Why I teach (aka “reprezent”)

Anybody who has worked with kids on a regular basis knows that the joys and the pitfalls you can experience on a daily basis.  Interact with the same kids every day for an entire year while trying to teach them an academic subject (high school science at that!) and you definitely learn a lot about yourself.

You either love it or you get out.

Regardless of coworkers, bosses, required curriculum, grading, parents, awful commutes, low salary, and all the other things about teaching that can make you want to quit at one time or another, if you can keep the perspective of loving on the kids, you know you were meant to be a teacher.

All those crappy things I listed above happened all at once this year.  Every commute to work I had to remind myself why I was going to work and why I needed to do a good job.

God had me become a teacher so I could love on kids. If you get right down to it, public high school teenagers.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Christian private school teenagers I get to coach during basketball season, but I come alive teaching high school kids who couldn’t think more differently than me.

And that’s what the past four and a half years have been like at my school; this is the living out of the name of this blog.  I’ve been the alternative to their alternative: Christian, married to a man, took her husband’s last name, celebrates Christmas, doesn’t swear (sometimes I slip up like when the valet at my doctor’s office wouldn’t park my car when I was late to an appointment because it’s after 4 pm which I found out later was a total crock), etc.  Yet somehow I found my yearbook filled with notes from students who tell me that I’m one of their favorite teachers (I’m sure they say that to all of us) and that they will miss me so much when I’m gone for a year with Baby Z.

It’s been a rough year.  I wanted out on a November Wednesday afternoon.  I wanted out again on a Friday night in December.  And then came the extremely tempting mid-year job opening at another school on a Tuesday in January.  But I stayed.  I knew God had me at that school for a reason.  I knew when I first accepted the job there four years ago (after student teaching there) that this was where God wanted me to be even though I was totally overworked (4 different classes) and totally underpaid (70% of full time).

Did I say this was a really hard year of teaching?  In case I hadn’t mentioned it, let’s just say that I could have been a terrible teacher this year.  Somehow, though, and only by the grace of God, He came through to my students in a way I only dreamt was possible but was never sure if I would see the day that it would come to fruition.

The day of graduation, the seniors celebrate with a special lunch where they share with their teachers why they appreciate them so much.  I happen to teach seniors so I get to have them right up until this super awesome time.  Two gals from my AP Biology class got up and talked about all of the fun memories this year, how they loved the rigorously high standards yet encouraging family atmosphere of our class, silly things we had joked about all year, and just how much they all loved me.  I always had fun with them but I didn’t realize the depth with which they felt about me.

The real kicker came when I read what three gals from this class signed in my yearbook.

The first was so sweet, such a compliment, and was even written in teal ink: “You are my top role model of this school and the world!  You are an amazing woman and the cutest pregnant woman in Seattle (the world).  Thank you so much for being a great learner and friend.  Love love love love, <Student’s name>”

The second came from a student who is very different from me in terms of how she grew up and how she lives her life yet somehow we are still friends.  Her entry is below.

Last but definitely not least is the entry that God used to confirm why He has had me at this school for the past four and a half years.  I taught this student in 9th grade health, again in 11th grade chemistry, and this year in AP Biology.  I have seen her evolution as a person and as a student and I couldn’t be more proud of the work she has put in to be such a successful young woman (she is going to NYU in the fall).

I could have slacked off this year and been a mediocre teacher.  I could have let my attitude slip and been a total jerk and just gotten through the day to get to the next thing so it could just be over and done with.  But God had other plans.  He wanted to use me in this girl’s life, and hopefully, in others.  Please read her note below.

“Maybe it’s not very relevant”?!?!?!?  How about it’s completely relevant and my ultimate purpose in the vocation I chose with which to make a living!  Somehow, through no doing of my own, she saw that my God is a wonderful God and that He gives me a purpose and sureness in my actions.  Her theology is a bit off but who am I to argue with that?  I couldn’t help but start crying when I read this.

God has used me at this school.  I never thought I would get to hear about it, but He blessed me by encouraging this student to tell me this extremely relevant thought – the most relevant thing of all – at the end of a year that proved to be incredibly trying.  Praise be to the God who does everything I never thought possible in the face of my negativity and human shortfalls!

That’s why I teach.  I love kids with the love that only God could give through me.  And because I really like science too.  But more on why I like science later.  I’m sure you’re all real excited for that one. 😉

One thought on “Why I teach (aka “reprezent”)

  1. Thank you for sharing Rachel. So inspiring and encouraging. I too had a rough year and your comments and positive outlook spur me on to rely more on God’s strength next year as well as remember why He has placed me where He has. Thank you again.

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