Teaching Moments

Long time, no see (read: post). I just re-read my last post, and I’d like to say so much has changed, and it definitely has, but at times I still feel like I’m in that somewhere between place even though it’s now year two of teaching, advising yearbook, and being a true adult.

This past week, my yearbook staff found out about my blog and exclaimed, “Mrs. Brown (let’s be honest… most of them actually said Ms. Root because they’re some of the only students that will ever know me as who I was for just one year), you’ve been hiding an entire part of your life from us!”

Yes, kids. Yes I have. In the classroom and especially in my writing, I come off as confident and well-versed, but inside, it really takes a lot of courage to get over my fear of sharing my heart so publicly both at school and online, especially when my heart is captivated by a faith and beliefs that our world today looks at with a dismissive, disappointed scowl of preconceived judgement (we all do that a lot these days, don’t we?).

At work, my hope is that everything I do shows that I love Jesus and He is my joy and my strength because I don’t have the luxury of freely exclaiming that truth as a public school teacher. However, I know that the reality is I struggle with gossip that comes so easy in the rare moments I get to spend with adults during the work day. I know that with the kids, I constantly hold my tongue because I don’t want them to see me as their “religious” teacher and dismiss everything I want to teach them. 

I fear for my job yet I fear even more that I let opportunities to share the Gospel go when a teenager needs to know about Jesus the most. I pray that some day in their lives my students will know that the love I showed them was the same love that their Savior wants to give them for free. 

It’s a slippery slope being a Christian teacher, and last week I wanted to quit. Even though there’s no one directly saying I can’t share my faith at all in my profession, I know that’s the unspoken rule and expected professional courtesy, and sometimes it feels crippling. I can’t bring it up during class time and if the subject ever does arise it must be student initiated… And yet every time I doubt God and ask Him if I’m really where He needs me to be to further His kingdom, He never fails to inspire a student to cross my path and begin a conversation that leads to Him.

He did just that with one of my sweet freshmen this week during such a chaotic, busy moment, and I couldn’t help but smile and think God, I see you. In my life, it’s hard to find a reason not to believe, and for that I am truly blessed.

My yearbook girls pointed out that I haven’t posted here in almost a year, and that’s because all that mattered to me the past year was them and their peers (oh yeah and I got married… which I should also probably write about). Writing is my passion and teaching is my mission field. I feel such a strong tug in my heart for today’s confused and forgotten teenagers, so much so that I’ve often forgotten what I need to do to take care of myself.

The truth is, when I teach and mentor and advise and coach, I am taking care of me… a me of the past but me just the same. I want to give my students all of the confidence, humility, grit, and faith they need to succeed in life. Teaching is funny because I have the title but day in and day out, I always feel like my students are the ones presenting me with the lessons. 

So yearbook girls, because you may or may not read this, here’s to you… You know who you are.

You are everything I was at your age and more. You have the confidence and the self esteem I strived to have but never could master under my obsessive need for the right people to like me. You care about others so much and you always want to make people happy, but you don’t let their opinions define you. You’ve shared so much of your heart with me that I can’t help but want to do the same in return.

On so many hard days over the last year, you were one of the biggest reasons I had to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes I think I was put in your life on purpose, but really, it was you who was put in mine. You keep me on my toes every single day. We have a special bond where we can always tell if the other is upset, and we never let it stay that way for too long. Seniors graduating will never be easy, but I know you will be my hardest goodbye.

You are wise beyond your years and so mature. As quiet as you were when we first met, now when we talk, I have to remind myself that I’m your teacher and you are my student. You always do the right thing, even when no one is watching. You’re the first one in the classroom in the morning (sometimes even before me) and the last to leave. You’re always watching and listening – the true characteristics of a journalist. I know I can always rely on you to lend a helping hand, and you’ve never complained, not even once. 

Your sass is out of this world and I love every minute of it! You don’t let your struggles define you, even though there are many. You are an endless well of ideas and suggestions, and every day I wish we could just hang out in the yearbook room and create together during all seven class periods. Publishing a 256-page book with you both challenges me and makes my dreams come true, and I’m lucky to experience something like that every year as long as I teach.

I’ve let this post sit in my drafts for a few days out of fear of crossing a line. My profession requires me to share my heart to build rapport but also to hold true to the fine lines of privacy parents and students entrust in me. I’m always looking for teaching moments and lessons to be learned, hence the name of my blog, and by far one of the most special teaching moments was giving three of my first yearbook staff members the privilege of capturing my wedding day using skills they learned in my classroom. 

