Teaching: It’s Not About the Teacher
As a teacher, I sometimes get caught up in “teaching.” Trying to figure out my lesson plans and crafting assignments that will help students learn — learn the materials, learn to think, learn to write, revise, and edit. As part of this planning, I often think about the “professionalism” aspect of their learning, too. Are they aware of how to communicate professionally? Do they know the importance of being punctual? Do they understand that their integrity–their character and reputation–are far more important than what a supervisor may want them to do, or a client they may represent?
Sometimes I get so caught up that I forget that the students need me to remember that they are not just students — but thinking, feeling, spiritual human beings.
Maybe it isn’t so much that I forget. It’s just that I push that aspect of the students off to the side, rather than keep it front and center. I need to love them, not just teach them.
Today, God reminded me.
The students had a first draft of a paper due, for peer review. Two students wrote me in the early morning hours, both in a bit of distress–expressing their frustrations. But between the lines, I could hear not just frustration, but the slipping away of their self-worth and self-confidence.
I added my students to my prayers this morning, but went along my way as usual. But God knew that it was me who needed His grace more than the students.
One of those students stopped by my office to talk later in the day. His face was long and he looked tired. We talked through his paper and his concerns about its structure and content.
Towards the end of the conversation, I saw a sudden flash of life in his face–his eyes lit up and a brief smile crossed his mouth. In that moment, the holy spirit stepped in and flooded the room with compassion. Before I knew it, words were flowing. I paused and something like the following came spilling out of me, “You know [Jason], you need to give yourself more credit than you do. You are really bright. Really capable. You have grown so much as a student and writer this year. This paper will come together and you will be so thrilled with it when you are done. ”
It was a flood of grace. The air in the room lifted and [Jason’s] demeanor changed completely. I felt his spirit change. I saw it in his eyes and in his face and in his movement.
As for me? I felt God’s presence and his grace. Grateful that He knew that this young man needed more than help with his paper. And, grateful that He gave me the opportunity and the words. Grateful for the reminder that I need to keep the whole person (not just the student) and God front and center–not me . . . Even though I might be the one standing in the front of the classroom.