“Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” (Matthew 19:13-14 NASB)
I spent my first year in the frozen northlands of Ontario, Canada, teaching French-as-a-second-language to English-speaking kids in an English school. French was mandated as part of the curriculum by the government, but this didn’t make the kids – or their parents – motivate for French. In order to do that, I had to rely on games, drama, music, and a host of other avenues to make learning French fun.
Towards the end of that school year, new postings came out. I was happy to learn that a French Immersion school very close to my house was looking for a Grade 2 teacher. A French Immersion school is also for English-speaking children, but all classes are taught in French with the idea that these children would emerge from their elementary years bilingual. The children were there by choice, and thus, French Immersion students tended to be a lot more motivated to learn French. The thought of having students that I didn’t have to work so hard to motivate was appealing to me, and I applied for the position and was accepted.
As summer came on, I began to worry. I had never taught a general classroom before, and especially not the early grades where students are still learning the basics of reading, writing and math. I really only knew how to teach the French language, not everything else! What would I do?
I should have not worried. From day one, those grade 2 kids and I got along beautifully. Although they were motivated to learn in French, not all of them were motivated to learn in general, and I found that all of the experience I had the previous year in motivating kids came to my assistance here as well. By the end of that first week, we were not only all having fun, but the kids were motivated to learn…Not just French, but reading, spelling, math and science as well. We even did some lego robotics. And whenever I didn’t know what to do to help them learn, God would give me the ideas I needed.
The principal at this particular school was fantastic. I have never had a principal before or since who was as supportive, kind and loving. Not only was she loved and respected by my co-teachers, but by all of the students as well. This made the school year so much more rewarding for teachers and students alike. When one of my students from the previous school asked if she could come and help in my classroom, my principal was in agreement, and I accepted her help. Jesus never said “no” to children, and neither should we!
There was only two downsides to our jobs that year. The first was the climate. There seemed to be only two seasons in our little town: Snow and blackflies. We found ourselves cooped up for 9 months of the year due to cold weather, and then when it finally warmed up, the blackflies came out and made it impossible to enjoy being outdoors. The second was that neither my wife nor I were working with the populations we had been trained to work with. My wife’s training had been with adults, and her job at the health unit was with kids. Besides, because the area was so underserviced for Speech-Language Pathology, she was required to carry impossible caseloads, and she found herself burning out. As for me, although I loved my grade 2 students, my heart truly was with junior high and high school students, and towards the end of that wonderful school year with those grade 2 students, my wife and I put out some feelers for jobs further south. It wasn’t long before we had both procured positions in the southern-most part of Ontario: She in a hospital, and myself, as a grade 7 French Immersion teacher.
I knew I would miss my grade 2 students. Especially when one of my students turned up at my house with her mother just before we moved to say goodbye. I was so excited to see her; but the visit was bittersweet. Her mom told me that all of my former students were missing me. Even though I knew I was going to a classroom that I was better suited to teach, I would miss these students and their parents terrible. I would also never again have such a supportive principal and teaching team.
The biggest lesson God taught me that year was that no matter what grade level, all students are important. He also helped me learn that no matter what students I was teaching or how well-prepared I was to teach, He would supply me with the required love for the kids, along with the wisdom to know how to motivate and help them. Finally, He helped me to understand just how special Heaven will be: No matter how far away I move, I will get to see my former students again!
In His love,
(To view the entire “Lessons From the Classroom” devotional series, please click here.)