Monday, September 16, 2013

The value of challenges

Here I sit. 

My windows are open and the breeze is blowing the curtains just a little. It's sunny out, and it's peaceful here inside the house. The shiny white tile floor is (currently) tidy, other than stacks of books and papers here and there that prove I have plenty to do. It would be quiet, but there is a funeral or something going on down the road, so monks are chanting/singing rather loudly over loudspeakers. It only adds to the Asian atmosphere, though...

It's Monday again, and classes are over. I'm thinking back on last week, and how things have changed. My students may have learned a few things (hopefully), but I'm pretty sure that I'm the one who learned the most.

I had absolutely no idea how last Monday would go. How much English did my grade 6 class really speak? Would they behave? Would they be too loud? Would I be able to handle all of them? Questions, and worries… but confident or no, I had to go to school. I had somewhat of a lesson plan, but it was pretty flexible since I didn't know what would happen.

All of us teachers began the school day with staff worship at 7am. We're studying through the book Education, led out by Tim Maddocks. It's been great so far. Still, I had jitters...

Soon enough the worship ended and it was time for flag raising. As the students congregated out in the courtyard, I meandered around the walkway and found my classroom. The door was open, so I slipped inside and wrote a few things on the board for our first class. Then I went back outside and watched the flag raising and announcements. And then… it ended and the straight rows of kids began to disintegrate. Deep breath… I met my students outside and greeted each of them, handing them an index card as they came into the classroom. When they were all situated, I told them a little about myself and then asked them to write a few details about themselves on their card.

As the day progressed, I tried things in each class. Some worked and some didn’t. Again, I wasn't sure how much English they knew, so I tried super-easy things with them and they flew through that in a cinch. OK… on to the next thing. This next thing was a little too complicated though, so I had to improvise and make it easier for them to understand. In math class, we had a similar problem. I assumed they knew some things, so went ahead and gave them a worksheet to do, but several of them didn't actually know how to do it. Back to the drawing board on that… and so the day progressed.

By the end of the day (my Monday schedule is pretty full), I was tired. I definitely had a better idea of where the kids were academically, but now I had to plan new things that I wasn't expecting! Sigh. OK… so I planned. On Tuesday, I taught the basics in some classes, and more advanced things in others. I still didn't feel very productive though, and was having a hard time actually keeping my collection of 35 kids quiet and working and understanding… not to mention that I couldn't remember all of their names. That night I planned some, and then finally went to bed.

Wednesday morning during my quiet time, I cried out to God. What am I even doing here? I'm not a teacher! I just sat on my mattress, only several minutes before I had to leave for school, and knew the only thing to do was pray. I needed God's help, and His energy, love, and wisdom...

I ate a little breakfast, and then turned my computer on for a minute to check my e-mail. Turns out, my mom was online. And she asked me how things were going. She encouraged me and told me she was praying for me. That was definitely a help! 

I went to staff worship, and it was an encouraging thought as well - to teach the young people the value of eternity, rather than the here-and-now success in life. We had Assembly that morning for the grade 4-6 classes, and heard a similar thought, on the value of eternity. (As I sat on the tile of the church, I couldn't help but notice a loooooonnng line of boys. Then I realized they're all mine - I have a LOT of boys in my class!!) Then we went to the next class, and it went so well! And the next did, too, and the next - and I had a short day so it was really nice. God really was helping me! It was only through His power that things went the way they did. The next day was a little bit better, and the next was too, and by Friday I was feeling like I had a better grasp on teaching. Only a little, yes, but I'm hoping that as I get to know students more and understand my curriculum more (please pray for English class, I'm still struggling with how to teach that), things will be even better. Praise the Lord - every bit of credit truly goes to Him. I'm so thankful…

My biggest lesson learned these last few months: I am ever so grateful for challenges and even feelings of despair. Why? Because God can work so marvelously through them, and He draws me closer to Himself when I feel my absolute need of Him. Every morning I woke up this last week, I knew that I had to spend at least a few minutes in the Word to have His power in my life. I wish it could have been more, but I did what I could. This week I'm hoping to make my devotional time longer.

Today I had an experience that really made me think. Some of you may have seen my update on Facebook, but I'll share it here...

After all, that's what I'm here for, right? May I trust my Jesus, continue falling in love with Him, and let His light and love shine out of my heart to the precious children around me.

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