Teaching is Bigger Than I Am: Facing Inadequacy and Maintaining Vision

Are you strong enough to teach?

Steve has been in the classroom for more than 16 years. Teaching, he says, is too big a job for anyone. What do you do with the reality of your inadequacy? Listen to Steve and Arlene describe how they face the demands of teaching, share the load, and keep the vision alive.

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Steve

I taught for about 16 years. Arlene’s been a key part of the school. She taught…

Arlene

One full year and several parts. Different callings are different, I don’t know that it has to be a team effort. Every husband needs prayer support.

Steve

But Arlene and I have shared a lot of the load in that. I mean, in practical was she brings to the classroom the art, the creativity, the bulletin boards, these kinds of things.

Arlene

I do all the decorating. Like charts, like the hundreds, you know, I’ll figure that out, I’ll usually come up with his story books for the year, organizing, just the organizing the classroom and trying to make it run smoothly.

Steve

I am more of a relational person and a people-oriented person. Organization is something for someone else. And she brings order to what I do.

But beyond that, she grew up in a learning environment, where education is valued. And I count it a huge gift that I can talk about my work at home. I have support and aid and wisdom and that’s great.

Arlene

I think he’s amazing. Some guys would probably get territorial or… He welcomes as much input as I want to put into the classroom. I’ve never sensed any insecurities or you know, “This is my job or my space, or…”

Steve

We’ve done things over the years like when I was in high school, more, she would do things like Christian ethics class, there would be girls’ conversations and then I would have guys’ conversations and it was great to build those relationships together and do the mentoring sort of side by side in a way where she knew where the girls were and she was able to get into questions that were not so much for me, you know? Still, it was valuable to be able to speak into their lives.

But one of the other questions we talked about was “How do you deal with inadequacy as a teacher?” And it’s kind of a strong statement: we ought to embrace that inadequacy or we ought to welcome it because it’s teaching school. Mentoring children, bringing up the next generation, is… I’m inadequate for it. It’s bigger than I am. And as I enter into that mission, that call that God has on my life, I have no space to be territorial about it. It’s all hands on deck, it’s way bigger than I am.

I sort of withdraw sometimes into my books or into my things that I’m going to do. And just downtime. And I have a basement office and, leave me alone for a while. In the bigger picture, I am blessed to be part of an accountability group at church where there’s several men that meet together regularly, and more than once, I’ve had to blow quite a bit of steam in those conversations and other men speak life to me and engage and remind me of the big picture, and call me to what God has to say to it.

Arlene

What I need from him sometimes when we just get bogged down in just the dailiness and you know, the late hours… I need him to keep verbalizing his vision. You know, the long-term picture. You know, we’re raising these adults, you know, not just training children. Providing that vision out loud, because I think he lives with it, but I forget it sometimes.

Steve

Raise the awareness of the vision. Raise the awareness of why it’s worth the sacrifices. And is that a God thing? I’m not sure; is that something that we pray for and the Lord opens our hearts to the amazingness of the call to be a teacher? It’s a privilege to be there with other people’s children and share information, yes, but life more. Verbalize the blessing that it is to be allowed to teach grammar and history and math to these children. To shape their lives for the future.

In regard to a young teacher feeling inadequate, I would say a word to administrators and board members. You need to be paying attention; that the teacher who really is struggling isn’t going to verbalize it very quickly sometimes. You’ll get a certain amount of verbalizing, but then sometimes you won’t get, depending on personality types. But the board needs to be vigilant, administrators need to vigilant in figuring out where people are at. Press into it and reassign.

But as a person, I go back to the notion that we are inadequate. Embrace it. The Lord has a purpose for you, he even used, you know… the Old Testament, the Scriptures are full of inadequate people doing God’s work, doing big work. And we are treasures in earthen vessels, that’s what we are. We’re fallen, we’re broken. We have big work to do. Praise the Lord, we don’t have to do it in our own ability and strength. We have greater strength than our own.

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