By Meredith Frey
The McDonald’s arches beam bright as I drive to school, beautifully framed in front of the rising sunshine. I wonder to myself, like the McDonald’s slogan, what do I do when I am not loving it? What do I do when teaching becomes hard, and I am already thinking about heading home during my drive to work. What do I do when my heart yearns to be back in my cozy bed, wishing I could show up late for my job and 30 3rd graders weren’t counting on me?
During this season, I must remember my why for teaching and the greater purpose for my life. When I am not loving it, I need to press into why God has called me here to this school at this time because, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
As a second-year teacher, I am still enjoying the “novice advantage” as Dr. Jon Eckert shares, and I have a great delight and joy in teaching (Eckert, 2016). Teaching requires caring intentionally for students’ behavior, creating meaningful lesson plans on time, making copies, and attending a variety of meetings, all while caring for the heart, soul, and mind of each of my students. The daunting task of teaching requires supernatural strength.
As Christian educators, we must pause when we are not loving it and we’re feeling the weight of life’s tasks while teaching. Reflection is essential for learning but is often overlooked. We need to reflect on the character of God, our call as educators, and the joy that can be found in each day. I am continually reminded of Galatians 6:9 to restrengthen my purpose and hope, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Here are three ways to stay hopeful in the harvest when it becomes hard.
1) Rest in God, who is our ultimate Teacher.
Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 is a strategic verse about resting in the Lord. Right before this verse, Jesus thanks God for revealing His truths to little children. God wants us to be like children: full of wonder, delight, and play. Remember, as we teach children, we are also children of God.
As teachers, we learn from Jesus. He wants us to learn His rhythms of life, His perspective, and His way of rest. Physically, we need sleep and cannot do it all. When teaching gets hard, find soul-strengthening rest in Jesus. He will renew us as we pour out daily. Jesus delights in providing strength, and “when we are weak, He is strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
2) Remember your why for teaching.
We need to constantly come back to our why in our teaching. The why is the purpose for our life and our passion. The why is the reason we can continue and see beyond when it is easy to get lost in the details and trials of life. Similarly, if students do not know the purpose of a subject or its application to their lives, they are less motivated to learn. As educators, we need to understand our whys to be motivated to continue the good work we are doing. Write down your why and put it in a place where you can be reminded daily of your purpose in shaping minds and investing in future world changers. I know that sometimes when we are told to remember our why it can feel repetitive, but when we remember our purpose in Christ, the Lord refuels our commitment to Him as He guides us to lean into our vocation to live out His purpose in our lives.
3) Do not forget to laugh.
“A joyful heart is good medicine.” Proverbs 17:22
As teachers, we need to laugh. A wise mentor kindly shared, “If you’re not loving it, they aren’t either.” If we are not enjoying the content that we are teaching, our students are not enjoying it either. Find moments to laugh with students. Use your personality that God gave you to connect with each of your students. Share a funny story about your life or pause to laugh at quirky moments in the classroom. Find ways to make the material meaningful and enjoyable for yourself, and your students will follow. There will be moments when we are not loving it, but it is in those moments we have to change our mindset.
Gratitude is one of the best ways to change our attitudes. When we stop to remember the good of the day or of the present moment, it transforms our outlook on life and how we view the day. Each night, I write down five things I am thankful for from that day, including funny moments with my students. This discipline to write down things I am thankful for is not an easy task but is critical, especially on difficult days.
Keep teaching with joy by resting in the Lord and delighting in little moments each day. God has us in our classrooms for a purpose, and we can do hard things because that is where we grow.
Meredith Frey is a fellow with the Baylor Center for School Leadership and a third-grade teacher at a classical school in San Antonio, Texas. She enjoys the challenge as a beginning year-two teacher where she is learning to collectively engage her students and lead with joy and humility. Meredith has been able to live in cross-cultural contexts and desires to take her leadership and teaching skills abroad through global education. She has a degree in Elementary Education from Wheaton College and a minor in Urban Studies. Meredith desires to use education as a way to catalyze future world changers and encourage teachers to celebrate the joys of teaching.