God Called Me to the Classroom:
I showed someone a picture of me and my students one time, and he said “well you stick out like a sore thumb.” I laughed because that’s about the bluntest anyone has ever been with me about teaching a class of mostly African American students.
I still remember my first day of teaching, standing in front of my babies as they all looked up at me like ‘where in the world did you come from?’ I was young, brand new and white, and third graders are a lot more aware of the world then you may think. We both figured out pretty quickly, that I had as much to learn from them as they did from me. So together we began this beautiful partnership of learning. I teach them math and reading, and they teach me about the world.
If you had told me two years ago that I was going to be an elementary school teacher, I would have laughed at you. This opportunity came to be because of a curve ball that God threw me about a year and a half ago. I was close to graduating from NC State, when I got an offer to be an Eastern North Carolina Corps Member from Teach For America . I was terrified and admittedly, I prayed and prayed for God to lead me in a different direction. For some reason, it was the only thing that felt right, and so I accepted the job with blind faith.
Before I began teaching, I thought a lot about my own experience in Elementary school. I still remember hatching baby chicks in Mrs. Norris’ class, going on field trips to downtown Wilmington in 5th grade, and getting to make t-shirts for field day every year. I always started the school year with new school supplies, and gifts in tow for my new teacher. There was never a day that I had to worry about needing something and not having it.
The last year of my life has been the hardest, and most rewarding year so far. I walked into my first day of work and signed a contract without knowing what my salary would be as our school was opening without a budget. I stepped into an empty classroom with only a few packs of copy paper and a couple of expo markers. I was in way over my head. Those same beautiful faces that I have come to love, also walked in on the first day of school not knowing what it would hold and without the school supplies on the supply list. My kid’s parents sent all that they could, but reality is, it wasn’t enough. So off I went to Walmart with a very long list and my credit card. I spent well over $1,000 my first year teaching on things for my students and classroom. While I do not regret spending a single cent of money, it’s a huge burden to bear on a teacher’s salary.
I feel we’ve have gotten to a point in this state where we expect schools to function on the bare minimum and still produce maximum results. I love my mission field of Southeast Elementary. I have never felt so welcomed and loved by complete strangers in my life. I have fallen so in love with my students, their families, and my coworkers. I see God working in the lives of our students through our staff every single day. Despite that fact that we do not have an art or music class. Our school nurse is only on campus 1-2 days a week. The teachers buy a significant portion of the supplies for their classrooms. Teacher assistants and Encore teachers have to step up every single day and fill roles across for the school that go above and beyond their job description. There is not a single teacher or staff member in our building that doesn’t want to give our students the whole world, but it’s a little harder for us than some other schools as we face many challenges.
While I do think that some significant changes could be made in our State to fix some of these problems, there is so much we as a church can do in the meantime to help. The next time you are at the store, pick up an extra box of tissues or bottle of hand sanitizer. Go over to a school in town and volunteer. You would be amazed at how much relief you can bring a teacher with an hour of your time. Get to know a teacher and ask them specifically what they would like you to pray for. I bet you’ll hear one or two students names who could use constant prayer. But above all, don’t judge a book by its cover. You cannot and will not understand someone else’s life until you’ve lived it. God calls us to be humble and show love. I’ve found that’s really the best gift you can ever give someone. For now, this is my mission field and I am grateful for every day God has me serve in this place. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
BLOG BY: Chamberlain Collier