“No one whose hope is in you will be put to shame.” Psalm 25:3a
I never wanted to be a teacher. Everyone said I would be good at it. I spent much of my teenage years volunteering in Sunday school classrooms, babysitting church leaders’ kids and neighborhood children. I knew how to connect with kids, how to make them laugh, and draw their attention. But there was a piece of me that couldn’t cross the chasm of my dream of being a missionary in the nations with teaching. I didn’t see how my desire to share the gospel fit into the public school setting, and wouldn’t that be the best setting for shining the light of Christ
Two years into my first position in middle school literacy, I began to question HOW I was going to make a difference, let alone have enough energy to last for an entire career. I even wrote a letter to a favorite university professor asking her how teaching could be so rewarding when what I was experiencing was far less than what she testified to in her teacher preparation class? I couldn’t reconcile analyzing reading score data and adjusting my teaching to meet the needs of middle schoolers who hated attending school and especially loathed my reading support class.
The hope I’d had that drew me into teaching was the belief that God knew my beginning from my end. He was worthy of my obedience and so I was committed to follow His prompting because I loved Him and wanted my life to honor Him. I knew God was faithful, but what was I to do with the discrepancy of what I thought teaching would be like and how it really was?As I was finishing my master’s program, I came across a church leader who offered to mentor me in education. He spoke about taking up my Kingdom Identity and authority in Christ in my classroom because I was on assignment. This resonated with my heart. It took me a while to let go of my separation of church and state lens and let my dream of being a missionary actually bleed into where I was already positioned for impact. Andre Benjamin taught me how to see myself as an ambassador for the King of kings, to recognize that I had authority to set the atmosphere in my classroom. In fact, I was called to be a thermostat (not a thermometer) for the unrighteousness, apathy, and victim-mentality of the staff in my building. I was to be an Isaiah 61 Light! I was called to be a missionary in my school and God had placed me strategically with middle schoolers of all different nationalities already.
Hope arose as I realized my identity as an educator of influence and intentionality. I became more and more aware of how Friend Holy Spirit really wanted to leak out of me to speak truth and life over my students (and my colleagues as well). I learned to use the power of honor with my homosexual principal and I won her favor to showcase my low readers for an evening of Reader’s Theater and a special guest speaker who taught our parents some Kingdom strategies to use in their homes with their youth. It was very empowering. My mindset has changed. I now believe the truth about my identity and purpose in the world of education and this has changed everything for me.
My experience is one of stepping out of hopelessness into hope filled vision. What made the switch for me? A vision of my purpose had flipped on the lights. I began to see myself as more than a teacher trying to swim upstream just trying to scale the stack of papers to grade, district mandates to fulfill, and the test scores to compare with last year. I had a vision for impact. I realized that I was a part of a team of believers walking into their Kingdom Identity– believing I was more than a Christian, but I was empowered by the Holy Spirit to hear his voice, set the atmosphere, take every thought captive, and create worlds with my words for myself and my students.
And you know what? My middle school and elementary colleagues started noticing the shift. They came to me asking what was different in my classroom. Several asked, “Why will _____ work for you and not for me?” My answer: I was tuning into the Father’s voice to hear what He was seeing in my students and I was calling it out. I was calling out their purpose and destiny– the skills, talents, and abilities that my students already had because the great Designer made them that way! This wasn’t a palatable answer for my public school setting, but that’s what brought about my book: “Speaking Words of Life in Your Classroom.” It’s a short and sweet book showing teachers what I did that made the shift for my apathetic students into a purposeful approach to learning. My book shares how to help kids see who they were designed to be based on their true identity, enforced through simple activities, and purposeful classroom management that calls them up higher into the designs they were fashioned with in their mother’s womb.
I began by praying as I drove to work, asking Father God what He was seeing, how He wanted to partner each day. Then when I arrived at school I would pray as I walked through my classroom and invite the Holy Spirit to come with peace, power, and healing. I would ask Him to minister to me as I was preparing. I would ask Him to touch my students as they were learning, creating, and building that day. I would anoint their desks and chairs as I prayed. I would set the atmosphere by playing worship music and when the kids came in I would switch it to wordless worship music. They would tell me how peaceful my classroom was. I knew they felt God’s presence. They knew they were loved, safe, and wanted because God was using me as a minister of reconciliation– called to draw all men to the heart of the Father.
You, too, Kingdom Educator, are the deciding factor in your classroom. You set the tone. You set the atmosphere and you’re the one who holds the expectations for your students’ behavior (and your own belief about what’s truly possible). It’s time to rise up with vision for this school year, but it starts with how you see yourself. You were born for impact. It’s what happens when you invite Jesus into your life. He wants to transform you to be more like Himself. You’re a Kingdom carrier, a conduit of God’s presence and it’s time to realize the hope-filled perspective He has for you so that you can truly leak out His goodness wherever you go!
Know that you’re being invited to step into a new mindset, too. Begin by listening to His thoughts for YOU (Zephaniah 3:17)– and take an active approach of taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). It is your job to engage with the truth about who you really are as a Kingdom person— a son or daughter of the King who is so very loved. I pray that you would let Papa God wash over your mind and your heart with the water of His Word and it would usher you into a new season of dreaming with Him. My prayer is that you would dream with God about what’s truly possible through your love laid down for students, staff, and your community. As you have encounters with Him, you can expect radical shifts in your purpose and your impact.
You are good soil. Don’t miss an opportunity to invest in yourself because the more healed and free you are the more you can hear and release the goodness of our God in the classroom. I can’t wait to hear your testimonies about driving to work with Jesus, dreams you’ll have that will propel you to speak life into the lives of your students, and how stepping out in faith has brought great personal breakthroughs for you, your students, their families, and your fellow colleagues. Our Faithful God is so proud of your glance in His direction and He’s so excited to partner with you through our Friend Holy Spirit, everyday.