Joseph, a high school social studies teacher, loved teaching history, especially US history. However, three days before the start of school, Joseph’s department chair gave him some unsettling news: the principal needed a social studies teacher to cover two sections of an elective English class for students who could not pass the state’s high school exit exam. The worst part? The department chair and the principal had decided that Joseph, because of his heart for kids, was the one to do it.
Not only would Joseph be teaching a different subject, but this surprise assignment would also most likely involve low-performing students and behavior challenges. Since he typically taught advanced students, he felt as if he was being punished for his success as a teacher. Frustrated, he wondered why the principal and the department chair would do this to him.
As we enter a new school year, some of us may be able to relate to Joseph. Maybe there were some unexpected changes waiting for you at the beginning of the school year, leaving you feeling angry, sad, or confused. Perhaps you haven’t faced a situation like Joseph’s, but you have struggled with a difficult colleague, feelings of isolation, self-doubt in the classroom, challenging families, student misbehavior, or unrealistic expectations.
All of us have faced challenges as educators—especially during these last two years full of chaos and crises. But, have you ever considered the idea that these challenges can be opportunities to represent Jesus?
When situations seem hopeless or unfair to everyone else around us, as Christian educators, we can choose to respond differently. We can choose to see difficult situations as opportunities for ministry. We can be the educators who build relationships and demonstrate care to those that are difficult. We can bring people together instead of encouraging isolation and strife.
So, how can we learn to consistently represent Jesus even when we find ourselves in the midst of challenges?
Take time to remember. We can remember why we decided to become educators in the first place. We can think back to the times God has used or is still using us to make a difference in the lives of others. We can remember that we are not alone and that God promises to never leave us or forsake us.
Focus on truth. Satan knows that Christian educators are key influencers of the next generation, so he tells us lies about who we are or who God is in hopes that we will believe we are incapable of effectively ministering to others. Instead of dwelling on those lies, we can be filled with truth from God’s Word. Immersing ourselves in the truth about who God is and how He sees us empowers us to walk in confidence through any challenges we face.
Take thoughts captive. In the midst of challenges, we all experience typical human responses. We may find ourselves feeling fearful, hopeless, angry, or insecure in the midst of life’s storms. When the inevitable happens, and our negative feelings and thoughts begin to take over, we can “take our thoughts captive” by speaking God’s truth to ourselves (2 Cor. 10:5). We can fill our minds with God’s promises, leaving no space for the negative thoughts.
Respond in prayer. We can pray, asking God to give us peace, wisdom, and His perspective in any given situation. When we witness other people go through challenges, we can pray with and for them as well. We can even pray for those who are creating challenges in our lives. When we bring concerns and struggles before the Lord, He hears us. And He can use our prayers to help soften hearts (including ours) and provide the hope that we and so many others desperately need.
Are you wondering what happened with Joseph? Well, here is the rest of his story…
Immediately after hearing about his new “opportunity,” protests rose up within him. I’m not an English teacher! I have the most seniority in the department! This isn’t fair!
But as he gathered himself to fight this assignment, Joseph also discerned in his heart a sense of restraint from the Lord, as if God was saying, “I am in this, trust Me.”
Joseph spent time in prayer, and God gave him the strength to move forward with this difficult assignment. Rather than allowing himself to become a bitter, disgruntled teacher, he decided he would represent Jesus by being the best English teacher he could be for these students in need.
By the end of the first semester, Joseph had run out of ideas, worksheets, and reproducible units he could borrow from other teachers or find online. So, he asked the Lord for help. He felt led to teach English using a novel about US history for the remainder of the school year. This not only activated Joseph’s passions, but it also gave his class largely composed of immigrant students more understanding of their country and bonded the class through a compelling story.
At the end of that school year, 45 of his 49 students passed the exit exam. His heart was encouraged as many of them expressed deep gratitude toward Joseph at graduation.
The following year, he was sitting in his classroom grading student presentations when he found himself enveloped in a hug from one of these former students who had returned to say thank you. At that moment, he realized what he would have missed if he hadn’t trusted God with this assignment.
As we journey through another school year, we will definitely encounter challenges. Let’s begin to see these challenges as opportunities to represent Jesus. Let’s work with Jesus to offer hope, truth, and love to places where He has placed us this year.
AWAKE - Empowering Christian Educators
Christian Educators offers a one-day experience designed to encourage, equip, and empower you to represent Jesus on your school campus called AWAKE (Ambassadors Working as Kingdom Educators).
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Heather Kohnen is a wife, mom, educator, mentor, and friend. She loves to encourage others to follow their God-given dreams in order to live full, inspiring lives. She is dedicated to encouraging and equipping Christian educators to be ambassadors for Jesus wherever He has placed them.
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