You’re an Anointed Teacher: Part I: The Game Plan!
I left Catholic Education two years ago, but the purpose-driven undercurrent of this career we chose is almost impossible to shake. The principles of Catholic Social Teaching arrested me; the need for people who call on the name of God for the ministry of teaching is great, and I would like to use this blog to both encourage and challenge all of my Educator brothers and sisters who are spiritually gearing up for another year in the classroom!
It would not be excessive to say that the time I spent teaching in the hallowed halls of Harlem schools replaced my heart with the heart of God, and I think that’s the secret to sharing a classroom with children who need nothing less than the joy and the peace that comes from experiencing just a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven in our classrooms. We need to ask God to love these students through us, and sometimes that can make our jobs harder than a teacher who is phoning it in.
My worst days in the building were days when I walked in there thinking I was actually a good teacher, when I thought I was uniquely talented, and maybe the best teacher to ever do it. Immediately, I was humbled. It takes only a moment with a disagreeable student, or an officious administrator, or an apathetic veteran teacher to show me that I cannot do this job on my own strength, with my own two hands. We all need the love, the touch, and the grace of God just as much as anybody else in the school community. It is up to you, the anointed teacher, to acknowledge how utterly useless we are without the Spirit. The sooner we acknowledge it the better, before the circumstances of the day drag us through the mud and humble us.
In this five part series, I’m excited about discussing the winding path of the Educator, and more importantly, the path of the Educator whose God is the Lord, an Educator who strives to be a loving, generous, humble, joyful servant of the community.
As servants of the community, our job is to be a light to people in our orbit, to let God love people through us, and to teach in a seasonless, thankless world. The bible promises that if we acknowledge God in our practice, then “out of our hearts will flow rivers of living water.”
We serve a God who stepped into human history to do seemingly ordinary, mundane things. Jesus was feeding people, washing his disciples’ feet, healing—and yes—teaching. What a joy to know that the job we chose to do has also chosen us to do it, and we can face every new year with the confidence that we have a powerful ally who did it with just his finger, writing in the sand.
It’s not my favorite Martin Luther King Jr quote, but this one resonated profoundly during my first year as a budding, anointed teacher:
“When you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead, or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.”
Teacher friends, as we approach another year, let’s do it better than anybody else who’s done it before (and sometimes that means doing it all wrong). Let’s treat it like both our first year and our 30th year—like a marriage of our past and future selves. Let’s show the utmost love to the kiddos in our care. Let’s meet them precisely where they are. Let’s affirm their dignity. Let’s be the people we needed when we were kiddos.
Students are not giving you a hard time - they’re having a hard time, and if they’re going through unseen difficulties, let’s pray for discernment. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “Let’s look upstream to see what’s poisoning the water” in the lives of the students in our school community. Let’s disrupt negative feedback loops in their lives. They are worth more than their circumstances.
And when we’re exhausted or disillusioned, let’s cry out and ask for free Holy Spirit refills. While we wait for that refill, let’s give ourselves permission to rest.
Let’s give everyone second chances, let’s cultivate a culture of error and mistakes, let’s center grace and compassion and joy, let’s take care of our spirits and our minds and our bodies, and—above all—I hope you all find the best bathroom in the building to run and hide during your prep period!
Let’s be curious and loving, let’s drink all the coffee, and let’s connect meaningfully with folks in the building who support the work we do: especially security guards, maintenance folks, office support staff, and cafeteria workers.
Let’s center the children and advocate for them in the room where it happens. Let’s check in on one another, proverbially licking one another’s wounds, and let’s hold on to all the letters and cards we receive, and let’s read them whenever we’re tempted to entertain any self doubt.
Stay away from all that stinking thinking in the faculty lounge, speak life to everyone around you, even if they’re making disparaging remarks about you, lift them all the way up, and watch how your outlook changes around these folks, be in awe of how we understand and even appreciate folks, and how incredibly we can manage interpersonal conflict.
Also try your best to stay hydrated.
We are anointed, and everybody in the building is better precisely because we are in there, molding and shaping hearts and minds, even as we are molded and remolded in the image of our Lord. Overwhelm your school community with your awesome.
That’s the Game Plan!