I am blessed to look back on a decade plus of teaching with a wistful smile and a bit of nostalgia. God opened doors for me to have the privilege of standing in front of classrooms—from college-aged to high school to middle school, as TEACHER, and when God closed the door on my formal career in education, I mourned. I eventually celebrated the next season, and anticipated the seasons to come, but my heart ached as I kissed those sweet faces good-bye.
When I reflect back on those twelve years, I must say my favorite grades to teach fell right in the middle. Yes, that's right. I loved those in-between-alien-like-know-just-enough-to-be-dangerous eleven to fourteen-year-olds. (And now I have TWO living under my roof! Woohoo!)
Don't get me wrong, teaching college was a blast and explaining anything from life skills to Shakespeare to high school students took my breath away (such a nerd, I know), but my tweeners take the prize.
Why, you (and many others) might ask? As a middle school teacher, you get a front row seat to the awe-inspiring (and yes, head banging) process of a child transforming into a young adult—a glorious metamorphosis, much like that of a pupa turning into a butterfly.
It's slow, and at times painful to observe, but so worth the wait.
Those kids made me laugh and cry and everything in between. A middle schooler knows a lot of stuff, especially in this day and age. Granted, they are often clueless as to what to do with it, and for the love of hormones, y'all, sometimes, bless their souls, they don't even know which way is up, down, or sideways. But . . . they are creative risk-takers who are trying to figure it all out and in the process scrape their knees and bloody their noses. As their teacher, I was blessed to squint my eyes and see through the "front", and help bandage their knees and clean up any other injuries, tough love in check and operational. And, we'd rewind, go through the application process yet again, and wait with bated breath for those uniquely designed wings to break through and start flapping. And when one finally becomes airborne, those sweet things fly without abandon and it is simply a beautiful sight to behold.
I spent many years as a Jesus follower in the figurative middle school years. Not a baby in the faith, but not an adult either. I knew enough to be dangerous, and didn't have a clue as to what I was being called to do with my head knowledge. My emotions, and yes, hormones, drove the ship and I crashed and burned more times than I can count. From a faith perspective, I remained in middle school for about ten years.
And as an adult, I don't have it all figured out. I know God's purpose for my life and am aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I'm learning when to say yes, and when to say no. My ratio of obedience is improving. And, I can finally say I trust the One I follow, and value His discipline in my life. I'm grateful.
Here's my encouragement, though. As you encounter Jesus followers, remember each is at a different point in their faith journeys. Have patience. Be kind. Show love. Ask the Lord if you're being called to mentor or if you are in a position to be mentored, or if you're a classmate collaborating with a peer to follow the Savior.
Thank you, middle schoolers (who are now in their twenties and thirties). You will never know how much you actually taught me.
Moving with scribbles,
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (I John 3:1 a)
Amanda Williams is a forty-year old wife and mother of two who can still swing her pony tail and display just a tad of sass. She is also a Jesus loving girl who realizes she is nothing without the One who saved her. Amanda has two degrees specializing in serving students with special needs and is currently working in the field of Leadership Development. She is a Christian author, speaker, blogger, and publisher who loves serving beside her husband at her local place of worship, First Baptist Church of Ocala.