“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”
– C.S. Lewis
These polar opposites are the reality for many of those who call themselves teachers. Teaching isn’t as easy as some people would think. At one school a teacher may be making progress with a rough student, but in another school a teacher is shot by her student. In one family a teacher is praised and honored, but in another a teacher is suspicious and seen as “indoctrinating students.”
It can be the most rewarding and discouraging path.
Teachers, I want to give you some encouragement from the Teacher of teachers. The one who has the heart of a teacher, because God is, at heart, a teacher.
Jesus, God incarnate, was the master-teacher. His heart placed him in the position of teacher, and his students flocked to him, mocked, killed him, and worshiped him.
Let’s look at how Jesus showed the heart of a teacher, and through his life, encourage ourselves to keep going in our calling as teachers.
in his giving
Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
These words Jesus said about himself. It is his reason why he came. Jesus came to give his life. In John 3:16, love motivates Jesus’ giving so that he came to us. He came as a servant-teacher. He wasn’t a teacher to promote his image or his popularity. He was a teacher who was giving himself to his students.
We, as a teacher, are servant-teachers as well. We give of ourselves to our students. It is not to promote our popularity or some other reasons. If we promote only our popularity, we will never find satisfaction in our calling. Instead, we can see each day and class period as a time to give ourselves.
Some days we do not want to give. It is difficult with one more disciplinary action, one more redirection, one more phone call to a parent, one thing added, and with all the other one mores that come our way. Yet, when we delight ourselves in God, he gives us the desires of our heart. Delighting in God means we need to learn to give. The satisfaction our hearts crave will come. Patiently and through each exhausting day, as we give, it will come.
In His answering
One of the things I love about Jesus is the way he answers questions. He knows exactly how to answer each person according to what that person needs to hear; whether that is forgiveness, being put in their place, or being told to keep going.
In Luke 7:36-50, a woman comes to Jesus for forgiveness. She seeks to hear those words in her heart. From the Pharisees she is condemned and marginalized. But, embraced by the heart of the teacher, she is forgiven and called daughter.
One phrase Jesus likes to use over and over is, “Have you not read?” When approached by the snarky Sadducees and the provoking Pharisees, Jesus often made them quizzical with this question. His goal wasn’t the same as the woman mentioned in Luke 7. Instead, he was putting them in their place. Jesus knew what was in their heart (Mark 2:8). He wanted each of them to fully understand that they did not hold the keys to heaven or had the corner on how to relate to God. Jesus put them in their place and taught the truth.
Jesus also told people to keep going. In John 3:1-21 and Mark 12:28-34, two men approach Jesus. They pose a question and Jesus discusses it with them. In his answer, he wants them to keep going. He tells them they are close to knowing the truth. He isn’t putting them down. Instead, he gives them enough to keep pursuing.
We can have the same heart towards our students. There are remarks of redemption and sayings of sarcasm. Jesus had both, and it is ok if we have both. However, it all depends on what the student needs at that time. I have seen where forgiveness has brought a student to the next level and where sarcasm elevated a student to a place that surprised me, and I saw them soar.
The heart of the teacher understands what each student needs and isn’t afraid to give that. When we rely on the Holy Spirit to show us their need, we are able to respond in the best way to elevate that student.
In his protection
Have you ever stopped to consider Jesus as Creator? The one who created you and me stepped into the fallen world and experienced all of the curse we experience.
Jesus wept over death (John 11:35). His heart was consumed by compassion as crowds came to him like stray dogs begging for food and shelter (Matthew 9:36). In his compassion, Jesus heals, reunites, and delivers. This is our Creator protecting his creation. Diseases, death, and demons destroy. Delivering us from those things is his protection. He understands that without that protection, his teaching (in his words and life) would never reach our hearts.
As teachers, our hearts yearn for the protection of our students. The stories and burdens they come in with wells our hearts with a sorrow to serve. We step in front of a bully to shield that defenseless student. We fight for their safety from gunmen coming in. We protect our students just like Jesus did to his.
The world and its politics will never understand the importance of protection until it has the heart of a teacher. Am I afraid of going to school after reading about the next school shooting? Yes. Even my closest friend is scared for me. Yet, why do I keep going back? Because, those are my students. I am proud of them. I see their needs. I see their hurts. I see their potentials, and I see their futures. Without the protection of teachers, where would those students be?
We don’t fight for a continuation of a constitutional right or to pander a political party. We fight for the shielding and success of each student who will hopefully never have to cower under a desk, but will stand up confidently in our world defending others in love.
Where does this attitude come from? From the heart of Jesus – the true Teacher.
in his placing
Where is the place of Jesus? As Daniel is found in prayer as was his custom, Jesus is found at the table placing all people next to him. Jesus understood the importance of place. A person needs to know they have a place at the table – which in turns gives them a standing and a voice.
At the table of Jesus, he talked about and told stories about Pharisees, tax collectors, widows, children, Samaritans, kings, and so many others. He represented everyone in order to create a place for everyone. His table was not complete with just the religious leaders and the ones who were “righteous.” No, he came to call everyone to his table – no matter who they were or where they were from (Mark 2:17; Luke 14:15-24).
Jesus even loves to have places of juxtaposition at his table. One disciple was a tax collector (Matthew) and the another was a zealot (Simon). He wants to feast and debate with the Pharisees while the sinful woman comes to him for forgiveness. Both have a place at his table.
Teachers, we have the same calling. So often we have critics in our inner circles telling us to not include this topic or teach about that. I even had a family member question me about my teaching to make sure “I was teaching it right.”
Every student deserves to be in our classroom. Each student deserves to be represented. Jesus represented everyone, so why can’t we? We need everyone at our table. No one is going to be changed to change our world unless they find their place at our table. If our table has limited seating, then our outreach is limited. If our table has limited seating, then our love is limited.
In our placing of people at our table, our hearts need to create a space for each student. Jesus showed us how just in his stories, and we can do the same with ours.
oUR CLASSROOM BECOMES OUR HEART
Jesus is the master-teacher to be encouraged by (in his giving, his answering, his protecting, and his placing). He shows us that when our hearts are focused on the student, we create a classroom of flesh and blood breathing life into the students that walk through our door.
Teachers, it can be very discouraging. We have a profession which feels like unless you are in it no one will truly understand us. Jesus felt the same way. He patiently corrected, redirected, healed, and delivered. He constantly connected with the heart of the Father so his heart could be encouraged. We cannot have the heart of a teacher unless we are connecting to God’s heart. It will not be the heart of a political party or the heart of standardized tests or the heart of positive reinforcement. Instead, our love and compassion coming out in each assignment, seating chart, classroom management skill, and lecture will only be a result when the love of the Father is connected in us.
Teachers, keep standing up for your students. Keep encouraging your fellow teachers. Keep going. We can do it, because our example is the Teacher of all teacher… the beloved of the Father… Jesus Christ.