If You Can Read This, Thank A Teacher

My granddaughter says she would like to become a schoolteacher. Why? “I love to teach,” she says. With two younger sisters, she gets lots of practice.

That’s great, and it’s probably the fundamental reason anyone goes into teaching. However, I wrote back to Leah with a list of 10 additional considerations she should take into account before deciding on the teaching profession. You will think of additional matters and as always, we invite you to leave your comments and suggestions at the end of this article. Leah reads it each week (she’s almost 16 now) and will appreciate your input.

1. Do you love people? Here and there on this planet you will encounter people who love to teach science or math or history, but they do not love to teach people. Remember, it’s not lessons we are teaching. It’s people.

2. Do you enjoy learning? Good teachers devote themselves to a lifetime of learning. Without that, they fossilize. The old joke goes that a teacher claimed to have twenty years of teaching experience and someone replied, “No, you have one year of teaching, twenty times.” The only way to stay fresh in the ministry or in the classroom is to be continually growing and studying and learning.

3. Are you willing to work hard for inadequate pay and insufficient appreciation? You live in a country where a running back for the New Orleans Saints gets eight or 10 million dollars a year, but the men and women who teach its children earn slightly more than the minimum wage. This is improving, I hear, but as the cost of living increases, the pay of teachers will probably never be what it should. Is that all right with you?

4. Can you do your job well even while seeing little visible evidence from day to day in the students that you are doing a good job? I recall sitting in some outstanding classes where professors were giving incredible lessons, but where most of the students were sleeping or daydreaming. I wondered how the teacher got up the strength to continue with such negative feedback. I think the answer is: it comes from within.

5. Can you handle discouragement? These days, you will sometimes encounter school administrations and boards of education that feel the parents and children are the customers and your job as the teacher is to please them. You dare not give a child a failing grade; you might damage his self esteem or keep her from getting into college. Can you keep going when no one around you seems to value what you are doing?

6. How do you deal with interruptions? Teachers’ days are studded with interruptions, everything from announcements from the principal’s office over the p.a. system, to children’s problems, drop in visitors, distractions outside the window, and a hundred other things.

7. Can you handle interference into your classroom work by those who claim to know a lot more than you do about the work you have given your life to? Parents and supervisors and other experts will be telling you how to do your job. Can you smile and take it, and respond in a sweet spirit? Can you do it several times a month for nine months a year and keep it up for thirty years?

8. Your principal has some extra work she would like you to add to your teaching load. A committee to serve on, a project to lead, some products to sell, a club to sponsor, another group to advise. Can you keep secondary matters in perspective and your life in balance?

9. Can you see teaching as a higher calling and work for the Master rather than for the headmaster? Can you offer up your labors as an offering of love to your Heavenly Father, instead of working for the children or the money or the esteem or the satisfaction or the school or the school board or the community or for yourself?

10. Can you do all of these things and still see teaching as the noblest of all professions? Can you get your satisfaction from knowing you are shaping the minds and lives of tomorrow’s leaders, whether they have a clue on that or not? Can you stay focused on your calling and your ministry and give yourself to it year after year?

If so, then you are “called.”

I still recall as a tenth grader the day the principal called me into his office and asked me to help a classmate with his math. We sat in the outer office and worked a few problems when suddenly the student looked up and smiled, “Joe! This stuff makes sense the way you explain it. You ought to be a teacher.”

That’s where it all started with me. I’m grateful to Jerry Crittenden for being used of God to plant that seed in my mind and heart. Yes, I did become a pastor, but teaching is a big element in that. Any minister who stands to preach without teaching people is missing a key portion of his assignment. You may recall that Jesus was often called “Teacher.” It’s a high title.

Leah, I hope you do become a school teacher. Your uncle Neil is a teacher. That surprises a lot of people who knew him in his school days. He was a major test to almost ever teacher he ever had and the rumor is he gave one of them a heart attack. In fact, he was 28 years old when the principal of our Christian school here in New Orleans suggested that he consider teaching. She put him to work in the junior high and he began taking courses at night for teacher certification. After a few years, he resigned and moved across the river to Northrop-Grumman, the defense contractor that manufactures ships here in New Orleans, where he has been teaching workers and supervisors ever since. Hey, if you can teach junior high, you can teach anybody.

There’s a wonderful reminder to would-be teachers in the New Testament letter of James. “Don’t be in a rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us are perfectly qualified.” (James 3:1-2)

10 thoughts on “If You Can Read This, Thank A Teacher

  1. Leah, I was a member of the youth group in your granddad’s congregation in Columbus, MS. I knew at 16 that I wanted to be a teacher, too. I’ve never regretted it! Some days are challenging, but most days are rewarding in some way. It truly is a special calling from God – good luck!

    P.S. Tell your Uncle Neil that I’m not surprised he teaches – he was always wonderful with people of all ages!

