You are overpaid.
The only reason why you are a teacher is because you wanted summers off.
Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.
You’ve heard all of that. You know that it’s wrong. But ignorance never stops some people from sharing their opinion, even when that ignorance is embarrassingly on display for all of the world to see. Like when a guy goes on a Facebook rant telling us that, “Teachers need to mind they’re on bisiness,,,,,,”
Apparently, his did.
But you don’t. As you see it, the kids in your classroom are your business. And business is tough these days. But you press on. That’s because you are more than a teacher.
You are a missionary.
Missionaries go to places that the rest of us don’t. They work their way into cultures that some of us like to pretend don’t exist. And, to the best of their abilities, they try to leave that culture better than when they found it. All for the glory of God.
Read the words of Jesus Christ.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV)
Jesus mentioned salt because of its preservation qualities. In the days before your LG refrigerator, salt is what kept meat from going bad. It prevented decay. Jesus’ point is direct. The world is decaying.
Teacher, you know this perhaps more than anyone.
If you teach at a public school, even a really good one with a great principal and school board, you are still in a broken system. There are some politicians and bureaucrats in authority over you who know more about manipulating the system for personal gain than they do teaching. As a result, they make foolish decisions that negatively impact you, your students and millions more. Each year you attend endless meetings about some new curriculum that you are told will be much better than last year’s curriculum. But you know that the state will change it all again next year. It always does.
Still, you press on.
In a system that is decaying because of corruption and government bureaucracy, you are the salt that Jesus spoke of. In your own little way, you are slowing the decay, maybe not for the entire country but certainly in your classroom.
There is another implication in Jesus’ words when he says that, “You are the light of the world.” The world is dark. It could use some light.
Teacher, again, you know this perhaps more than anyone.
You know the nine-year-old who has to play the role of father and mother to his three younger sisters. You’ve held your sophomore math student’s second baby. You’ve cried with students who have lost friends in yet another car accident. You come home burdened for the kid whose only meal for the day was whatever he got in the cafeteria.
Your students come from a dark world. Darker than most of us will ever know. And you are the only light they ever get to see.
Preaching the gospel is important. There’s an old saying that says, “Preach the gospel, use words if necessary.” That’s garbage. The gospel must be spoken. But sometimes it can’t be. You’re probably not allowed to share John 4 and how Jesus’ grace has impacted you with your geography class. So instead, you are doing the next best thing.
You are salt in a decaying world.
You are light in the dark places.
You are a missionary.
You might not ever get to explicitly share the gospel with a student. But you can still be salt and light. When a kid lives in a house filled with violence, uncertainty and heartache, you have no idea what it means for him to walk into your classroom and see your smiling face and to hear your calm voice. You have no idea what it does to that student when you say, “I’m proud of you.” Even when you have to discipline that student, you have no idea what it means to him when you do it in love and with self-control for his ultimate good.
Here’s another familiar saying from Jesus.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)
The light that you are sharing is not your own.
It is Christ in you.
So you may not ever get to preach to your school about Jesus.
But everyday, as best as you can, you show your school Jesus.
Jesus has something else to say about that.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:34-40 (ESV)
Teacher, it’s the end of the year. It’s that time when you’re questioning your career path. Hang on. Your students need you to stand in the gap for them. You might just be the only thing standing between them and absolute darkness and decay.