That day was one of my favorites for many reasons, but one of the most subtle and sweetest details of the day was having three students who mean so much to me watch me become a bride. The day simply would not have been the same without them. Two of them are off to college chasing their dreams beyond my classroom, and one of them has a developing photography business where she has the experience of capturing senior photos, maternity photos, and now a bride getting ready to say “I do.”

If my life in my classroom reflects the life I committed to in my marriage, then my job in this world is well done. All glory be to God for my teaching moments, especially when I get to show who He is.

4 thoughts on “Teaching Moments

  1. Rosemary Freeman says:

    WOW once again FAV granddaughter I am simply amazed at your maturity especially in expressing in your writings! As I sit on Art’s deck this beautiful day listening to Mothef Nature ‘a birds sing, airplanes flying above, water tricking in his garden, watching his sweet pup lying so peacefully soaking up the sun on this last week of 2018 summer I am grateful to God for all of my blessings, you my beautiful and talented teacher-granddaughter! You are definitely in the right place and your students are benefiting from all of your talents! Your wedding to Bradley was by far the best thing about this summer! Thanks for posting this blog my love 😍

  2. Anne Walsh says:

    Dear Jessica,
    You should never feel “crippled” by your job as a public school teacher of faith, but you are right about that fine line, which exists for good reason. Just because you can’t preach your gospel doesn’t mean you can’t help students in need of guidance or aren’t being true to your Christianity, which encompasses much more than sharing it with students. Who you are, how you treat others, and doing good in this world (hey, you’re a teacher – that’s about the most Godly profession there is!) are all part of living your faith. Please don’t forget there are students of all religions and faiths who need you as a teacher, not as a preacher. Helping them find their own faith at times of difficulty is just as “Christian” (maybe even more so) than telling them about Jesus. “Love they neighbor” whether Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic, or atheist. We’re all human- created equally by God if you’re Christian- and everyone has to find their own way in the spiritual journey of life. As a fellow teacher (plus health care provider – another profession helping people in crisis), I would ask you to think of your role as guiding students toward their OWN spirituality, whatever it may be. Help them LEARN (role of a teacher), rather than help them SEE (role of clergy). Broaden your definition of Religion to Spirituality, which is simply defined as how you answer life’s big questions for yourself: who are we? why are we here? It’s something that evolves over your lifetime based on your own experiences, and unlike Religion, everyone has it to some degree. It doesn’t matter if your students find Jesus, it matters that they find their own way. Over your teaching career- if you stay in public schools where they need you- you will have students of many faiths in your classroom; how will you help them answer life’s big questions for themselves when telling them about Jesus is not an option, because doing so will alienate them, anger their parents, or get you fired? My classrooms in LA were essentially equal parts Muslim, Jewish, and Christian, with a few Hindu and Buddhist students sprinkled in…imagine you are a teacher in this classroom – how will you teach students to approach life’s big questions when they come up? Will you treat each student equally no matter their faith? One of my favorite high school teachers was Jewish, and all but one student were Christian/Catholic; she never ever preached her religion, rather, guided us to think deeply while skillfully and objectively teaching about the great big world around us. So, my dear niece, be true to your calling as a teacher first and foremost, and instead of feeling crippled, you will feel enabled ❤

    • jesssiroo says:

      Aunt Anne, thank you for your thoughtful response! I think we all hold a belief or opinion that makes us feel crippled at times because we know it’s not the popular opinion but it’s something we know in our bones to be Truth. We see that in our world today more than ever. As a Christian, it is actually most important to me that everyone who crosses my path in this life finds his or her own relationship with Jesus because that is the only way for sinners like all of us to get eternal life with God in heaven (Romans 6:23) and I would be selfish if I didn’t want everyone in this world to have that same amazing free gift. I don’t consider myself a preacher, just one small part of the body of Christ trying to do everything that I do for His glory, and I pride myself in treating all of the diverse people in my life, including each and every one of my students, equally and with the same love and respect. When I decided to teach public school, I knew I was giving up the opportunity to see and really experience those that I cross paths with giving their lives to Christ if they have not already, but I will always have that hope that someday they will have their moment. We all have our own unique journey. My calling is first and foremost to serve the Lord and the vessel with which I do that is my job as a teacher. I love what I do and I love hearing all of the unique thoughts and opinions of those around me. I’ll never be someone who is forceful when it comes to sharing my own thoughts and opinions with others because that always does more harm than good, but I do hope that what I say and do has a lasting impact on everyone I meet, and that ultimately, people will know Jesus because they knew me. God enables me to do everything that I do and even when I do feel crippled because I am only human, He gives me strength 💪🏼❤️

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