easily ignore and at the end wish I would have paid more attention to. It is the one that brings true fulfillment, real joy, life change, and immense blessings, because with this situation, I am not trying to be the solution. I am simply willing to be a part of the solution.
Ephesians 5:1 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”
Be imitators of God.
Four words is all it takes to capture what our life should look like. These four words, this command, holds so much power. If we were to live our life always aiming to be imitators of God, so much of our sin and ugliness would go away. The beauty and healing that can come out of living this way is so far from what we can imagine. Our lives would be spectacular and the love that we would show to one another would be immense.
These four words should be our goal each and every morning before our feet hit the floor. They should guide our every word, every action, every look, and every thought. These four words have the power to release us from living out the ways of the world and embracing a life lived out with the goal of bringing honor and glory to our Father.
So rather than allowing each of our days to be ones driven by the purpose of crossing items off our checklists and doing what the world asks of us, choose to do more than that. Choose to view the situations in front of you as the Father does and do your best to get in tune with His heart and what He is asking of you. Choose to not only do more than what the world is asking of you, but choose to be more. Choose to not just be one more person walking on this planet, choose to be a person that gives life, hope, freedom, and love to this world. Simply put– be Jesus.
About the Author
Hi! My name is Morgan Colander. I am a junior at Lee University in Tennessee studying to be an elementary teacher. I am attempting to survive these college years as I learn to rely more on God and less on myself while being surrounded by new opportunities and decisions. College has presented itself with its difficulties- college budget, college dorms, college food, an endless list of things to do, and plenty of homesickness- but through it all, I have never been more dependent on God and realized how incapable I am to do life without Him. God, family, and friends are all I need to survive in life but some junior mints, a hike up a mountain, laughter, and some sarcasm definitely add some joy to the journey.