This last Tuesday, along with her crinkled coloring sheets and handwriting homework, Anny pulled out a folded up little note from her backpack. “My mom write this for you,” she said.
The week before that I’d been losing focus. I was getting frustrated about little things like innocent clumsiness and mispronounced words, which are very normal things to find in a first grade classroom! I had a hard time being encouraging and patient, and I had no reason to. My students are young, smart, and they seem to love school no matter what mood I’m in. Which made me even more frustrated with myself. My students deserved better of me.
Prayer is important. It is important to pray, to talk intentionally with God. I’ve learned that although sometimes my prayers feel empty, they fill me with awareness. I couldn’t summon up any more patience from myself in the classroom, and last week I was choosing frustration instead of prayer.
Over the weekend I knew something had to change, and my mind flashed back to how earnestly I had prayed at the beginning of this school year. I had never taught before, the one time I had met my students they were all super shy, I didn’t know what to expect at all, I was scared! I prayed a lot that first week of school. I prayed for patience, for creativity, for joy, for compassion. The first week of school went great. So did the weeks after. Within each school day, I became aware of the opportunities for the things I had prayed for. Prayer gave me awareness.
I wanted things to be like that first week of school again. I realized I needed to turn my mind to prayer. “God I need patience. Help me to show more love, more compassion, more joy.”
On Monday, my students were the silliest they had been the entire school year. They dropped colored pencils all over the floor, made silly sound effects instead of the actual sounds of the alphabet, and laughed at almost anything I said! Instead of responding with frustration, God showed me this opportunity to laugh along with them. Their happiness and silliness was contagious. It had been all along, I just wasn’t aware of it!
That Monday at school was especially fun. We still did the same math, handwriting, and spelling homework as always, but opportunities for frustration turned into opportunities for patience. And that patience was rewarded with a happy, silly first grader and kindergartener smile.
That was Monday. Tuesday morning, I read the note Anny handed me from her mom. Here’s a picture of it:
“Hello, madam mindy. Really we are very very happy and pleased by you. Jack, Anny are doing excellent. so God is with you otherwise no one teach kids like you. God bless you, thank you.”
I felt so humbled. She was thanking me, when it was actually her kids, my students, who were doing the real teaching all along. Her words affirmed how important prayer needs to be in my life. Prayer brings awareness, and it surrenders our shortcomings to God. It opened my eyes to the happiness and joy that had always been seated in the two little wooden school desks across from mine. I’m excited for next Monday.
Mindy Robinson is a student missionary from Walla Walla University serving as an elementary teacher in Malawi through the NAD Office of Volunteer Ministries and Adventist Volunteer Service. This was originally posted on her blog on Nov. 14, 2015, and is used with permission.