What to say about my good friend and sister in Christ, Hannah? She is so wonderful and honestly, she's just a whole woman! I cannot believe it has been about 4 years since first meeting her but I was so excited to sit down with her and chat about life through all the craziness of COVID and what she has been learning as a new teacher in the classroom while still a student in the craziest classroom of all, life.
We got to sit above the pool at our complex on a really nice day and there, she opened up about her first-year teaching and having it be interrupted by this mess called COVID-19. Hannah is an elementary school teacher and working in the public-school system in South Carolina, there are so many restrictions she has to work through and around, one of them being not talking about God in the classroom.
"So being a teacher, there are things that I can and cannot do, one of them being speaking openly about God because we have to be careful of all faiths. And I totally get that, though I want to be able to share Jesus with my students; so really, I just gotta be creative in the way I show Jesus to them. One of the main things being showing the fruit of the spirit: self-control, patience, kindness, and to be honest...I failed miserably my first year, haha! It was so hard to do that because I lacked confidence. It just didn’t quite feel natural yet. I could tell in the small moments one on one with my kids that they really do need Jesus, as we all do. They need Jesus to respond to their questions and life problems, not me. The Lord humbled me for real, for real! I know I'm not gonna be perfect and I will make mistakes and for anyone following Christ, not just as a teacher, you're gonna have to be ok with that. He has given me a new definition for mistakes: a new opportunity to grow. He has taught me how to be more coachable and it's been really great to be honest! Once I opened myself up and put away my pride, I was able to grow as a person, follower of Jesus, and as a teacher. I want to be an example of Christ in the classroom and only by submitting can I do that."
Seriously, what a woman! We chatted some more, we even got to spend some time just catching up since we hadn't seen each other in a while. I decided to follow up her statement a spin on an otherwise all too common question; I asked her what the most surprisingly easiest aspect about had been incorporating her faith into her job. She had this to say:
"One of the simplest things to take back from my time with Jesus in the classroom is to see people as He sees them and not see them for their actions, feelings, and mistakes. It's very easy to forget that. Also, to let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. I got to have integrity in that and develop that aspect of my life. The Lord brought it to my attention, and I was like, “oh other people struggle with this too….it's not cute, we gotta change that haha! The Lord’s gonna have me wherever He has me and it’s another opportunity to trust Him and show the kids how to be brave. He will be with me whatever it looks like and whatever His plan is. Teaching my kids how to go through hardships well is super important and as a teacher, you have to be flexible in any given situation."
We then shifted gears a bit and talked about the difference between being a teacher and being a leader for her high school girls in ministry. There were obvious differences being able to share God with her girls in small group vs teaching in a classroom setting but there were surprising differences that she would have never thought about until having been placed in that new space.
"While being a teacher, I feel like I take on the role as a parent. I can correct my students immediately. In FUSE, it’s more of an older sister role and leading them back to Scripture throughout their life. Because I can be more open with my FUSE girls, it feels very different doing ministry as a FUSE leader as opposed to being a teacher in a classroom. Plus [her high school FUSE girls] are at the point now where I can treat them as adults. It’s just a difference in roles in the lives of my students vs my girls and how I can practically be loving them well. With my classroom, I am in more control as an authority figure than with my FUSE girls, I don’t have that same control. So my role as a leader is talking, asking questions, and praying a whole lot. Because I am ultimately not in control, God is, I am just doing life with them as a sister in Christ. Another thing is being vulnerable with FUSE vs being a teacher: with FUSE, it’s hard because the lies that pop into my head are that they won't come to me because I am still a human and growing and struggling with things. I don’t have it all together. Vulnerability with my kids at school looks different. But they really appreciate those things because it reminds them, I am still human too. I can admit when I am wrong and learning that has opened me up to apologize to them when the Lord calls me to."
There is so much growth that has happened in the years that I have come to know Hannah and so be able to see the growth happen in very real time hits different. If you don't have someone in your life you can life with like that, I really encourage you to be praying for that kind of community because I am just so encouraged by her walk! As we ended, I asked if she had any final wisdom to give and she said this.
"The daily things matter, that is, the little things matter. Because it’s the little things that add up to who you become. Reading your Bible daily matters, whether you think it's relevant in that moment or not. Praying daily matters because He is faithful. And the way you react to things matters, it's what you do with it and how grow from it. Everything is like a tree: your roots grow deeper so when the wind comes to sway you, you will not budge because God is keeping you. Even if you don’t see yourself growing taller, your roots are growing deeper. You’re not going anywhere, and you will have peace."
I really hope you have been encouraged by her story and if you have anyone in your life who is also a young teacher, I hope you can share this with them. We will never have all of the answers, but we do have Jesus and He is so gracious to cover us when we need Him. The Father also is there to listen while the Spirit is within us, keeping us at all times. I pray that you can go out into whatever field you were called to and remember the things Hannah said as they point you back to Jesus!