A Time of Excitement, Exhaustion and Lots of Prayer
There's just something about a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils. Okay, it's not really a bouquet. It's a small jar, but in my classroom, it held the beauty of a fresh bouquet of daisies.
Daisies because Meg Ryan's character in You've Got Mail once called them "the friendliest flower," and I like that.
Freshly sharpened No. 2 pencils are like that.
As a teacher, it tells the class of new students, "I am so glad you're here. I've anticipated your needs."
But, it's not just the pointy side that speaks. The opposite end may say even more.
It's a fresh, full eraser - just waiting to be used.
If the pencil could talk, I think it would say, "Go ahead. Just try. Do your best. I'm here if you mess up. Then, we'll try again together."
Okay, so maybe I've lost you with all this pencil talk, but given my first love was teaching third grade and kindergarten, I have a certain appreciation for school supplies.
It's a love/hate relationship, really.
I hate it because stores start stocking the aisles with markers and folders and crayons and glue and overpriced calculators and fancy journals in June.
As a teacher, you'd see me walking into Target and Wal-Mart with my right hand shielding my eyes from the unwanted realization that summer will in fact expire. (Insert crying face emoji.)
But, then, my fingers spread all so slowly and I can't help myself. I have to peek through and see the new goodies on the shelves.
When school supplies are around, it gets even the most Summer-lovin' part of me excited. I just couldn't wait to meet my new students and hopefully get to see the ones I had previous years who will always remain a part of me.
Nine months together will do that to you.
That's why I thought we'd take a moment together and think about our teachers - whether they teach our own kids, our nieces and nephews, our neighbors, or they are our friends. We all know a teacher. And, this post is for them.
"Praying For You!"
One parent brought me a note on back-to-school night and on it, she wrote, "We're so excited to have you as our son's teacher! We're praying for you!"
Now, you never know quite how to take that. Is the child gifted with an extra dose of "enthusiasm" or "spirit"? Or, do they recognize this job - this calling - is tough mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially - and prayer is the only way you can thrive?
Turns out, it was the latter.
The most we can ever do for our teachers is pray for them.
So let's lift up a prayer together.
Father, we thank You for our teachers and principals and all those working and supporting education. We thank You for laying this calling on their hearts. Where would our children and our society be without great, selfless teachers?
We thank You for being our Great Teacher. We ask You to give our teachers rest, wisdom, creativity, renewed passion, and insight to reach each student and strengthen their confidence. Give them patience, grace and a strong immune system. (Kindergarten cooties are a real thing, and with the pandemic, it's not just five year olds needing the "hanitizer".)
For all those in their first year, help us remember they need our support more than our criticism. May we be generous with our kindness and mercy and time. Help us to see when they need a word of encouragement or caffeine boost or simply a listening ear.
We pray our teachers feel your nearness and provision for them and their families in tangible ways this year. We may not know what road they are walking outside the classroom - whether being a new parent and leaving a newborn in day care for the first time, or maybe a first-time empty nester, or challenges in their marriage or other relationships or health, the possibilities are endless. You know where they are.
We pray Your love is made known to them in powerful ways and is shared with every student and guardian in their sphere of influence. Lord, we ask for you to allow them to see the growth taking place in their students and the fruit of their labor this year.
In Jesus' name, amen.
Strength for the Day
Whether you are a teacher or not, I think we can get caught up trying to rely on our own strength to get through the day.
As a teacher, there were many times when the day was not going as I planned. And if an administrator walks in your classroom, you can bet something crazy - absolutely bonkers - is about to happen.
Nothing is off limits.
Even losing a contact lens. Not mine, though that would have been easier.
Much easier. I would have just pretended it didn't happen. Who needs that contact anyway?
But instead... One second I'm leading a math lesson, and the next I'm simultaneously washing my hands so I can help this third grader with his contact while reminding the rest of the class to "Go back to your desks and finish your work..." (Imagine my I'm-not-stressed-even-though-I-really-am-we're-all-gonna-make-it-through-this-crazy-moment-together tone of voice.)
I'm hoping I can maintain order and the kids really do get back to work so my administrator doesn't have any negative feedback for me. Surely she understands these things happen, right?
