Right now, the school district in which my wife and I are privileged to teach is out for Spring Break. All around our area, students and teachers are enjoying some much-needed downtime. But, this year, Spring Break means so much more – it is needed so much more.
I find myself thinking back to the teachers that I had growing up who meant the most to me.
I was blessed in Kindergarten to have Nancy Denley who, knowing my family and having grown up with my father, took a personal interest in seeing how I turned out. She ended up teaching most of my siblings and cousins, so she has definitely earned the status of hero!
In 1st grade, Carrie Mack and Linda Bumpers impacted me more than I could have ever imagined. They saw potential in me and, more importantly, wanted me to see potential in myself. From Mrs. Mack pushing me to do my best when 6-year-old me was satisfied with less to Mrs. Bumpers rescuing me from the principal’s office, I have vivid memories to this day that remind me of the lasting impact of an educator.
In 7th grade, Mike Miles showed me how much a single teacher showing an interest can make in the life of a student. I was the unpopular kid who somehow perpetually managed to wear the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, or be present in the wrong situation. Mr. Miles managed to help me see that I had value during a time period when the world around me said different.
In 11th grade, Gean Gilbert showed me that a love of one’s teaching content can be spread to one’s students. She brought history to life for me and made a state-tested class feel like learning. She also brought a very historically significant guitar and let me play it!
9th-12th grades saw me in Charlene Leverette’s class. I took every elective that she taught in my 9th and 10th grade years, growing my love of reading into a love for writing – both of which serve me still today. She was my 11th grade English teacher and paid all the costs herself for me to take AP English in 12th. She saw potential in me and did not let up until I met the expectations she laid out for me. Mrs. Leverette was known for giving out tough love. She was hard on me and my classmates. But tough love was what we needed.
When I decided to be a teacher, I was so excited to get to teach alongside Mrs. Leverette. I thought there would be no better mentor for me than her. However, she refused. She told me that I had already learned as much from her as I could. While that hurt me at the time, I am immensely thankful for her wisdom in that decision, and, because of that, I was blessed to have Dorothy Watson as my mentor-teacher during student teaching.
I had Mrs. Watson’s husband, Nez, my senior year. He instilled a great deal of wisdom in me that year. He invested in me personally, and, for that, I am immensely thankful. Mrs. Watson did the same for me as a young student teacher. She taught me the value of working hard during the school day so that my home time was not spent working. She and Mr. Watson took a personal interest in me and my wife at the beginning of our marriage, encouraging us to be good teachers and to be thankful for the opportunity to work together and impact the lives of kids.
Finally, and perhaps the most influential is my wife. While I did not start teaching immediately (it took nearly ten years for me to actually make it to the classroom), Candice did. She did not set out to be a teacher, but, as soon as she realized that God had gifted her to teach, she set aside a much more lucrative career path to help kids learn math. I got to watch her succeed through tutoring needy children in college. I got to celebrate her victories from afar as she achieved great things in every school she taught in. But, it was not until I got to be in her classroom and see her teach that I realized what an inspiration she is.
All of these people have influenced what I want to be in the classroom. They have shown me what it is to be able to have a lasting impact. And, I see many of my colleagues work and strive to do the same thing in their classrooms. But, despite the unseen benefits, teaching is difficult.
There are hours spent outside of the classroom planning and grading. High volumes of testing produces data that must be analyzed causing plans to be altered and implemented. While many people feel that teaching school is limited to Monday-Friday in 9/12 months, it is much more than one could imagine. Additionally, there are many – like the ones I mentioned above – that go far beyond the job because what they do is a calling. There are sleepless nights working after their own biological children go to sleep. There are skipped lunches so that they can go the extra mile for their students. There are sacrifices to be made all around. And, while that makes them phenomenal teachers, it bears a personal cost.
Not only that, but this school year is different. Add the pandemic to the normal rigors of teaching, and you have a recipe for exhaustion and, in some cases, burn out. Now, there are masks and technological difficulties and disinfecting. The work load increases – which it has to in order to meet the needs of the students – but the amount of time we have stays the same.
Take into account that fewer people are majoring in education, and you have the a potential recipe for disaster. Where will future generations of children be without great teachers who care? Where will our schools be when the called ones leave?
Rather than panic, I believe it is time that we join together and pray for our teachers. Two verses come to mind and drive me to hope in God to take care of our teachers:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.Romans 15:13
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.Hebrews 4:16
So, here are some prayer requests that our teachers may find “all joy and peace” in their calling and “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”. I believe that praying to God is the most that we can do because what more can we do than take our burdens to the Almighty God of the universe? Join with me in approaching the throne of Christ in prayer, seeking the help that only He can offer:
- Pray for rest and relaxation through the rest of the break for teachers and students.
- Pray for endurance for the final quarter of this school year for teachers and students.
- Pray that students will not try to find their identity in grades and test scores.
- Pray that teachers will remember why they wanted to start teaching.
- Pray that teachers will find the strength they need to keep giving their best effort for their students.
- Pray that teachers will not try to find their identity in test scores.
- Pray that teachers will not try to find their identity in observations and evaluations.
- Pray that our teachers’ homes be the place of solace that they need.
- Pray that our teachers can find that difficult balance between their personal lives and their professional lives.
- Pray for our counselors who have taken on more hats than normal and who meet the needs of kids who are struggling in all of the regular ways with pandemic-related issues added in.
- Pray for our IT/tech staff as they work to keep all of our equipment working and that they may receive grace as the difficulties continue to come up time and again.
- Pray for the administrators who – for the most part – have not stopped working in-person since the beginning of the pandemic.
- Pray for the administrators as they balance longer hours and more contracted days with their own need for rest and recuperation.
- Pray for administrators as they have had to make difficult decisions during the pandemic whether or not the public agreed with what needed to be done.
- Pray for the community you live in that people find it in their hearts to give grace rather than harsh criticism when it comes to schools and school staff.
- Pray for people by name that you know of who work at school in any capacity.
- Pray and thank God for teachers who impacted you when you were in school and ask God to raise up more teachers like them in the midst of this pandemic.
- Pray for students you know by name and ask God to help them have the strength to finish this school year well.
- Finally, pray for an end to this pandemic and a return to normalcy for our students, faculty, and staff.
Thank you for praying! This list is far from exhaustive, but, hopefully, it will set your mind and heart on a path to continue praying for those working with children in the midst of this continued pandemic.