Federation of Protestant Reformed Christian
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"Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ"

A Heart to Teach – Those Who Can…Teach (3)

“You’ve all probably heard,” my professor began, “the phrase ‘those who can’t..teach’. It’s our job to debunk that myth because it’s not true.” Huh? I’d never heard that phrase before. The professor continued, “Many in our society don’t appreciate the work and talent that goes into teaching.” Fervent nods from my classmates. “Those who can’t…teach. Society depicts teachers as idiots who are inept at everything from social skills to practical life skills,” the professor’s voice escalated to a crescendo as he came to the crux of his argument. “They say that those who can’t, as in, like, can’t do anything, they teach, and subsequently, since they can’t do anything, they also can’t teach. Those that can’t teach.” Disgust washed over his austere face, “What a load of bologna. We are teachers and we can. We can teach.” Stump-speech finished, he paused and took a breath before launching into his plan for the day.

My brain, however, lingered on that phrase “Those who can’t…teach.” Something about that phrase deeply disturbed me. My impression of teachers had, as a whole, been one of aptitude to teach rather than ineptitude. In fact, in my experience, I had met and learned under many teachers who weren’t only good at teaching but possessed a wide and diverse set of abilities. Quite a few of them, I’m sure, could easily have done other occupations and been quite successful at them, and that brings me to the main point of this post. One of the reasons there is a shortage of teachers is that those who would make good teachers would also make really good scientists, builders, accountants, nurses, salesmen, painters, computer programmers, and the list could go on and on.

Every year, I make a concerted effort to think about which of my students would be good teachers. Once identified, I work to find the right time to mention it to those students, although, to be fair, I’m not always the best at the ‘right time’ part of it. One time, I pulled a student to the side after school, had a sincere conversation with this student, before letting him return to his after-school mission…tracking down the teacher that would be serving his eighth-hour detention for too many tardies – the irony. After chuckling with the student the next day on the timing of it, I told him he’d still make a good teacher. Regardless, one thing always strikes me about these students: they would be good at a lot of things. They’re often gifted in many areas, whether that be academic gifts or physical gifts or personality gifts or a mixture of all three. They are able to do a lot of things.

These students also often have the hardest time knowing and deciding what to do. For some of them it’s crystal clear, but for many their wide range of interests and abilities opens many doors and career options. If you’re reading this and you’re one of these individuals, the very best thing you can do to clear your head is to talk about it. Talk about it with friends and family; talk it over with your minister. If you have a good relationship with your teachers (which, for the most part, those who would make good teachers do), pick their brains. Never feel embarrassed to ask a teacher you trust whether or not they think you would make a good teacher. There is, however, one more key ear you need to share your thoughts with: your God’s ear. His ear is always open and ready to listen, and He knows what is best for you. Talk it over with Him as He knows the inner workings of your heart and He knows how to lead and direct you in the path that is best for you. If you come to Him searching for answers, He will provide them:

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:7-11)

Now we know that it is all in His timing, but we also take comfort in the assurance that He is our heavenly Father. He loves and cares for each of us. When you bow to Him, it is amazing how He will make His way clear. What does this (the confidence in God’s will for you) feel like? That’s a complex question, and I’m sure it’s somewhat different for everyone. I’ve only felt what it’s like for me. However, there are certain things in common that individuals drawn into education share. The next post in this series, Lord willing, will address this topic more in-depth. For the sake of this post, simply remember that you are not alone. There is nothing shameful or wrong or embarrassing about asking those in your life about your own gifts and talents and what they think you’d be good at. When writing, especially something extremely important, we seek outside perspective by having others read our writing. As the author, our perspective can get warped and disjointed so that it is hard to gain a clear understanding of what worked well and what needed improvement. So too, when we are thinking and dwelling on very important developments in our life, we need not do it alone. Talk to your friends. Talk to your parents. Talk to your teachers. And never forget, talk it over with your Father in heaven for He knows and He cares.

Parents, family, friends, teachers – you also play an instrumental role. Be “all-ears”. Often you can be most-influential by listening and providing truthful answers. Also, be on the lookout. If you see someone that has the makings of a teacher, mention it to them. It doesn’t have to be anything major – a short, kind comment can do amazing things. I remember influential people in my life who encouraged me to be a teacher. Some of these same individuals helped in guiding me back towards education later in life after I had dropped out. This included family but also included several teachers who steered me towards education. I was given the opportunity to work as a teacher’s assistant in high school and that really prompted me to more seriously consider teaching as a career. Remember, many who would make good teachers are also good at many things. It can be a real confidence-boost and encouragement for these students to know that someone else sees in them the ability to teach. Don’t underestimate the power of words. God has given an uplifting power to positive words of encouragement. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Heaviness [anxiety, uncertainty, etc.]  in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.” You never know exactly how God will use your words. If the opportunity to encourage someone with the heart to teach arises, don’t miss it, seize it, and then trust that the Lord will use that word for whatever His intended end.

And in doing so, God molds and shapes each one of us into the part of the Body of Christ that He has ordained. We all have different skills and gifts, and God has granted them to us for a reason that we might fit perfectly into the niche He has carved for us:

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. (I Corinthians 12: 4-12).

And that really is the heart of it. While our focus is so often on each of our own personal pursuits, abilities, and callings, it is important to remember the big picture. God has given us our gifts as part of His organic Church. It is a body. We each have a role in that body, designated by God. So, those that God has given the ability and heart to teach have been given those abilities by God their Maker so that they may best serve Him in His kingdom and within His body. May we build each other up and encourage each other to use the gifts we’ve been given within that body: “Comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do” (I Thessalonians 5:11).

Mr. Ethan Mingerink is a teacher at Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Feb 28, 2019


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