My wife is a public school teacher. She is very good at what she does. She is passionate about her work. Teaching is all consuming if it is done right (2 Timothy 2:15-16). Even though she enjoys her work, she really looks forward to summer vacation. The summer months give her an opportunity to clear her mind and focus on other things.
Noemi is the head of the reading department at Barbara Bush Middle School in San Antonio, Texas. She’s looked up to as a leader among her peer group. Her students also see this quality in her (Acts 2:47). Her testimony as a believer is well known. As you might imagine, I am very proud of her and what she does. And yes, I too am one of her students from time to time.
Teaching in the public school arena is becoming more and more difficult with each passing year. Not only has Noemi seen the social fabric which her students come from breaking down, she also sees how this affects the morale of the people she teaches alongside. In the next week, Noemi and her peers will be back at school participating in meetings and discussions about the new expectations that will be placed upon them in the coming year. Understandably, these new rules and regulations will be considered by some to be a burden, getting in the way of what it is that they really want to do… teach kids.
Each year as the summer winds down, Noemi begins to think about the year ahead. In the days just before she returns to the classroom we watch “teacher movies.” They are helpful in adjusting her thinking back to school mode.
This blog is not intended to discuss the pros and cons of public education versus private or home schooling. It is imperative that teachers in any school environment work together in ways that benefit the whole school population and also the individual student.
In order for teachers to teach, they must also know what they are talking about. Their information can’t focus simply on memorization and regurgitation. Teachers must also demonstrate why the material they share has relevance from a practical standpoint. If all a teacher does is download facts into the mind of a student, there will be no engagement. When that happens, no real education is taking place.
This is also true within the Body of Messiah. Jesus never lost sight of the fact that He came to engage with people (Isaiah 7:14). As He looked out over the crowds of those that clamored around Him, Yeshua saw the people with compassion. They were not a means to an end. He did not view them as the source of a paycheck. He genuinely cared for those He came to teach.
Jesus should be the primary model for every teacher in the Church as to what successful teaching looks like. I am afraid that in many places, the sheep of God’s flock are seen more as a product rather than as persons. Those with leadership responsibility often opt to attempt to mass-produce disciples. The sheep that simply don’t seem to fit into their system, get little attention.
That was not Jesus’ practice. He saw those that came to Him as individuals. Most often, they found in Him someone who was genuinely concerned about who they were and what kind of potential they possessed. None of the Apostles were remarkable as individuals before they met Jesus. And yet, each one of them (except Judas) accomplished remarkable things following Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Messiah showed them what was possible with His own life. Then He told them that the things that they had seen Him do, they would surpass (John 14:12). What an incredible encouragement that must have been. Yeshua saw greatness in them, even when they did not.
It is easy for someone who thinks of himself as a teacher to go through the mechanics of data-dumps. Real teachers do much more. Being able to really connect with a student, authentically communicate concern, and demonstrate care is a gift from God not to be squandered.
One of our favorite movies is Mr. Holland’s Opus. Forced to give up his dream of being a great composer, Mr. Holland took a job as a high-school music teacher. He viewed his students as a temporary means to an end. But over time his students grew on him. He began to teach them to love music as he did. Take a look at this short clip where Mr. Holland caught a whole new vision for what teaching is all about.
If you are a teacher of God’s Word, start viewing it as a tremendously high calling. Understand that you are in a position to love those that God has entrusted to your care. If you don’t love the sheep in your care, stop what you are doing right now and pray that God would help you to see His sheep in the same way that He sees them.
Remember. God has made you to be an under-shepherd of His sheep. How will you know if you are successful? A really good shepherd smells like Jesus’ sheep.