To my Teacher Self: you are serving the Lord Christ

This week in my fifth grade class we are reading “This I Believe: Free Hearts and Minds at Work”, a radio talk by Jackie Robinson. This quote toward the end really stood out to me:

“And in the largest sense, I believe that what I did was done for me — that it was my faith in God that sustained me in my fight.” – Jackie Robinson, This I Believe: Free Hearts and Minds at Work

That got me thinking: How often do I think about what I have to do instead of what has been done for me by God? How often do I think about what God will do for me?

When my heart is focused on the work I have to do, expectations from myself and others, that student (or administrator) who seems to have it in for me, or the sleep I just can’t seem to get, my heart is overwhelmed and temped toward resentment, impatience, and worry.

As I was praying through today, the Lord brought this verse to me:

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”  Colossians 3:23-24 ESV

So that got me thinking through practical implications of how to address frustrations. Some of these apply to me at the moment, some do not. However, they are all possible in the world of teaching. I don’t voice these frustrations because we should dwell on them, but to practice meeting real frustrations and temptations to sin with the truth of what Christ has done for those who hope in him alone for salvation. In other words, I hope to address what I have to do with what Christ is doing and has done for me, because I am serving the Lord Christ.

When I am planning my lessons with my weekends or late nights, I am serving the Lord Christ who loved me and gave himself for me. (Ephesians 5:2)

When I write my agendas on the board every morning, I am serving the Lord Christ who is my strength and song. (Psalm 118:14)

When I am dealing with a defiant – or even just annoyingly talkative- kiddo, I am serving the Lord Christ who has shown me mercy. (1 Peter 2:10)

When I’m faced with a conflict with co-workers or supervisors, I am serving the Lord Christ who multiplies grace and peace to me. (2 Peter 1:2)

When my planning (or lunch) is taken up with petty annoyances or more serious, seemingly impossible issues, I am serving the Lord Christ who awoke my heart from death and sin to salvation and life- a work impossible for me, but not for him. (Luke 18:27)

When I am grading papers, I am serving the Lord Christ who has promised to never leave me. (Hebrews 13:5)

When I am having an observation that may or may not be going according to plan, I am serving the Lord Christ who has already placed his favor on me. (Psalm 84:11)

When I seem to not be getting answers to work e-mails, I am serving the Lord Christ who hears my prayers and answers them. (Psalm 116:1)

When I’m buying more school supplies for my classroom out of my pocket, I am serving the Lord Christ who deals bountifully with me. (Psalm 116:7)

When I’m talking with or being harassed by an upset, unpleasant parent, I am serving the Lord Christ who enables me to do what is right. (Philippians 2:13)

So my prayer for myself today, as well as for us all, is that I set the Lord always before me so that my heart will not be shaken with resentment or worry.

“Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.” Psalm 28:6-9

And may God guard my heart and faith today against any lie that would tell a different story. May he increase my faith to believe in the good promises and hope of his word.

Kindness and Humor

Today’s themes: Kindness and Humor.

Today is the last day before Christmas break, for which I am so thankful! But even more than that, I’m thankful for the memories of my students today.

Like little J in the elf hat carefully bouncing down the hall to deliver cookies to office staff and anyone else she happened to pass.

Like little M- who didn’t talk to me at the beginning of the semester – resolutely placing the antlers on his head and turning to face me, fists on his hips. “Ms. Watson, do I look ridiculous?” It was more of a statement than a question and the suppressed mirth on his face told me he already knew the answer.

I hope they succeed well in school… but even more than that, I hope they keep growing in their kindness and humor.

And may they love the One who is the reason for our Christmas hope, kindness… and humor.

Teacher Seeking Approval

It was the middle of a Tuesday and I found myself picking the date for an announced observation for the following week. We settled on December 12th at 8:45 am. That score will play a big part in determining my LOE score that will tell, at a quick, convenient glance, what kind of teacher I am. It’s hard not to absorb identity from that number. It feels like approval or disapproval. It feels like someone has pronounced judgement on my worth as a teacher.

Sometimes, in the midst of the hurry, the pressures, and worries of this time in the semester, I forget that those things are not the sum of my life, or even the sum of my present circumstances. I have to stop and remind myself that this person’s approval may be pressing, that activity may be urgent, this work may be threatening to consume my time, but that is not all of my reality. The tyranny of the urgent will always be there, but there is always more. Everything in life- the good, the bad, and the in-between (including scores and observations, and human approval, praise, and judgement… and life outside of teaching) – all those things shape me, but they have no say in who I am now and what I have for eternity. God has that say:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do… Eph. 2:4-10

According to Ephesians 2, because Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, came and brought me salvation by dying for my sin and rising again, this is my reality: I am loved by God with great love. I am God’s own handiwork, so I belong to him. I am created in Christ for good works, so the work is his, not mine. My future is not uncertain because God has prepared it in advance. God desires to show me the incomparable riches of his grace. He shows me great kindness in Christ. He gave me true life when I was dead in my own works and my own heart of hatred and defiance against him. As Paul tells the Ephesians to remember, I also remember that I was once without hope and without God in this world. I almost can’t bring myself to say those terrible, soul-shaking words aloud: without God in this world.

I need to remember that, so that I can remember this: because of God’s great gift – one I did nothing to deserve- I have received approval by the One from whom it matters most. And I am no longer without God in this world… or in eternity to come.

So, whatever comes today or the tomorrows that follow, as believers I hope this will always be among the first of our thoughts: I am no longer without God in this world. And may we remember all that that truth entails.

Whatever is pressing or clamoring for attention, he always has been, and always will be more. His is the approval that matters most, so that we can live in true joy and seek to please him as we walk in all the good works – at school and elsewhere- he has planned for us to do.

Prayer:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Eph. 3:16-21

Classroom Culture: Thanksgiving Pumpkin, Day One

What my fifth-graders were thankful for this week. ❤️

Supplies needed:

2 minutes

Largest pumpkin teacher can carry

Sharpie

The question: “What are you thankful for today?”

Directions: repeat daily until December 1.

Result: Smiles and redirected hearts after the Halloween craziness.

Giant Word Find

Laminate poster-sized sight-word word find and staple to presentation boards. (Glue gun won’t keep it mounted…) add paper copies for students to keep, a dry erase marker, and expo wipes (not pictured). I used binder clips to hold the presentation tri-folds together for easy assembly/disassembly/storage. :) This is for an outdoor school event and has 5 sides of advancing levels of word finds. The students really enjoyed it!