Devotions for Teachers: Building Each Other Up

What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than to be a liar.

-Proverbs 19:22

This was a rough week for educators in my corner of the world. I can feel myself getting preachy, so y’all just buckle in. There were tough stories coming from coworkers and teacher friends almost every day. Some weeks it just piles on heavier than other weeks, for some reason.

The stories themselves are not the worst part, though. We all know teaching is hard. We all know we are at a HUGE risk of being the person who messes up next. In today’s age, a child can take a picture of an assignment, or record you teaching, or merely post a tweet about something you said. A coworker or administrator can use a line in an email against you. A parent can send a picture of the homework you sent home to the media.

You take this one moment in time out of context, and the person you are, the teacher you’ve been, the lives you’ve touched and changed…it’s all stripped away. Suddenly, all you are is this one moment. You’re reduced to a mistake. Or, you’re reduced to the mistake people perceived you to have made, which is even worse in my opinion.

THIS is the worst part: the first people to pile on and start pointing fingers is so often other educators. It may be an administrator, a coworker, or a stranger teacher on the internet. But teachers can be professionals at trying to tear each other down, and I do not understand it.

I heard about a teacher who really messed up this week. Her school isn’t too far away from mine, so the word spread fast. I mean…she really messed up, and I don’t know her personally, but I don’t think she could deny the mistake she made. But: if you take that mistake away, you have a teacher who’s been doing this for decades. That’s countless positive interactions with students that no one is talking about right now. She has been in the trenches far longer than many of us, and it’s such a shame to me that a noble career is being torn down over one mistake. One mistake in decades.

There have been horrible things posted about this teacher on social media. Calling for her to lose her license. Demanding that she is removed from the school immediately. Rage. Fury. Anger that she was ever allowed to be near children. I saw one comment on an Instagram account that belongs to someone who lives nowhere close to here that “That teacher and that lesson should both be thrown in the trash”.

A lot of these comments were from other teachers.

We have a job to do while we are here on Earth. It is NOT to destroy people. Whether you know them or not. Whether you are a teacher or not. If you are a Christian, your job is to show people who Jesus is by loving them like Jesus would. Social media and the invisibility of the internet make many of us feel high and mighty. We feel like we can cast judgement on people, when really those people are just like us, if we’re honest with ourselves.

This is not to say that we should just ignore big mistakes. I’m not advocating for a lack of social progress or justice when people mess up. But, responding to people in love first, anger last, is something we need to work on right now in 2019. Holding people accountable for their actions sometimes IS an act of love. Blindly sharing things on social media and mimicking the cries of the masses is simply unintelligent, and serves no one.

What if it’s you next? What if something you do or say is taken out of context and no one remembers anything about you but the mistake that you made? How would you want to be treated by the teaching community?

Let’s promise each other right now that we will work on building each other up, as opposed to looking to tear down. Let’s look for opportunities this week to be encouraging to each other. Jesus redeemed us all when he was crucified, and he did NOT do it so we could get in Twitter fights with each other.

I know that this post is a little less happy Scripture and a little more hard Gospel, but I believe this all to be true. The hardest part of being a Christian is being the person who shows love when no one else is. And right now, everyone else seems to have forgotten how to show love. So, it’s time for us to shine.

Let’s get to work, y’all. Be gentle with each other. Show kindness. Respond in love. Let’s teach this next generation to be better than we’ve been. ❤️

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Stephanie Sutherland