Duc in Altum: Classroom Missionary

I’ve spent the last two months deciding if I would continue teaching next year.  There were pros and cons on both sides and I couldn’t tell which side was weightier.  Even though my mother insisted, repeatedly, that I should sit down and make a pros and cons list, doing so didn’t seem to really help.  The benefits and drawbacks of either decision seemed incapable of being captured in words to jot on one side of a t-chart.  I couldn’t go with my gut because it, too, was conflicted.  In the end, I chose to stay and while I’m still uncertain if that was the correct decision, it was a decision and I finally made it.  A part of me felt sadness to pass up a great service opportunity and another part feels concern that next year I will be climbing the walls of my classroom, wondering what momentary weakness caused me to sign another year of my life away.  Despite these concerns, I am beginning to make plans about what this next year of life will look like.  As a teacher, life stills comes about on a yearly schedule, broken neatly into semesters with lovely summer and winter breaks.

Last semester I was growing more and more convinced that I would love to not teach next year.  It wasn’t one thing in particular, but it was a bunch of things all wrapped up together.  Yet after applying for and being offered (even if only temporarily) another job, the joys of teaching became clearer to me.  The things that I would miss stood out in my mind and I didn’t even want to think of telling my department head that I would be leaving or cleaning out my classroom.  Yet I didn’t want to stay just because I didn’t want to do those things.

As frustrating and foolish as students can be at times, they can also be hilarious, witty, deep, encouraging, and beautiful souls.  Yes, they complain, test my patience, seem incapable of following simple directions, make me question my own sanity, and relentlessly insist on moving the far row of desks next to the wall so they have a backrest.  Yet at times we laugh together, we can reach a beautiful depth at times, we develop a relationship that is unlike any other relationship I have formed before–one of student and teacher.  Over the past three years I’ve grown more comfortable with my students.  Today I gave a test to my seniors and after they were finished, I couldn’t help but look at them and feel pleased.  We aren’t best friends, but it is my class and we do have a unique dynamic.

I don’t know how long I will teach for and how long I want to teach for depends on the day.  In the midst of my crisis (the I-have-only-two-days-to-know-if-I-am-going-to-sign-my-contract-and-I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing crisis), I called my sister.  She asked me questions that I didn’t know how to answer about my personal desires and feeling peace.

“Answer this as quickly as you think of an answer,” my sister told me.  “If you could do anything, what would you do or be?”
Pause.
“A missionary.”

Then she read me something.  At first, I wasn’t quite certain what she was reading me.  After a little while, I realized she was reading me one of my very first blog entries.  “Young,” first-year teacher Trish was writing about how she was a missionary of the classroom and how even as she longed for greater missions, she was called to be a teacher and minister in the seeming mundane aspects of life.  And that young teacher inspired me.  As my sister read my writing, I felt inspired to truly take up the mission of being a teacher and to live it with a radical zeal that I had forgotten.  At some point I had begun to resign myself to having a job rather than being a missionary.

So even in the midst of uncertainty, I am starting to look forward to another school year (of course, after my (I believe) well-deserved summer break) to be a missionary in a high school classroom.  Because Christ instructed us to put out into the deep and I intend to cast my nets into the high school ocean.  Because the harvest is abundant and the laborers are few.  Because the Church needs the youth.  Because Jesus says there is a millstone with my name on it if I fail to bring the little ones to Him.  Because, for some unknown reason in God’s inscrutable Will, I am called to teach.

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