When Evan and I were first married, we sat in a “Go to Africa” interest meeting at church and heard about the Teach Team for the first time. I was in the middle of my teaching internship: a baby, really, with a passion for teaching in my bones but no idea what my career might hold. Something in my soul lit right up, and I knew it was for me. Still, each summer I found an excuse (support raising!) or reason (pregnancy!) to bow out.
Let me tell you about the teach team: Each year, COTN’s educational directors provide a topic they believe will be helpful to the teachers in Malawi. In response, Summit issues a call for teachers and others who are passionate about education, and that team heads to the warm heart of Africa to lead a four-day professional development seminar.
I left teaching in 2012 (a year and a half since that first interest meeting) with only one full year under my belt. I didn’t leave because I didn’t want to teach, but simply because I could not turn down the opportunity to work in children’s ministry at our church. I knew it was my next right step; I’ve rarely felt such clarity before or since.
Two years have passed, and I love my job. I think I’d do it for the rest of my life if that’s how things worked out. The truth is, as a classroom teacher, I worked at least 12 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week. I cried every single day. Yes, I was an overachiever and perfectionist and workaholic, and yes, things would be better and different now. If, at some point, God calls me back to teaching, I hope I’ll be brave and obedient, but honestly? I don’t want to go back.
Every career assessment, personality profile, or assessment of gifts and strengths I have ever taken has pointed toward one thing.
I’m wired up for teaching.
Still, like the majority of America’s teaching force, I quit, and since then, teaching has remained this strange, unresolved part of my life and calling.
I wouldn’t have joined the team, but one afternoon I eavesdropped on a conversation between my friend Melissa and our church’s missions coordinator. “We’ll lead seminars on differentiated instruction and formative assessment,” she said, and I couldn’t help but interrupt.
“I LOVE that stuff,” I said.
“You should come,” Melissa replied.
Still, the truth was that I felt like a fraud joining the Teach Team, two years removed from the classroom. It felt presumptive and arrogant to assume I still had something of value to share.
On Day 3 of our seminar, it was finally my turn to lead a lesson. Twenty-four nursery teachers joined us that day, and when I stepped up to speak, it flowed.
I realized then what I hadn’t been ready to admit since leaving the classroom: I missed teaching.
It seems strange to miss something that was so painful most days. I wish I could say, “Nope, it wasn’t for me. I found something better, and I’ve moved on.” I hate living in the in-between, with unresolved tension between what I’m called to do in this moment and what I sometimes sense God created me for.
The time spent in a classroom setting again is one of the reasons I’m so grateful for my time in Malawi. It was so fun to talk to teachers, imagine their classrooms, and problem-solve alongside them.
I’m not working in a school setting and don’t necessarily plan to return, but I sense that my story as a teacher isn’t finished just yet.
Leaving the classroom made me feel like a quitter, but I learned something in Malawi.
I didn’t say no to teaching. I said yes to Jesus, the Infinitely Creative. I can trust Him to weave the disparate parts of my career–children’s ministry and teaching–into a richer story.