Four years ago I walked into my new Spanish classroom and set down my purse on the desk. Me and my purse –that was what I came with, to this incredibly challenging job of teaching.
“Newb” is what the young people call it.
Brand new teacher with no experience and nothing up my sleeve. I hung my college diploma on the wall and gave it a weak smile.
Now look at me. Last year I bought two five-drawer plastic containers to hold all of the language games and activities I had created from Pinterest boards. One drawer holds a pair of wax lips and a plastic skeleton that I found on clearance after Halloween, for when we get to the body vocabulary. That skeleton’s name is “Señor Huesos” (Mr. Bones), if you care to know, and for a short stint he hangs from a hook on my dry erase board.
Now I have three-ring binders full of crossword puzzles and word searches and translation exercises.
Now I have a wooden crate crammed full of Spanish children’s books, thanks to my librarian mom (who totally gets me and puts Spanish books about puppies and frogs in my Christmas stocking.)
Now I am a teacher with more than a purse and a diploma.
But what about the people? All of those supplies, collected by the grace of God, are only the superficial need of my classroom. What about the students coming in with their hearts all in different places? The student whose parents are divorcing. The student who is filled with anxiety about succeeding well in school. The student who needs help leaving his inner kid behind and picking up increasing responsibilities. What about students’ relationships with each other and their interactions with me? What about the example I need to set for them?
Where are the Rubbermaid bins bursting with patience and kindness and joy and discernment and wisdom for the myriad of relational moments?
As I gear up my inner person for a new school year, I’ve been meditating on two verses. The first is Paul’s declaration:
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. (Romans 7:18a NIV)
The second is Jesus’ statement:
Blessed are the poor in spirit. (Matthew 5:3a)
When I feel inadequate to walk into the classroom, to manage all of the complexities that come with caring for a room full of people, I know that I am right to feel inadequate. I’m walking into the classroom with nothing but me and the Dooney and Bourke my aunt gave me.
You might try to say nice things to me about what a wonderful person I am and what I have to offer to those students, but I know that without Jesus I’m a teacher with an empty file cabinet where character should be.
Mr. Bones and I know we’re lacking.
My teaching supplies will grow every year, but there can never be a year when I don’t walk into school recognizing my poverty of spirit. I will always be needy and dependent on the Lord to provide all that is good. This is where I position my heart before I unlock my classroom door again, and in this low place Jesus says I am blessed.
Blessed is the teacher who needs everything.
I’m sure you are looking for the blessing of God as well. That blessing begins when you look at your people and the hard work ahead of you and say, “There is nothing good in me, that is in my sinful nature. I am poor on the inside.” Then you know how much you need Jesus, and that lowly posture of heart invites his pleasure and unlimited resourcefulness.
Know what? One of the best morning prayers I’ve started saying is, “Lord, you know I got nothin’.”
You may borrow it.
And may all blessing be yours.