I recently completed a relief teaching stint, and although I’ve been giving tuition for most of my life, this experience was totally different.
Not only was I teaching and preparing lessons on a daily basis, I was also managing a class of more than 30 students!
The new difficulties and challenges relief teaching brought were exhausting, but the lessons I took away at the end of the day made it all worthwhile.
Not only did I learn tips and tricks in teaching, I also began to see more of God’s heart through my relationship with my students.
It’s amazing how God revealed more of who He is to me through this experience, and I’m excited to share my reflections here.
1. TRIALS AND TESTS GROW US
As a student, I didn’t enjoy taking exams. As a teacher, I don’t enjoy giving exams to my students as well.
Seeing how tired they already are while having to juggle the other assignments given to them, I couldn’t help but feel guilty for contributing to that pile.
A God who loves us deeply, tests for our good.
Honestly, where I could, I tried not to give them additional homework if I could help it.
But after getting to know and understand my students over a period of time, I realised the importance of tests.
As painful as they are (for a student to complete and for me to assign), I saw how crucial tests are in helping a student grow.
One way they grow is by learning from their failures and mistakes. I really saw the difference between students who took feedback and corrections seriously, compared to those who didn’t.
Another way I realised students can grow through tests, is by the strenuous journey they undertake in preparation for them.
During the first few weeks of my stint, when I was still “taking it easy” on my students, I realised how unprepared they all felt when they had to sit for a school-wide exam.
I decided to be more intentional in giving additional work to my students, especially for those who were particularly weak and needed the practice.
Even though they didn’t enjoy the extra work and it meant added stress, I saw genuine growth in their subsequent assignments.
They even became more confident to answer and participate during lessons.
Tests don’t just reveal our shortcomings. Like how a diamond is formed from intense heat and pressure, tests also mould us in the process of preparation.
I wondered if this is what God sees as well whenever He tests us in life.
But no matter how difficult God’s tests may be, we can trust in Him as He brings us through the process because it is for our good.
Furthermore, if I found it painful to see my students struggling, how much more must God feel for us when He sees us facing difficulties?
Nevertheless, a God who loves us deeply, tests for our good. Just as much as I hope my students trust me, I would also like to place my trust in God when I go through tests.
2. HONESTY IS BETTER THAN HIDING
As the date of a test drew closer, more students would come to ask me for help.
I enjoyed how they would take the initiative to seek out guidance. It was heartening to see them do their best and come to me knowing I could be a source of help for them.
Though of course, it’s not always the case that students will openly come to see me.
I’ve encountered students who didn’t hand in their work and tried to quietly slip out of the class.
I’ve even received “work” from students, which was basically a piece of paper with scribbles on it that was attempting to pass itself off as messy handwriting.
All because they want to hide from the potential consequences of not handing in their work.
While I understood the fear they may have felt, it was still surprising to see just how far students would go to escape from something they don’t want to face.
But I came to realise I’m no different from my students. Whenever I feel ashamed about the things I’ve done wrong, my first instinct is to hide from God.
I would feel too guilty to pray or read the Bible, similar to how my students probably feel shame and fear at the idea of telling me about their missing work.
But what would God want us to do? He would want us to turn back to Him regardless of what we’ve done.
There may be consequences to our actions, but God desires us to return to Him.
I remember how a student once submitted a piece of work that was almost completely wrong.
At the bottom of her paper, she had written a note explaining that she found the assignment challenging and how she was sorry for her “terrible” answers.
While her answers didn’t score highly, I would give her attitude perfect marks. Her humble honesty and the effort she displayed to attempt the questions despite finding them difficult were better than a perfect answer, in my opinion.
Just as this student honestly approached me about her shortcomings, rather than giving up and hiding out of fear, we can also continue to turn to God.
Rather than hiding in shame, I can now understand how much more delighted God must be when we openly tell Him our weaknesses and troubles.
3. GRACE CAN LEAD TO GROWTH
Finally, I was surprised to see how much joy I received when I chose to show grace.
When students truthfully admit that they didn’t complete the work or were unprepared for the lesson, I found that grace could lead to positive outcomes.
And showing grace actually helped build trust between us as well! My students and I were able to sit down and talk about a more realistic and achievable deadline.
In fact, they actually became more willing to keep to the deadlines they had promised because they knew I wouldn’t get mad at them.
I enjoyed seeing the students grow from a place of grace – and I imagine it must be the same for God.
Just as God gives grace to us so freely, I want to do the same for my students as I do what is necessary to help them grow.
The last thing I took to heart from my relief teaching stint was a Bible verse on the teacher’s desk I was borrowing. It was from Deuteronomy 32:2:
Let my teaching fall like rain
and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
like abundant rain on tender plants.
While I’m in no way a perfect teacher, I do pray that I can be a teacher who can be like water to tender plants.
I also pray that I can be a teacher who receives God’s revelation and teachings that fall on my life like rain.
I don’t know everything as a teacher. I don’t know everything about God.
But I’m grateful that though I’m a teacher, God still shows up in new and intimate ways to teach me more about Him.
It lets me know that no matter what my role is on earth, there is always room to learn more about God and grow closer to Him.
*The writer has joined the teaching profession full-time and her name has been changed for confidentiality.
- Are there aspects of your life where you can see more of God’s character in?
- Do you have a teacher you feel grateful towards? Why not drop them a message?
- What are some practical steps you can take to see God in your daily life?