By Marilyn Rhames
If you’ve been a teacher long enough, you may have come to expect a few goodies from students and families this week, Teacher Appreciation Week. And if you’re a mother who also happens to be a teacher, the love fest tends to continue past Friday as the following Sunday is usually Mother’s Day. Since women make up more than 80 percent of the teaching workforce, this is a big week for female educators!
But schools are now closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so most of the handwritten love notes from students will be verbally or digitally conveyed if they come at all. However, the reality is that if there were ever a time to give a teacher thank-you-so-much-for-all-that-you-do type of attention it is now.
For example, my daughter and son’s principal Ms. Johnson had the monumental task of shifting her entire school online in a week’s time, while also providing my 8th-grade daughter with live online instruction for an hour, twice a day. That was a Herculean feat–all while making sure her own two daughters are getting their virtual school work done simultaneously.
While teachers are fortunate to still have a job and collect a paycheck during the coronavirus pandemic, many of them are under more stress and working more hours than they had been when the school buildings were still open. In a recent Education Week article, reporter Catherine Gewertz explains why public school teachers are finding their new role as online instructors so exhausting. It’s complicated because not only has the workload increased due to a steep technological learning curve on the side of many families as well as educators, but social distancing has caused some teachers to experience intense waves of grief and anxiety, Gewertz said.
It’s unfathomable that the teaching profession could get any harder!
Teachers Who Pray (TWP) was built for times like this. Even without the tyranny of the new coronavirus, TWP recognized that the education profession nurtured a culture of teachers working 12 to 14 hours a day and constantly feeling overwhelmed, insufficient, and frustrated. We knew that they most often the hardest efforts to do a “good job” would never catch up or surpass the level of need in our classrooms.
When I hit my proverbial wall in the classroom, I had to accept the hard truth: the only one who could meet every need in my classroom is God–and I am not He. Philippians 4:19 says, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” I had to learn to do my best and let God take care of the rest.
So this Teacher Appreciation Week, I want to thank you, educators, for being the hidden first responders of the Covid-19 pandemic; you are serving our country, alongside the doctors, nurses, and other essential workers. I invite you to take some time to celebrate all the wins they have won as they continue to teach students via online platforms. Have some cake. Take a victory lap around the block (wear your mask). Take a relaxing bubble bath. But there’s a way to take your Teacher Appreciation Week to a higher level.
In the midst of acknowledging all your hard work, show some deep appreciation to God for affording you the great privilege of blessing and serving a child in His name in this great time of need. Instead of focusing on the stress of the job, take this week to express gratitude for still having a job–and a job that is so close to Jesus Christ’s own heart.
Mark 9:36-37 says, “And [Jesus] took a child and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.’” Christian educators have the opportunity to serve God every day if they serve children every day with the love of Christ. No matter how hard the job of teaching gets, an educator’s heart made tender by prayer will lead to an attitude of gratitude.
What if the meaning of Teachers Appreciation Week is slightly different this year during the coronavirus crisis? What would happen if every believing teacher took this week to intentionally receive students in the name of the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ? What a powerful spin on Teacher Appreciation Week … teachers appreciating God in a special way all weeklong.
Marilyn Rhames is the founder and CEO of Teachers Who Pray, which currently has more than 130 chapters nationwide. She is a leading expert in the integration of education, faith, self-care and holistic practices for teachers and the author of the book, The Master Teacher: 12 Spiritual Lessons That Can Transform Schools and Revolutionize Public Education. Marilyn has shared her work at universities across the country, including at Harvard and Yale, and gave a TEDx talk called “Why Faith Will Fix Education.” Marilyn served as a Chicago Public Schools teacher and education blogger for 14 years. Her first career was as a New York City reporter for PEOPLE, TIME, New York Newsday and The Journal-News.
Teachers Who Pray welcomes blog submissions from educators and school staff of faith who want to encourage the body of Christ during the COVID19 pandemic. Submit your 400-600 word blog post by emailing it (or sharing it with editing permissions via Google docs) to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are selecting entries on a rolling basis and will edit the piece in collaboration with you before publication.