He Has a Purpose
When you are choosing a career path and want one with purpose, teaching is great for that. You might be encouraged by people who aren’t even educators say that teaching is “a noble profession,” that it’s “honorable” and “respected,” even. I’ve also heard people say teachers “prepare the future for success.” All pretty lofty words to make you feel good about your choice. Then, you’re in college education classes and you can’t wait to get in a classroom and start making a difference. Then you graduate, and when you interview you “want to make an impact on the community.” Then you get the job, and when the first day of school rolls around, you still want to “change the world.”
I hope these passionate goals drive your whole career. If you’re like me, though, discouragement came as reality sank in. Teaching is still a job that has pros and cons, just like any other profession.
I started to lose focus on my purpose as an educator when students started acting up in class. They were not responding positively to the classroom management strategies I read about in graduate school. I became more disheartened when my students groaned about a unit I put a lot of effort into and am passionate about. I spent a good deal of time the summer before I started teaching creating thematic units with engaging projects and exciting ways to introduce students to material. When the first few lessons tanked and the projects looked like they were thrown together in five minutes, I wondered if I was in the right field.
When students don’t seem to care as much about their own education and future as you do it’s natural to start questioning your purpose and wondering how you ended up in the classroom. Somewhere along the line of behavioral issues, unmotivated students, unsupportive parents and non-teaching related tasks that must be completed, the purpose of teaching can be hard to see, and your purpose can be impossible to find.
Purpose can be hard to find in any job at times. I went through the same thing as a journalist. I loved writing and have always asked a ton of questions, so it was natural that I wanted to be a member of the media. In college, I fell in love with the idea of being the “watchdog of democracy.” My thrills came from chasing ambulances and police cars to break the story. I excelled at editing and landed a prestigious internship, which then landed me a job right out of college in any journalist’s dream city: New York. But I started losing sight of my purpose when I went from learning about chasing down sources like Deepthroat to write stories like Watergate and started editing and laying out pages about Miley Cyrus going off the deep end. When my boss told me to scrap a local news page I had been working on all day because the release date changed for one of the Harry Potter movies, I knew I would never be happy in journalism.
After a few years in the classroom, the same emotions started creeping into my mind about my purpose in education. I knew it wasn’t realistic to start a third career path at the age of 31. But what was I doing at my current school when nothing I did worked? What difference was I making when I could see my students looking up to common criminals on the street instead of caring about the more noble, worldly skills I was busting my butt trying to teach them? What could I do about it? What was my purpose? Would a new job, a new type of school, a new district help me? My classroom, my lessons, my career. I, me, mine.
Nothing had purpose until I realized that it wasn’t about me. It’s not my purpose. It’s God’s. That’s what will make a difference, impact the community and change the world! I always felt God called me to teach, but never asked Him about His purpose for me as a teacher until now. This is what I found out.
First, I asked Him, “God, what is your purpose for me? Where do you want me so that I can bring you glory?” Through prayer, God told me “Stay put. Don’t seek a job in another district.The grass isn’t always greener if you’re doing My work.” It turns out it wasn’t a mistake that my first experiences with urban education in my mom’s kindergarten classroom gave me a heart for the underprivileged. It wasn’t a coincidence when God cleared the path for me to go to The Ohio State University for my Master’s degree when the only program they had was urban focused. Truthfully, I wasn’t fully aware of that fact until I had already started the coursework. And it wasn’t an accident when I never got a call back from the suburban schools I applied to and have only had experience in urban buildings despite my opposite upbringing. God put all these parts of my life together and I didn’t even notice. I was too focused on the next step. All I needed to do was ask God to be a part of my professional life and open up that conversation with me about my purpose. Sorry, not my purpose – his purpose for me.
You too must set change your focus and ask God what His purpose is for you. Where does He want you to be? Urban education is definitely not for everyone or the only place to make a difference. In fact, my wife teaches at a private school that we could never afford without her tuition discount in a well-to-do part of town. That is where God placed her to make a difference with the students He created her to work with. Think about your path to your job. How has God led you there? Or are there signs you missed along the way that may have led you to another place? Ask Him.
Steps toward a Christ-Like Classroom:
- Drop your purpose and pick up His.
- Pray for God to reveal His purpose for you.
- Listen to how you can bring Him glory.