Teachers have got to be the most underrated, under-appreciated people in society. They pour their hearts and souls out for a bunch of screaming, whining, and sometimes disrespectful brats who won’t even listen to what they have to say.
In a certain way, I’ve spent the past few years as a teacher myself. Being in both paid and volunteer ministry positions, I’ve poured myself into countless lessons and sermons for students of all ages, from elementary schoolers all the way up to senior adults. It really is tough to deal with everything that goes into teaching.
And there are days where your efforts may seem useless, even futile. It happens, really. No teacher is immune to the feeling. It’s defeating, depressing, and will downright make you question whether or not you really need to spend your time trying to give information to brick walls.
But there comes a blessed day where something clicks with a student. The day where something just makes sense in his or her mind and you can see it on his or her face. He or she understands what you’re saying and finds a way to apply it. Or maybe there comes a day when a student thanks you for teaching them what you have and that he or she can relate to your words.
The first time a student ever told me that something I said changed his perspective on a part of his life gave me hope that what I was doing wasn’t useless. And it added fuel to the fire that kept me teaching and going on.
While I’m currently out of teaching ministry and have no clue when or if I’ll be back in it, being a teacher is one of the most rewarding professions I have been able to be in. You’re literally shaping and teaching the next generation of politicians, scientists, entrepreneurs, business executives, and even teachers. Your work isn’t useless.
So, teachers, here are three things with which I would like to encourage you.
1. Keep giving your all when you prepare and teach. People don’t want to listen to someone who hasn’t done the proper research, preparation, and structuring for a lesson, and they sure as heck don’t want to listen to a boring communicator. Prepare each lesson like it’s the only lesson you’ll ever teach your students. Come prepared to each teaching session like it’s the only teaching session you have with your students. Teach each lesson like it’s the only thing your students will ever be taught. Literally give your everything to make sure that your students can be engaged and interested in what you have to teach them.
2. Build relationships with your students. Especially in ministry, teaching people who don’t have some sort of relationship with you is really hard. As a teacher, be sure to invest in your students’ personal wellbeing while you’re in the classroom. Don’t just focus on trying to teach to a test. Be more than just a teacher, be a life coach. When I showed up to a small group where I knew none of the attendees, even though I had prepared everything down to the smallest detail, my credibility and the weight of my words would’ve been slim to none, had I not spent the first 15 minutes meeting my listeners and developing a relationship with them. Teach through connection, not just communication.
3. Don’t judge your success on the response of your students/listeners/audience. People are easier to read than they give off. They wear their emotions on their faces. And they’ll let you know what they think about what you’re saying without saying a word. And more than half the time, if you’re teaching something that your listeners don’t care about or disagree with, their faces will probably tell you that they think you’re failing. My second time ever preaching, almost all 80 people in the audience told me that I had failed as a communicator, even though most of them complimented what I had to say. But that didn’t make me a failure. Staying faithful to what you are teaching, whether that be the Bible or a textbook, is always more important than whether or not your listeners like what you have to say. Do your job. Do it like you’ve been taught, and don’t let others make you think you’re failing.
Teachers, I encourage you to do all that you can to inform and coach your students in whatever ways that work. You are not alone in this fight. I would love to be your shoulder to lean on, your listening ear, and sounding board for ideas. You are more important than you realize.