My first reaction? Fix, fix, fix. Do, do, do.
4:00 would come and I'd be spent. Totally spent. Day in and day out of fixing and doing, it didn't take long for me to realize something had to change. I couldn't keep this pace.
Praying about this as a first year teacher, I realized I never invited Jesus into these moments with me. I didn't have a lot of time in those moments between teaching and counseling and mothering and befriending and disciplining and reteaching and playing and nursing and motivating and encouraging these eight year olds.
But the good news is God doesn't require hour long prayer sessions from us. All I needed to do was silently offer up, "Help me, Jesus" and He'd take over.
It was a game-changer in my classroom. I saw God's power at work.
This became my silent prayer not only when administrators came in but every morning walking into my classroom. Then throughout the day, I began to call it out silently when a child became frustrated or I became frustrated or a parent became frustrated and all the other emotions we shared together.
I'd go home tired but it was a different kind of tired. I wasn't drained from doing everything myself. I was strengthened as I relied on Him. I was encouraged to return the next day and see what He was going to do in and around me.
I could relax even in the surprises, knowing whatever was about to take place was in His hands, not mine.
Whether your day is spent in a classroom setting or not, let's remember those three words, "Help me, Jesus." He's ready and able.
For those who are entering a new school year and feel the mix of excitement and exhaustion that back-to-school brings, here are a few words to encourage you -
Choosing to be a teacher is choosing to be an influencer. We can influence for good or for bad. We won't always get it right, but we can cling to the One who does, so we can help shape the next generation in the way of light and truth.
Have grace for your students and your peers. And have grace for yourself. Invite Jesus into your days and your classroom. Learn from the Great Teacher, the Great I Am, and be a vessel of light and love to your students and peers this year.
We're so thankful for you. When the execution of the day's lesson plan feels like a 6/10 and you feel sleepless and defeated, know help is only three words away. Verbally or silently offer up, "Help me, Jesus." And, He will. Invite Him into your classroom and watch in amazement at what He can do.
Excited for all the growth and fun and challenges that this year will hold! As much as you'll teach these kiddos, they'll teach you even more. Open your heart to all you need to learn this year. God has a way of speaking through even His youngest of children - be sure you're listening.
Kind of like this one - I'll never forget it. I was praying on my way to work, and later that morning during literary centers, a student brought his writing to my desk. Obsessed with dinosaurs, he delivered it with his adorably shrunken T-Rex arms paired with a full, robust roar. The day before, we had just learned the sound "ch" makes, which explains why he spelled "trust" as "chrust." Seeing him apply what we learned, my teacher heart wanted to explode. Then, I read it and my heart basically did...
"Chrust in the Lord."
I sat there for a few minutes, humbled how God could use this five year old to share truth my heart desperately needed. Truth delivered to my desk by the cutest T-Rex you ever did see.
If God did it for me, He'll do it for you, too.
And I think this reminder is for all of us - "Chrust in the Lord." Lean not on your own understanding. In all our ways, let's acknowledge Him and He will make our paths straight.
Your cheerleader and friend,
May we find strength in time with Him, joy in seeing His reflection in the students' faces and personalities, peace when we invite Jesus into our days and rest in His faithfulness to lead us well.
Here are a couple fun ways to encourage the teachers in your circle.
Show a teacher you know how much you appreciate them with these fun tags to tie around a scented hand soap, lotion or hand sanitizer aka "hanitizer."
One of my favorite back-to-school traditions is gathering with teacher friends for a fun brunch and sharing stories of the crazy, exhausting fun that is August.
Check out these yummy and easy recipes from my kitchen. They've been tested and proven to be winners around here, so I hope your crew enjoys them as much as we do!
Here's what's on the menu this year:
Breakfast Class-erole (see what I did there?!)
Primary Colors Fruit Bowl
Blueberry Crumble Muffins
Lemon Blueberry Scones
Fresh Squeezed OJ (Not!...Ain't nobody got time for that. It's from the local grocery store, y'all.)
Let's gather together and celebrate our incredible teachers!
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The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
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