This year has presented a lot of challenges, changes, and development for me. As a 2013 graduate, fresh out of college, I decided to switch from the role of student to the role of teacher. When I started my role as a corps member for an educational non-profit, I envisioned myself as somewhat of a humanitarian with a certain agenda. I planned to go into the school system and make a significant difference in the life of every child that I encountered. I was going to inspire them, I was going to motivate them and I was going to save them from the negative influences of the world. I was ready to conquer and I was ready to teach! I mean, I went to college and I’ve been through my fair share of life so what could possibly go wrong??!
Reflecting on this year with my students, I’ve realized that I am the one learning an abundance of new information. There is nothing that truly prepares you to teach or even to learn. They’re both processes of life and they happen simultaneously through life experiences. Working with eighth graders of varying personalities, strengths, talents, and challenges has given me an opportunity to learn what it takes to really motivate people. By understanding what is important to my students, what makes them unique as people, and what they are responsive to, I have been able to inspire them. My agenda now has shifted from “saving my students” to showing my students that someone cares about them. I’ve learned that simply showing that you care has been the greatest motivating tool and allows people you care about to “save” themselves.
Simultaneously, during this period of revelations in my life, I found myself in a new church where I’m also learning and growing spiritually. I usually find myself so wrapped up in learning Scripture and engraining it in my heart. My greatest hope is to be able to eventually teach others and help them grow nearer to God. In the meantime, I learn and I observe until it is His will to have me inspire others. There have been many things that I have learned through Scripture and through being a student that I believe will help me be more ready to help others:
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19 NIV
In order to do what’s in the Scripture above, we need to exercise patience. We should be patient with others as we are patient with ourselves. Everyone has their own individual learning journey. Everything will happen at its own appointed time. We must be patient though and slow to become frustrated. We must be diligent.
Every day, I consistently tell my students different ways of managing self-control. Some days, it feels like nothing I tell them is getting through. I tell them to be patient and quiet as they raise their hand to get the attention of the teacher and as soon as I turn around I hear a student scream, “Miss! MISS!” Students are constantly in verbal combat over who can say the most degrading things to each other and neither will “take the high road”. In report card conferences, I hear way too many “She gave me an “F”, because she doesn’t like me!” instead of I earned an “F” because I sleep in class. Then, one day a student says, “Ms. Danyelle, I listened to what you said and ignored those girls that said something mean to me. Now, they’re upset and I’m chillin’.” Although this seems like a minor feat, this student has taken a step towards being able to manage their emotions. There are unseen processes that are happening within the learner, but if the teacher is consistent and diligent, the learning does take place. It’s important to be patient.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40).”
God said it! Therefore, we can only conclude that loving your neighbor is SUPER important. We cannot say that we love one another if we draw barriers with our preconceived notions and judgment. We cannot draw closer to one another and draw others closer to God unless we try to understand, empathize with, and truly love one another.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be (James 3:9-10 NIV)
It’s important to always be considerate of one another. We cannot say that we truly love God if we do not love others made in God’s image. We have all fallen from grace. We must humble ourselves before God and love one another, “flaws and all”.
Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be. Job 8:7 NIV
God is always at work to lift up those who are humble. So, we should always stay clear of false pride. Everything that man is proud of is temporary, it fades. High positions, power, money, and clothes are all here today and gone tomorrow. Those who remain humble, have a bright future.
I can see humility within my students and myself. Those who are bold enough to admit their faults and ask for help, receive it. Those who remain prideful and chase away help that comes to them, generally have a harder time maintaining. I admit freely when I have made a mistake or if I simply do not know an answer with my students. Now, that they know that I as an adult, a human being, make mistakes they feel free to admit their own and feel more comfortable.
- Be diligent
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 1 Timothy 4:15 NIV
We must be diligent in teaching and learning “…because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” We must be consistent, we must constantly be striving to do better and we must always share our experiences with others.
There are many things that are important in teaching, but one of the most important things has to be organization and consistency. In a world where everything is constantly changing, God stays the same…his Word stays the same. We must mirror this in our studying and our actions.
Danyelle Lashay graduated from Howard University with her Bachelor of Arts in Economics. She is currently completing a year of service with City Year Greater Philadelphia. Danyelle looks forward to starting a graduate program in Public Administration & International Education Management at Monterey Institute of International Studies, a graduate school of Middlebury College in the Fall. She enjoys sharing her insight about education, current events, and spirituality. You can follow her on Twitter, @Mitchell_Dany.