Overheard while using my wireless clicker from inside my pocket
D.: “How is he doing that?? It’s blowing my mind right now!”
They say that October of the first year is supposed to be the hardest month of teaching. Before I started this job, and even a week into September, that made no sense to me. I couldn’t imagine how October could be more exhausting, disorienting, and overwhelming than the first month of school. At the very least, even if the workload stayed the same, I figured that I would have had things more or less “figured out” by now: routines in place, grading systems established, lesson plans prepared ahead of time, etc. In retrospect, I was being wildly optimistic (at best). Far from having things figured out, I feel like I’ve just become more and more disorganized as time has progressed. Or more accurately, the organizational systems that I learned during college and at Institute have been unable to keep up with the demands of teaching. Indeed, my to-do list, like the mythological Hydra, seems to grow two new items for each one that I check off.
Incredibly, rather than crying out to God in the midst of chaos, I’ve continued to rely on my own wisdom and strength to get me through. I don’t need experience to know that this is not sustainable. A friend said something interesting to me the other day: “I always had an impression that [in college,] you were always put together and knew what you were doing.” And it’s true, I was generally successful during my college years. Yet at the same time, most of the people I knew back then who weren’t already believers probably had no idea about my faith, or if they did, saw no connection between my faith and the work that I put into school. I want that to change. If anything, even in my deepest, toughest struggles (when I’m a complete mess), I still want to be able to trust in God’s faithfulness so unwaveringly that even those around me experience the “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Phil 4:7). I pray that I would take to heart Jesus’s exhortation in the Sermon on the Mount—that I would “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Mt 6:33), being mindful that all other things will be added to me.
By the way, I absolutely love teaching, lest anyone be led to believe otherwise by the struggles that I mentioned above. As cliché as it may sound, I love seeing the light turn on in my students’ eyes why they finally understand the connection between functions and their graphs, or figure out how to calculate confidence intervals, or realize that they can (correctly) complete my sentences during lectures. I love when students come in to my classroom after school, not to complain about homework or pick up books left behind, but to just hang out and talk about their lives. I love hearing from fellow teachers that students are actually beginning to enjoy math now that it makes a little bit of sense. Most of all, I just love my students. Before I began teaching, I wondered how I could possibly love 120 almost-strangers, particular 120 high school juniors and seniors who I thought wouldn’t care about math or school in the slightest. I marveled at TeachForUs bloggers who seemed to overflow with care and compassion and affectionate anecdotes about their students, wondering if I’d ever feel the same way. Long answer short: I do. I want my students to work hard, get smart, and achieve success. I want them to enjoy knowledge the way God meant for it to be enjoyed. Most of all, I want them to realize that they are loved and valued, to realize that there are people in this world and a God above who care for them more deeply than they can imagine.
I should get back to lesson planning, but before I go, here’s a video that I played endlessly on repeat over the summer and recently rediscovered through a friend’s link on Facebook. No matter who you are or what you believe, I would encourage you to watch it. For me, this is a refreshing and powerful reminder to praise God without ceasing:
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.