  2. Dear Leah,

    Your grandfather is a very wise and God fearing man who will cetainly guide you in the right direction. His questions are really something for you to consider, but if you feel a definite God calling to teach by all means do so. I remember I had some pretty rough teachers in High School who were very dedicated and were tough on the quizes but were very dedicated to the profession and to the students they were teaching. I had only one Professor in College that stood out above all others. She was a tough teacher, very caring about the students and would hold classes at night at the end of the semester before finals to go over the entire years work if you were interested in coming. She gave some of the most comprehensive finals I ever had but she was fair. She was an Art History Professor who had 5 earned Doctorates. She went all over Europe every summer making photo’s from which to teach her students about Art History items that were not covered in the text. I remember well one semester I made 100 on the final exam and got a card from her giving me the grade and with the comment “I rejoice with you”.

    Bob King

  3. This Jerry Crittenden you spoke about in this article. Did he become a teacher? My principal at the high school I attended was also named Jerry Crittenden. Just wondering if they were the same. As for your daughter I wish her the best. Leah, just follow your dreams!

    Thank you.

  4. I am a Leah. I am a junior high teacher. I am perpetually 16 years old. I never thought I’d become a teacher: I was “too smart” for that, I was told. Life leads you down some winding paths, and you can’t see now where you’ll end up, no matter how much you plan. If all the things in this article apply to you, then you’ll be a teacher beloved by students and probably frowned upon by the people who stumbled into the teaching profession because they like the summers off. I enjoy my kids and I enjoy my class (Skills for Living), but it is a struggle to maintain hope and encouragement from day to day. One thing I didn’t see in here was the fact that, as a teacher, you are (or should be) always “on”. I’m always smiling, laughing and being a cheerleader for my kids, so, after 2:30 (ha! just kidding- 5:30!) I become an introvert. That’s the most draining part for me. The kids need us, though, and that’ll keep me here for as long as I feel led.

  5. Leah,

    I feel sorry for people who don’t get to be a teacher. It is the greatest job in the world! I have been teaching a long time and it gets better every year. Your grandfather hit the nail on the head when he said that God has to be your boss, not the principal at your school.

    My husband and I went to your grandfather’s church in Columbus, MS while we were studying to be teachers at Mississppi State. You are one lucky lady to have him as your grandfather.

  6. Thanks, Joe for this good word about teaching. My twin daughters just graduated in May with teaching degrees. They both begin their careers this fall. One will teach math and the other physical eduation. I am so proud of their “calling.” Their mother is also a teacher.

    Leah, I am glad you want to be a teacher someday. We need many Christian teachers answering this high calling. I’m sure your grandpa, Joe, has said to you many times, “Leah, you do that well!” Listen to grandpa’s encouraging words. I believe God speaks to us in many ways like this. God bless you, Leah. I look forward to hearing about you going to college in a couple of years to fulfill your life’s dream.

  7. Leah,

    I am a retired teacher of 29 years. I am so grateful that God planted the desire to be a teacher in my heart as I watched my mom, a second grade teacher, grade papers and prepare for each days lessons. She instilled in me a love for people FIRST, and if that is there, then the desire to help children be the best they can be will follow naturally. The work is hard, the pay low, but the joy of watching a child learn is beyond measure!! We need Christian teachers in our schools and I pray you will bless and be blessed as you make this your career!

    Claire Parlier

  8. Thank you Grandpa Joe and everyone for all your input. I appreciate the encouragement.



  9. Leah, I would like to add number 11 (if it is OK Bro. Joe.?)

    How are with “rewards” that have no value in the world’s eyes? There is no way to express the joy I feel and the student feels when they have brought me an old folder, or a beat up apple, or a favorite toy wrapped by themselves to give me as a gift. The joy does not come from the item but form the face giving it.The best payment for my job does not come in the form of my paycheck,but in the form of my students. The “rewards” are not the tangible gifts that I receive but the smiles, hugs, giggles and attention that I receive as a result of the investment I make in my students. The world looks past all of that; looking at the monetary value. To me it is the catalyst for showing up the next day.

  10. Leah, teaching and working with children is the best occupation there is. Teachers are who teach all others to make a living. It’s not just the money, praise or education that should matter; it’s knowing you made a difference in the life of a child. If you are in education for any other reason, then you need to get out. Our children are to important to be taught by individuals that don’t understand. If you feel the calling and in your heart you know this is where God wants you to be, then you are the one we need in education. I only wish we had more like you…. May God Bless you in your education and the work he has planned for you in the future. Remember, God is in control and he always has a plan for us if we will just listen. Obviously, you have heard the Lord and are willing to let him direct your path. Remember, it want always be easy, but it will be the most rewarding job you will ever have, except for being a mother, nothing can top that.

    May God bless you and my prays are with you….

    Jan Handy

    Walker County Board of Education

    Mother of two wonderful children (Chris, Lindsey)

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