For 14 years, I have been an English teacher. It’s hard work, and throughout those years, education has changed significantly.
More restrictive testing requirements and state standards have robbed teachers of the flexibility and creativity we once enjoyed. Increased demands of these new requirements on instructional time have actually decreased the amount I can cover in a year.
I get less done with more interruptions. I was a better teacher before all this, which is disheartening and frustrating.
I’ve come to the realization that I will likely have another career after teaching before retiring for good.
This is because I don’t see myself continuing along this restrictive trend that is relentlessly churning ahead. As hard as I try to visualize it, there is no teacher version of me in my late 50’s and beyond in my mind’s eye.
Thankfully, one thing that hasn’t changed in 14 years is that students need caring teachers. Despite the bureaucratic nonsense, they remain the bright spot through it all. Some of them need a little more care and attention than others.
Every September, I ask God to show me who He needs me to see in the upcoming school year. I want Him to use me to bless and encourage the ones He sees fit to place in my path. Every year, He faithfully delivers.
There’s no doubt I have been strategically placed at my school, for now anyway. God knows how the yearly schedule will shake down in our complicated computer system. Sovereign and intentional, he orchestrates and arranges.
After a relaxing Spring Break, I returned to class this week. Upon my return, I had a fleeting moment that reminded me that I’ve been deliberately placed “for such a time as this”.
One of the young ladies in my second period senior class stood by my desk after the bell rang. She is a quiet girl. Bright also. She’s had a difficult life based on the little I know about her. Despite her difficulties, she is a polite student who tries her best.
A young man was also standing nearby, waiting for my help with a question about his research paper. I turned to the girl first and asked her what I could do for her. Her reply both touched and broke my heart.
“Nothing. I just wanted to say hi and that I missed you.”
I was taken aback by her statement, but managed a flustered thank you, stammering something about how she’d made my heart flutter. With that, she was gone, off to her next class.
In September, she hadn’t been on my original roster. By logistical necessity of some kind, she had transferred from an afternoon English class to mine in the morning. Her class placement was meant to be.
I’m the only teacher who teaches 12th grade College Prep English in the morning.
Thinking back, I don’t remember helping her much on her assignments. However, I complemented her new haircut once and asked her about her plans after graduation another time.
When she had some personal difficulties in the fall, I think I may have given her an extension on an assignment deadline. Nothing major, at least not to me.
She’s one of the ones I asked God to show me back in September. I learned this in April.
Sadly, I sometimes forget that I’m “on assignment” at work. When I do, frustration and weariness distract me. I stop looking for those I’ve asked God to show me because I’m busy feeling sorry for myself or annoyed at the system.
Yet here I am, placed in a classroom by the parking lot by God, quite on purpose.
Today was a divine reminder that it isn’t all about me. Somehow I was meant to mean something to a quiet girl with a tough history. I hadn’t set out to. It was by a higher design.
This reminds me of Esther, who had a much grander assignment that mine. Chosen by King Xerxes to be his Queen, Esther was thrust into an unlikely position to help her people. She didn’t set out to, but God had a purpose.
Esther was Jewish, yet didn’t publicize it. Instead, she accepted her placement in the palace and waited for the right moment. When she acted, it changed the course of history. If you’ve never read her incredible story in the Bible, it’s not to be missed.
In short, Esther’s cousin Mordecai begs her to use her position to save the Jewish people after he discovers a plot to destroy them. He feels she has been placed in her position at just the right time to intervene on their behalf. In Esther 4, he challenges her:
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?
Esther’s placement in the position of queen was not helpful unless she chose to use it. She could have lamented being chosen by a foreign king. Her fear could have caused her to remain silent. However, she chose to embrace her placement and use it for God’s glory.
I’m no queen, but I do have a Kingdom to consider – God’s Kingdom. My sphere of influence happens to be in a large public high school. Lord forgive me when I allow my own frustrations to obscure my purpose.
While I can’t overtly preach the Gospel in my classroom, I can live it. I can encourage students while holding them to high standards. It is within my power to show kindness and grace.
These things cost me nothing. However, they yield dividends the likes of which I won’t fully understand on this side of Heaven.
I’m no queen, but I do have a Kingdom to consider – God’s Kingdom.
Though it is not necessarily my dream to stay where I am forever, it is my placement for a time. For such a time as this…
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