By now everyone is out of school, and summer has officially begun. Unlike other summers, this one feels different. The cloud of uncertainty hovering over the upcoming school year has left everyone feeling a bit anxious. Endless unanswered questions and constant conversations have fueled apprehension to the point where some are wondering if it is all worth it. Social media is full of comments that reflect this attitude.
· “This isn’t what I signed up for.”
· “It is next to impossible to adequately do my job.”
· “It is hard to see my students falling so far behind.”
· “I don’t know how to teach if I can’t be in a classroom with kids.”
· “I’m not sure I want to be a teacher anymore.”
Comments like these sadden me greatly, but the sentiments are understandable. As I look back over my own career, I don’t know what I would have done if I wasn’t allowed to hug my students! Teaching is so much more than imparting knowledge. While it is exciting to see our students learn, it is my guess that many of us cherish the personal connections with children just as much.
Let me encourage you to hang on. Your students need you! This world needs kind, compassionate, and loving educators. Our future depends on it. Yes, the immediate future may look different, but we must stay diligent as we navigate the next unpredictable school year.
So, what do we do in the meantime? What now? As I pondered these questions, I asked myself, “What would you tell your younger self?” You see, I started my education career nearly four decades ago. Surely I’ve learned a thing or two since then! As a result, I came up with 4 R’s to the “what now” question. I hope you can resonate with at least one of these.
REST. Take time for yourself, and don’t think about school! Worrying about next year is fruitless and will only make you more exhausted. At this point, no one has all of the answers, and most of the decisions are out of our control anyway. Enjoy this time and give yourself permission to simply relax. COVID-19 has forced many of us to slow down; however, if we are not careful, we can easily find ways to needlessly busy ourselves. Sometimes we have to let go of having to being productive all the time. It’s difficult to be our best when we are exhausted. Rest is valuable. Even God rested on the seventh day after creation. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus often retreated with his disciples for the purpose of rest.
Resting also means letting go of worry. Worrying is exhausting. Worrying is futile. Jesus knew if we were consumed with worry, we would lose sight of our purpose here. His message to the disciples many years ago is the same message for us today.
Jesus said to His disciples, “For this reason I tell you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; or about your body, as to what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storehouse or barn, and yet God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add one hour to his life’s span? So if you are not even able to do this very little thing, why are you worried about the rest?” Luke 12:22-26
Note to self: It’s okay to rest.
REPLENISH. To replenish means to make full or complete again, to supply what is lacking. I don’t know about you, but the end of the year always left me feeling depleted. Closing out a school year is a monumental task, and this year was no different. The demands of the job and the needs of our students often require a great deal of self-sacrifice. Now is the time to take stock of our needs and restock those areas of our lives that have been put on the back burner. This is hard. It’s difficult to admit that our jobs as educators sometimes take precedence over our own needs and sometimes even our family’s needs, but it happens.
What needs replenishing in your life? Do you need to spend more time with family? Do you need to take care of yourself physically (i.e., eating and exercising)? Do you need to finish some projects around the house? Do you need to grow in your spiritual walk with the Lord? If you said “yes” to any or all of these, you are not alone. The key to replenishing is also prioritizing. Otherwise, you may end up needing more rest!
I think it goes without saying that our spiritual walk with the Lord must always come first. I wish I could say this area never needs replenished in my life, but that wouldn’t be true. In fact, it is just the opposite. My spiritual walk is always in need of replenishment. Maybe you can relate. In the past, I would feel guilty about this, but God continues to remind me of His goodness. He provides a way for me to be replenished every single day when I choose to make Him a priority.
“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” John 14:15-17
While we will never reach full maturity in our spiritual walk this side of Heaven, our relationship with the Lord provides the strength for everything else. What needs replenished in your life this summer? Take time to make those areas a priority so that you have the stamina for reconstruction.
Note to self: Replenish before taking on something new.
RECONSTRUCT. Summers are a busy time for me. Early in my career I was either doing home improvement projects or taking courses at the university. I loved doing new things, and summers were a time to branch out. I embraced the saying, “Out with the old, and in with the new!”
Needless to say, this summer is going to be a bit different, but in a good way. Reconstruction can involve starting something completely new or remodeling some of our old beliefs and practices. While some of you may undergo real construction projects this summer (remodeling or new), the reconstruction here is in reference to self-growth. Given what all of us have experienced these past few months, I am willing to bet we have identified areas of growth needed in our own lives. I know I have. Maybe you want to be better at providing online learning, or maybe you want to devise ways to address the social and emotional needs of your students or staff next year. Maybe you need to increase your knowledge base in an area of instruction, or maybe you need to start a new Bible study so you can become more spiritually mature. You may be like me and want to combine a couple of these.
As I have stated in earlier blogs, my heart has really been burdened by the unrest in our country around racism. I have had to come face-to-face with my lack of understanding and neutrality on the topic (see Neutrality by Keisha Hill). I have so much I need to learn, but I also see this as spiritual endeavor. My reconstruction process will be listening to others, identifying my own biases, educating myself on the history of racism, and seeking God’s guidance and wisdom as I discern the action steps I need to take in order to be obedient to His Word. Reconstruction is an ongoing process. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen if we aren’t purposeful about our need to grow as believers.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2
The summer is short. We don’t want to waste the precious time we have. What needs reconstructed in your life this summer?
Note to self: Let God continue His construction process in your life.
READY. This recommendation is as much mindset as anything. Whether we are resting, replenishing, or reconstructing, when God is working in our lives, Satan goes to work. He wants nothing more than to weaken our faith. Ready yourself. Expect roadblocks. Expect opposition. Evil is just around the corner. It has always been there (Genesis 3). I am not telling you this to scare you. I’m emphasizing this because I don’t want you to be caught off guard.
During the establishment of the early church in Acts, the apostles faced unbelievable obstacles as they proclaimed the gospel all throughout Asia Minor. They did nothing wrong, but still they were persecuted. Despite their suffering, God’s provision always sustained them. I am amazed at how they remained focused, joyful, and determined. They did not allow their circumstances to derail their calling. In fact, their faith was strengthened. James assures us that trials will come, and when they do, we will emerge stronger than ever.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1: 2-4
Summer is a great time, and as the school year approaches, there will be bumps in the road. We can be victorious despite our circumstances if we remember who the real enemy is. Are you ready? What verses will you cling to? Who can you call for spiritual encouragement? Let’s be prepared.
Note to self: Get ready for battle, and remember God is the ultimate victor.
What now? God has a plan for you! Take time this summer to rest, replenish, reconstruct, and ready yourself for a great year!