From the Teacher's Desk

Guest post by Samantha Hammett

I never thought I would say this, but I’m ready to go back to school. Yup, I said it. Usually, even after a week of break, I am still tired, still restless, still wishing for more free time. The reason: I’m an over-planner. Even in my breaks, I plan every moment of every day - coffee dates, new restaurants, trips to visit friends I haven’t seen in months - trying to squeeze the most out of my time off.

But this break is different. I had only a 24-hour notice that it was happening. I was alerted during the final period of the day on a Thursday that Friday would be the last time I would see my students for the foreseeable future. Harder still, I wasn’t going to be able to do any of those things I normally do during a break because of the newly established norm of social distancing.

But maybe most difficult, is that I can’t see my students’ faces (at least not really). I can’t tell if students are “getting it.” I can’t have the personal connection and interactions that I have come to crave as a part of my job. I know many people enjoy the occasional self-isolation in and out of the workplace, but it is not a coincidence that I chose a job where I interact with 150-plus humans a day... that is on purpose!

I was struggling. I was anxious. I was overwhelmed.

But I was also in awe. The ways that the community I teach in has come together to make valuable learning accessible to all, and food for students’ families available to all are incredible.

As Ken Buck of the Lancaster County School Board in South Carolina put it in a recent Facebook post:

“We gave educators almost no notice. We asked them to completely redesign what school looks like and in about 24 hours local administrators and teachers ‘Apollo 13'ed’ the problem and fixed it. Kids learning, children being fed, needs being met in the midst of a global crisis. No state agency did this, no so-called national experts on curriculum. The local educators fixed it in hours. HOURS…No complaining and no hand wringing - just solutions and amazingly clever plans…”

As the weekdays approached, I was looking for ways to seek God’s purpose in all of this.

A dear friend of mine from college shared these Scriptures earlier this week that have served as my source of daily meditation, and God revealed three insights:

During trials, Desires Quickly Become Idols.
James 1:12-18; Job 2:9-10

When we allow desires of our flesh to become our obsession and focus, we allow them to distract from God’s word and God's direction for our lives. We create idols that rob us of the joy and peace that He has promised us.

School from home has caused in me a desire for control and the ease of normalcy. It may not come as a surprise to some, but before the “School From Home” announcement, I already had all my classes planned through the end of the semester: daily lessons, tests and projects, and even some of the handouts and materials already printed.

At first, I was frustrated and even a bit angry that most of this would have to be scrapped and revamped. But what I’ve found, despite some frustration and extra time spent planning, is the freedom to be creative and plan the more authentic and life-based lessons every teacher secretly has in the back compartments of their brains. Because end-of-the-year testing has been canceled, I finally get to teach what I want--for the JOY of learning! It is easy to be bogged down by the “could-have-beens” and “should-have-beens,” but I’ve been encouraged to think this week about the “what ifs” and “why nots.”

We Must Die To Self To Live In Christ.
Romans 8:18-30; 1 Corinthians 10:13-22

Beyond my experience as a teacher, I also have experienced this week as a millennial (yes, I admit to it). I was looking forward to all the things on my calendar in these weeks: a production of Chicago at my high school, a “Cupcake 15k” with coworkers, Roaring 20's Prom, a visit from my parents to attend a crawfish festival, a visit from the McIntyres from Boston, my 28th birthday, and even my very first half marathon. I was bitter when I realized slowly, but surely, all of these events and activities were disappearing from my planner.

But my role as a millennial also meant the recognition of responsibility and obligation to stay home, to practice social distancing -- if not for myself, then for those in my life who are immunocompromised. I learned that to die to my own selfish desires is not only the way to protect those I love, but also a way to truly experience the gift of Christ’s love for us.

While these weekends to come will be much slower (and less expensive as my husband Tyler gladly points out!) than expected, I’ve been given increased opportunities to pause and reflect, to spend time in Scripture, and to read from all of the wise and sound scholars of our day. And while it may seem counter to what social isolation sounds like, I have reached out to and checked in on many people in my life who I would otherwise assume are doing okay.

In the classroom, the flexibility of the curriculum has even allowed me to encourage my students to do the same. I am asking them, even if a bit begrudgingly, to journal their feelings and experiences during this time. And when the stories and grievances of others become heavy and hard and real, I can spend time in the quiet and rely on the Spirit to fill me with peace as I pray to the Ultimate Healer.

We Have Hope For The Future
Isaiah 45:5-7; Joshua 2, 6:22-25; Matthew 6:25-34

If nothing else, this week I was reminded of the quality of God that drew me in when I was a lost and broken college student. He redeems us, He has plans for our future, despite our pain and suffering, and He uses our brokenness and vulnerability to further His kingdom.

The story of Rahab has been a source of light and hope from the beginning of my walk with Christ: a prostitute saved from destruction because she feared God, and in doing so, helps to further the lineage and story of the future Savior. This week we spent some time in her story as a part of the women’s Bible study, and I was reminded again of God’s ability to “work all things together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

As God reminds us so many times in His word, He created the heavens and earth, the ocean and mountains, the birds and beasts, and every single one of us -- each to serve a purpose. He speaks, and the waves and clouds and all of creation listens. Should we not also do the same? Evil does not come from the Lord, but instead, He provides for our futures, even if we do not know what that future will be. So although a storm rages around us in this broken world, we can rest on the fact that our “God is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

I encourage you to read through the passages above and meditate on the ways God speaks to you in the stillness and quiet.

I will leave you with a though from my friend: “I hope these words revitalize you to tap into the peace that surpasses understanding and moves you to ACT. Look for ways to provide for others. Share the love of Christ by being helpful. And for the love of all that is holy--wash your hands.”

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