The Selfless Teacher

Patiently waiting for a first grader to painstakingly sound out a word, resisting the urge to help him out or correct him, and then relishing in the moment when he pronounces it correctly—this isn’t something most people can easily do.

Noticing months later how much a student’s handwriting, spelling skills, or history grades have improved is another reward bestowed upon only the patient, the enduring, the brave—the teachers.

Waiting until my students have understood and absorbed a concept before taking a restroom break myself, getting the standardized test scores back and seeing the results of months and months of hard work imparting knowledge on my part and absorbing it on their parts—that is another benefit of being a teacher.

Explaining a math concept for the second or third time, focusing more on the importance of my students’ understanding than my own annoyance at their lack of it, considering that it is perhaps even my fault and that I need to figure out a better way to teach that concept—all of these are traits of selfless teachers.

Muddy shoes, dirty fingernails, spilled lunches, torn textbook pages, bad breath, and body smells. These are all part of our world.

Meeting potentially annoying circumstances with a smile and approaching these challenges as learning opportunities—these also are parts of being a teacher.

To be able to smile, keeping in our vision the long-term effects of our efforts, or offering a quick prayer asking God to help us focus on what’s best for our students rather than what is easiest and most comfortable for ourselves—these are also aspects of being a selfless teacher.

These are all commodities that I call “teacher talents.” I believe that teachers have nine or ten talents and that we should use them to edify the body of Christ—not hide them in the ground—even if we do have to clean up vomit, grade stacks of papers, and not make lots of money. Being a selfless teacher is a gift from God, practiced and developed by those who care—those who know how important and exciting it can be to enjoy some of these memorable moments and to reap the rewards of our seemingly unending tasks.

And experiencing these moments is more important than money, recognition, our own comfort, prestige, or success. The children we teach are infinitely and eternally significant to God. They are our legacy, and we get to love and serve them!

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