Every morning, all across our country, in big cities and small towns, students come trudging through the doors of our schools. Some come eagerly, anticipating each day; some come reluctantly, overwhelmed by challenges too great for them. Some come from homes where books are read and learning is encouraged; others come from daunting family situations.
Today’s schools are diverse, often over-crowded, rarely well-funded, populated with students of every level of achievement and need. And every day during the school year, teachers seek to meet the challenges these students bring into their classrooms. In addition to their commitment to teach their students, teachers must please their administrators, cope with testing demands, placate often disgruntled parents, fill out interminable forms, and the list goes on and on. Most teachers also have families of their own to which they give love, time and energy.
Christian teachers face an additional dilemma as they walk a fine line, seeking to be a living witness to the love and grace of God. But these teachers also have an additional asset: the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and a relationship with “Professor Jesus, Master Teacher” to whom Susan O’Carroll Drake dedicates her devotional book. An award-winning teacher herself, Drake has put together a book that a teacher-friend of mine, upon perusing the book, said needs to be on every teacher’s desk.
Structured around the school year, Morning Meetings with Jesus has a selection for each day of the 180-day calendar of most schools. A Scripture reading is recommended, then there is a focal verse. Drawing from her years of teaching, mostly in an inner-city high school, Drake relates incidents she encountered and uses them to make apt applications that tie back to the Bible-readings.
My friend, a long-time middle-school special-ed teacher, particularly noted devotion No. 81, “Hard to Love,” with which she immediately identified, saying, “Oh, this sounds so like me!” She went on to talk about how she had also struggled with loving the unlovely and, she emphasized, she was not talking about their physical appearance. Susan Drake’s hard-to-love student had a felony prison record and presented an unusually difficult obstacle to overcome, but her story still resonated with my friend.
Not all of the illustrations come from schoolrooms. One that particularly struck me, “Bless the Children,” came from the author’s experience in baby-sitting a number of runny-nosed children of friends. She was dismayed at how tough it was to handle that roomful. As a high school teacher, she came away with a renewed appreciation of those who cared for and taught little ones ¦and she learned a new dimension of what God’s love is all about.
Recognizing her personal need for a time with her Savior each morning as she faced a new day with her students, Susan Drake tried several devotional books aimed at teachers. Thus part of the inspiration for this book came from her frustration at only being able to find sweet, simplistic choices as she looked for devotional assistance herself. As a result she began keeping a journal of her teaching experiences from which she has drawn the very practical stories she tells, some of them reflecting the nitty-gritty circumstances she encountered in her biology classes.
One paragraph from Tony Campolo’s foreword is worth quoting:
“Some Christians dismiss the value of public education as secular and therefore hostile to our faith. But Susan Drake embraces the spiritual potential of public school education. She recognizes what many people do not: that God will never be absent from the schools as long as prayerful people of faith are walking the halls and ministering through example and education in the classroom. In her Morning Meetings with Jesus, she exhorts her fellow teachers to heed the words of Francis of Assisi who once said, ‘Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.'”
Teaching is one of the most noble callings a person can have and I pray that Christian men and women will continue to follow that call into the halls and classrooms of our country’s schools. Those of us who seek to follow the Savior’s command to love, whether we are in a classroom or not, need to continually renew ourselves spiritually. For teachers, Susan O’Carroll Drake’s book of devotions offers an excellent resource for renewal and encouragement, and, as she says in her introduction:
” ¦ if you are a Christian teacher, you already know that you need guidance, inspiration, strength, wisdom, and Jesus–a model worth emulating. I pray that this devotional helps you find all these as you continue in your teaching journey.”
Sara Powell of Hartwell, Ga., is a member of the Baptist Center for Ethics board.