We're doing a half-day retreat with a few schools' worth of teachers next week. I wrote this to process my own thoughts on the reading we chose for the theme as I started working on the program.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.
For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.
For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.
2 Timothy 4: 1-8Teachers are responsible for the formation of minds and spirits; for the futures of entire generations of children. They don’t get periods of time where they can lapse. The game doesn't end when the kids leave their classrooms in June, they go on to the next teacher, and the sixth grade teacher needs to be able to count on the fifth grade teacher, who needs to count on the fourth, and so on. It's a paradoxical profession: the work itself is done solo, but each teacher feels deeply the repercussions of their colleagues’ work, for good or ill. The short and long view must exist simultaneously.
When the kids walk into a classroom, their new teacher might be able to ride the momentum from their previous teachers, or might have miles and miles of ground to make up. In either case, the job is the same: get them ready for the next step.
The objective is to get the students where they need to be. Full stop. As the saying goes, it’s that simple and it’s that hard. It’s hard because a legion of outside -- family, neighborhoods, economic status, friends, previous teachers, motivation, learning difficulties, resources, time, and on and on – cohere and expand each other to make the task seems practically impossible. It’s simple because not one of those things ultimately changes the objective. Both as a profession and a vocation, teaching obligates its practitioners to strive towards the goal, no matter what. All this because nothing, outside of the family, is more important.
So it’s critical – absolutely, utterly critical – that teachers stick to their guns and teach, no matter what; that they run the race and preserve; that they keep the faith in their students’ abilities and in God’s unwavering presence in their ministry; that they perform the work of the evangelist by permitting the Holy Spirit to work in and through them.
In every moment of this immense task, there is unlimited possibility. If the bottom line is that teachers have to teach, no matter what, and if it is so critical, then there can be no doubt that God is intimately and thoroughly involved in the ministry of education. There can be no doubt that He will give those who take up this vocation what they need, so long as we are willing to really take it up. Whatever we hold back diminishes the results, but the returns are exponentially greater than what we give up if we pour ourselves out -- if we run the race.