The Secret of a (Not So) Super Teacher

Every year, a couple of seasons in the school year convince me that I am in the wrong calling. Things build up and I become overwhelmed with what a failure I am as a teacher. I look around at the clutter, the kids who are struggling, the parent emails, and I figure that I am not cut out for this.

I watch the teachers in movies and TV who are always so sweet, perky, loving, meeting every child’s needs, saving children from poverty, ignorance, family situations…and they somehow manage to remain looking beautiful throughout the entire day (true story – one of my kids journaled that they liked how my hair looked…in the morning. Apparently by afternoon, it wasn’t up to standard!).

Sometimes I feel like I am drowning just trying to keep up, much less being like one of these “super teachers”.

I hate the feelings of weakness and insufficiency when I don’t have the answers. My pride retaliates at the idea that I have not “arrived” in my skills as a teacher.  I look at the  heavy responsibility for shepherding my students spiritually and academically, and my knees buckle beneath the weight.

God recently reminded me of the story of Joshua. He had a gigantic responsibility to lead the entire nation of God’s chosen people. He had huge shoes (er…sandals) to fill from the former leader, Moses. And God placed before him an enormous task of going in and conquering the Promised Land. I can’t help but wonder if Joshua had any feelings of insecurity or uncertainty similar to the feelings that plague me.

So at the beginning of the book of Joshua, God gave him some instructions and reassurance.  Typically reassurances from our well meaning friends and family members include listing our accomplishments and qualities and why we are perfect for the position.

That’s not what God did.

Not once did He list all of the reasons He chose Joshua to lead the people.

Not once did He remind Joshua of all of his qualifications to be the leader of Israel.

Nowhere does He sing Joshua’s praises.

Nope, God wasn’t trying to bolster Joshua’s self esteem as he faced a difficult, possibly overwhelming task.

Instead, God reminded Joshua of who was going to be with him as he faced this enormous responsibility.

Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave your or forsake you. (Joshua 1:5b)

Have not I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9)

Can you imagine the feeling of relief, security, & confidence that must have enveloped Joshua?  It’s okay, because God is going with me! The same God who repeatedly showed his faithfulness to Moses is the same God promising to be with me!

When I feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of my responsibility, I must remember that the same God of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Esther, and David is the same God who is with me as I enter the classroom every day.

My assurance in times of uncertainty and difficulty must be in God’s character, not my qualifications. The solution to feeling overwhelmed is not to try to convince myself what a great teacher I am – it’s to turn my gaze to my amazing God and His promises to me in His Word!

Joshua is not the superhero leader swooping in to save the people of Israel.  God is the superhero  of this story…and He is also the superhero of my story and my students’ stories.

When I try to become the superhero in my own story, I face immense discouragement and frustration…because I realize I am woefully inadequate.  I have taught fractions every way that I know how and Johnny still doesn’t get it.  I have pulled every trick out of my bag to help Sarah pay attention in class to no avail. I don’t have the patience to repeat what page we are on for the fourth time.  I don’t know how to respond to that parent email or phone call without getting defensive. I don’t know how to keep my hair looking good all day long instead of just the morning!

I am not a super teacher.

But I have a super incredible God.

And the secret I must always remember  is that I am merely a tool in my super incredible God’s hands.

When I walk into my classroom each day, I am not walking in alone.  I am walking in…

  • Accepted & beloved through Jesus Christ though I deserve to be cast aside & punished. My acceptance is based on grace and not what I accomplish for God today.

 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)

  • With the power of God working in and through me. The same power that created the world, split the Red Sea, felled the walls of Jericho, and raised the dead is the same power at work in me and my students. Wow!

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. (Eph. 3:20)

  • With the prayers and intercession of Jesus Christ & the Holy Spirit on my behalf before the throne of God.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27)

I can breathe when I realize that I am just the tool, not the superhero.

Now, of course, I am not advocating a simplistic “let go and let God” approach whereby you never attend professional development, search for new ideas, and grow in your knowledge because, after all, “God’s got it covered!” Joshua didn’t just sit back and hope that God would make sure it all happened okay. God gave him instructions to stay in God’s Word and be careful to obey (Joshua 1:7-8). Joshua had to step out in faith and actually lead the children of Israel. Joshua had work to do, and so do we!

If I am going to be a tool in God’s hands, I want to be the best tool that I can be! So I will seek to grow and expand my skills…but at the end of the day, I realize that without God, I am nothing.  You can have a beautiful, strong, & powerful tool that is the best tool available on the market…but if it’s not in the hand of someone who can use it…it’s nothing, just sitting there on the tool bench. On the flip side, many a great master has done incredible work with a tool that is not the newest and best. The Master’s skill is the key, but we want to be well prepared tools for His use.

So relax your expectations for yourself to be a “super teacher”.  Rest securely & confidently, knowing that everything does not solely depend on you! You are a tool in the hand of a loving, powerful Heavenly Father. His presence & His power are enough of a reassurance to face the overwhelming.  Stay close to Him, depend on Him instead of your limited abilities and resources. He delights to use broken things for His glory!

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might (Eph. 6:10)


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