After graduating college, I spent two years teaching in public school. The first year, I taught 4th and 5th grade reading, writing, and social studies. The second year, I taught 6th through 10th grade technology, as well as advising the yearbook. After my second year, I resigned to be a homemaker.
Both years had their ups and downs. I loved my kids and I loved being able to teach them. Though I love being a homemaker, there are moments when I sometimes miss teaching. Teachers are a special breed of people, and I don’t say that just because I was a teacher. 😉 It takes someone gifted to be able to pour into children and dedicate their lives to shaping these kids into adults, teaching them not just academics, but morals and life lessons.
However, it’s not just the kids that are taught lessons. My students, as well as my fellow teachers, taught me a lot of life lessons during my short time teaching, and I think they’re crucial. Here are 4 lessons that I learned in my 2 years of teaching.
#1: Life is hard.
Can I get an amen??? Life as a teacher is hard. Teachers work so relentlessly. Not only do they teach children and teens all day (that is difficult enough), but then they go home and their mind doesn’t stop running. They’re either grading, lesson planning, or worrying about the kid who doesn’t get meals at home. As a teacher, your mind is constantly trying to figure out how to reach different kids. “Okay, I taught nouns today and four kids stared at me blankly. What can I do to engage them? We watched a video today, so maybe we need to create a foldable tomorrow. Or I could let them come up to the board, but little Jimmy gets nervous when people watch him and Sally has trouble with spelling so that would embarrass her.” It’s a constant struggle, but you press on, because it’s worth it for the kids.
Life is hard for our kiddos, too. Some of them aren’t fed well at home. Some go home after school and don’t see mom until 9 or 10 at night. Some can’t worry about their homework when they have to work an after-school job to provide for their family. I know that as adults we hear these types of stories all the time and say, “Oh, well I don’t know any kids like that, so that must not happen.” You’re probably wrong. Kids are good at hiding their struggles. Life is hard for them. Even if it seems like all the odds are stacked in their favor, they’ve got homework, sports, and family responsibilities, and that’s a lot to handle. They press on, because they know they have to. But they also press on because they know their teachers are on their side, and that makes it worth it.
As a teacher, life is hard, and it’s even harder knowing that the lives of your students are hard, as well. But this actually encourages me. Life is hard for everyone, in every area of life. What does this mean for us? This means that we have the opportunity to make someone’s life easier, to encourage them, and to bless them! Sure, you can’t take away some problems, but you can take cookies to your next door neighbor. You can pay it forward and buy someone’s coffee. You can love people and speak life into them. Take the truth that life is hard and turn it into an opportunity to bless them.
#2: Words matter.
Y’all, if you’ve never heard teenagers talk to each other, brace yourselves. They’re mean. They know exactly what it takes to cut someone else down, and many of them use that to their advantage. I’ve seen many kids hurt deeply by words, but they’ll act too cool to admit the hurt. As adults, that’s frustrating. But you know what? Those kids didn’t make that up themselves. They learned it from somewhere.
I’ve watched teachers build their kids up with words, but I’ve also seen them tear kids down. Yes, students need to be disciplined and put in their place sometimes. But there’s no need for harshness. Adults, let me speak this into you: WORDS MATTER. What you say will either build the child up or tear them down. There is no in-between.
Proverbs has a lot to say about words, but the most powerful verse says this: “The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Proverbs 18:21) Friends, we can speak life into our students, our family, and our friends with our words, or we can absolutely destroy them. Please remember that words matter. Don’t casually say things that you think might hurt another person. Watch what you say and speak only out of love, even in the hard moments.
#3: Character counts.
I’m having flashbacks to cheesy elementary school programs with this one. But I think this lesson is crucial. So many students will sacrifice their character just to be cool. Being faithful to the promise she made in youth group seems like a smart idea until she’s dating the most popular guy in school. Spending time with his elderly grandma is great until his friends start teasing him about it. Driving her little brother to the skate park every day to spend time with him is her favorite thing until she becomes a cheerleader and is too busy to be kind.
Popularity, dates, and acceptance aren’t what lasts. Character lasts. To me, character is easily defined by the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the things that we need to teach kids, but these are also what we need to practice.
So many adults are willing to sacrifice character for a promotion, a friendship, or acceptance. God calls us to more. He calls us to live a life worthy of the calling (Ephesians 4:1). He gives us the Holy Spirit to enable to live a life of character, a life full of His fruits. And you know what’s amazing? When we focus on our character and put these attributes first, life’s a whole lot better.
#4: People just need Jesus.
I could almost always attach my students’ behavior problems to some other situation. When they fell asleep, talked back, got into a fight, showed disrespect, or had other misbehaviors, I could attribute that to their home situation or how they had been treated by other teachers or students. I do believe that those are factors, but that’s not the real issue. Even deep down, the real issue isn’t separation anxiety or depression or anything of the sort. The real issue is that they need Jesus.
Even students that are growing up in a Christian home need more Jesus, just like I need more Jesus. I need His grace, love, mercy, and guidance on an hourly basis. Teachers need Jesus, even if they’re saved. Our neighbors, the checker at the convenience store, the mail worker, they all need Jesus. We are faulty human beings, and we need Jesus desperately.
When I think of behavior problems in this way, it’s a lot easier to deal with. I don’t get so frustrated when someone talks back to me when I know it’s only because they need the love of Christ in their lives. Friends, let me encourage you. People don’t say or do things just because they want to. They do it because they need more Jesus. You can be an example of that for them. Show them Jesus. That is absolutely the best thing that you can do for them.
Related post: Why We Need To Teach Girls To Be Brave
These are life lessons that are important for all of us. Life is hard and we all know that. But when we focus on character and pay attention to our words, realizing that people just need Jesus, it becomes easier. Kindness and the love of Christ spoken into children and adults alike enact change and fill our hearts with joy. That is our call.
I realize that most people will never step foot into a public classroom after they graduate high school, and I can’t blame you. It’s a scary place, school is. Teachers get an interesting perspective and learn so much apart from academic content. The lessons that I learned as a teacher will no doubt impact me for the rest of my life.
What life lessons have you been taught as an adult? Share in the comments below! 🙂