I lost my job last week. Not just a job, but a home.
I walked through that purple door for the first time just about two years ago, scared out of my mind.
“What am I doing?!” “You’re not a teacher!” “You’ve never had an education class in your life!”
Satan hissed in my ears as I found a seat among strangers. I was overdressed, sweating, and I was sure everyone knew it. It wasn’t long before I realized that everything that enthusiastic southern man said in the interview was true. Jim Elliot Christian School is really a special place. I wasn’t exactly sure why at first (plus, I was super intimidated by the Coach and a little weirded out by the theatre guy), but as soon as the students walked through the door that first day I knew exactly why this place was so special. Those kids are a uniquely incredible bunch of hooligans.
That first day of teaching I watched as the clock counted down the minutes before some of that unique bunch of hooligans would walk in the door. I began to teach and while science-y stuff flowed from my mouth, pure joy flowed from my heart.
I am a teacher.
Jim Elliot Christian School changed my life.
I fell in love with education there. I fumbled and failed over education there, but always fell into grace. That’s one of the most special things about that place. You fail and you fall, but there are always arms there to catch you and let you down gently into grace with a box of Kleenex.
I learned that teaching is only 5% really about teaching. It’s 75% mentoring and appealing to the heart; 10% loving, listening, and proving you care; and 10% wondering where in the world all my pencils keep disappearing to. God taught me that the more I tried to pour biology and equations and methods into their heads, the less I got to their hearts. I learned that teaching is not about the more appealing Powerpoint, but it’s mostly about the authentic person you show your students.
I learned how to be honest and vulnerable to middle schoolers. Believe it or not, no matter how much I smiled or laughed or pretended to be ok, they could smell my fake from a mile away. It takes a lot of humility to stand in front of a bunch of kids and say “Guys, I am not ok today”. And strangely, the more open I was with them, the more I loved them.
I became a mom at Jim Elliot. Yes, God did bless us with foster children during my two years there, but I referred to my students as “my kids” from day one. While teaching, God affirmed in my heart that I did, in fact, have the capacity to love the children of another. God prepared my heart to be a foster mom with this unique group of hooligans.
Through that purple door, I learned things about myself that I really, really didn’t want to. I learned that there would actually be people in my life who didn’t like me that much… and I had to be ok with that. I learned I had actually fallen into legalism in spite of my railings against it, and I was not willing to see things from the perspective of others. I learned how to say sorry…a lot.
I became a grown up behind those purple doors, in the big classroom with no windows up way too many stairs.
I held a bleeding, unconscious child; I watched as teenagers watched their lives fall apart around them; I looked into the eyes of a child in pain who was just “so done”; and every time my heart broke just a little bit. Even so, the more my heart broke, the more crevices appeared to fill and fill up they did. I watched boys become men before my very eyes and I watched young women take a stand. I learned what burned carpet smells like and how to get a finger out of a test tube. I had to learn over and over again not to look at a magnesium strip when it’s on fire and I learned to laugh at the faces students made when I explained cellular respiration for the first time.
I learned how much I really don’t know.
I gave my all to that place. My heart, my time, my energy, my passion …..
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose
Because of Jim Elliot Christian School I have gained so much that I cannot lose.