Teaching is an Act of Faith

Teaching is an act of faith. I have to remind myself of this almost daily.

Teaching is an act of faith.

I am not responsible for this particular pearl of wisdom. My work wife said it from a stage a few weeks back when she was participating in a panel all about her new book. She said that teaching is an act of faith, that every classroom is a tiny church, and every teacher preaches what they know and believe from behind the desk or table, or spray painted podium and hope that it sticks to their congragation of students. It struck me as deeply true. She couldn’t make eye contact with me while she said it. We talk about teaching and faith and church a lot in our 2 hour daily commute. Maybe my CRV is a tiny church two.

Teaching is an act of faith.

I’ve been asking God a lot of questions. A lot of questions about direction and the future. I’ve been wondering a lot about what my next step is. I don’t always hear clearly from God. But this time I did. “Come sit by the fire that warms your soul.” I still don’t know about my futre or direction, or next step. But I know that teaching still warms my soul.

Teaching is an act of faith.

Sometimes we never see the fruit of the seeds we’ve planted inside a kid. Sometimes we don’t even know what constitutes as seeds. I got an email from a mom the other day. Her son told her I was hilarious (which makes that pretty much the best day of my life). He has never once even cracked a smile in my class, but my wacky brand of crazy makes the kid feel safe. Who knew?

Teaching is an act of faith.

A kid raised his hand in my class last week. A kid in my class that I have known for two years. A kid who is notorious for disengagement. He raised his hand in my class and answered a question correctly. A hard question. About Shakespeare. Then he responded to the follow up. There were over 200 days of me smiling, saying his name, asking him to respond and getting nothing but a blank stare. I wasn’t even sure he knew my name. He raised his hand. 

Teaching is an act of faith.

What we do is sacred. Not all of it. Probably not the attendance everyday (but maybe, don’t we all like to know that someone noticed we weren’t their?). Surely not the part where you teach them how to bubble the dumb scantrons. But every day, we make ourselves known to our students; we seek to know our students. We teach. We throw our seeds all over the room and hope that some of them find fertile soil, that some of them grow despite the rocky ground. But it is so hard to tell what is taking root. Sometimes, we can’t even tell what are seeds. Sometimes a wind comes and blows the seeds who know where and a random rasberry bush many years later in the mind of a child who was never even in our room.

Because teaching is an act of faith.

We had an intruder drill last week. It shook me to the core. I can no longer pretend that people with guns only show up at schools very far away.  We tried to pretend that everything was normal, my students and I, while we locked ourselves in my classroom and ignored the banging on the door. We are now hosting drills for when someone comes to violate the trust of the classroom. We are preparing for a gunmen in the school, and we all continue to show up anyway.

Teaching is an act of faith.

I think of the sacrements. Holy communion, baptism, marriage. All are outward manifestations of things happening deeply inside. And all are more than simple representations of something happening deeply inside. Those sacrements participate in the things they represent. I don’t mean to sound egotistical or unneccesarily holy. But I am beginning to think of my classroom just a little sacramentally. Like maybe I will never know exactly what happens in my classroom. Maybe I don’t need to know. Maybe the mystery is the sacred part.

Teaching is an act of faith.

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5 thoughts on “Teaching is an Act of Faith

  1. Abby,
    This is so good! I strongly believe that is so true. You are also a missionary of truth. To me to be one who teaches is a sacred trust. It is also a shared trust for it takes a community to teach. I am thankful for those of you who do it well. I will print this out for my daughters as Jessi is a middle school math teacher and Esther is in school to be a science teacher. While I am an engineer I hope that I teach well in those opportunities that I am blessed with.

    Awesome post.

  2. I just “found” you from your post from Sept. 19th that was forwarded to me from a friend. It was EXTREMELY timely. I followed a link and feel like I have found a new best friend – someone who totally gets me right where I am and I don’t have to explain it AT ALL! I will look forward to future posts. Thank you for the time you spend in sharing your heart, your insights, and your encouragement. What a blessing!

  3. Teaching is an act of faith. I know this from teaching on the community college level for about 10 years. When I am prophesied over I hear,” you have a teaching gift, its really strong. I don’t think you realize the effect you have on your students” and so on. Before I was a teacher I was a Lawyer. One of the Holiest things I was privileged to do was to represent people who placed themselves between the Babies and the suction tube or curatage. My clients didn’t know anything about these babies except they were the least of these my brethren and without intervention the babies would die. representing them was a sacrament. I hope the welder, mechanic, business man or women, or custodian.feels the same way. After all the term vocation was first used in the Church. . .

  4. I have been involved in a lot of activist organizations. I always chose the education side. One never knows how much impact one has. Yes, it is an act of faith. But ultimately it is what shifts the tide, whether in the life of the individual or in the society. God be with you in your discernment.

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