When the pandemic brought in-person instruction to a screeching halt in the spring of 2020, our teachers didn’t miss a beat. Leaving their teaching materials behind in their classrooms, the teachers went into high gear to find ways to create a remote teaching space, to keep the education of their students moving forward, and to keep the way open to just continue teaching. As a new school year began in the fall, teachers also made it a priority to protect the students from harm.
Observing the response of the leadership of our schools and our teachers to the pandemic has inspired me over and over again during the past 14 months. Throughout our schools I have seen such passionate responses to this extraordinary challenge. But the response is not defined by the pandemic—far from it.
Our teachers want their students to thrive, not just survive. They want them to keep learning and growing—as individuals and as students. It seems to me that this is very near the heart of true education.
Teachers take great satisfaction in being part of the learning process. There is something very exciting about being part of the “Ah-ha!” moment when a student’s eyes light up with something they have learned or realized for the first time. Parents are often able to watch their children’s understanding of a subject grow over the course of a school year, but teachers watch it happen moment by moment, day by day. They witness the milestones for each of their students as concepts and skills are mastered. It is a rich and unique experience that teachers cherish and preserve.
One of the greatest joys for a teacher is to observe students begin to dig more deeply into a subject that was once unknown to them or that they cared little about. These are the occasions when it is the teacher’s face that lights up in excitement. Every teacher loves those moments when students begin to discover the things that may shape their future.
And that is why the joy in teaching increases exponentially as the years go by—because those futures become reality, and teachers get to see the results of their earlier efforts.
Every teacher I know takes special pride in the accomplishments of their students. It is not uncommon for me to encounter a former student during my work week—and often these are individuals who have become teachers or school leaders themselves! There is simply nothing quite like knowing that you had a small part in the development of someone who is now forging their own professional experience.
An even more frequent occurrence is encountering former students in a social setting—and seeing them now experience their own family. At those moments you might see in a smile or facial expression that student you once knew, and it brings back memories that still resonate in your heart.
There are few circumstances that teachers take more seriously than when a former student who is experiencing difficulty or pain reaches out for understanding or help. At these moments, the time and energy that was once invested in creating relationships of trust and value are suddenly the currency of life itself—the means through which a teacher discovers anew that the motivating passion has always been that your students continue to not just survive but thrive.
Teaching isn’t an easy profession, but it is rewarding in so many ways. It is challenging to find creative and relevant ways to meet the needs of students. In doing so, teachers find themselves growing in understanding and wisdom. There is a direct relationship between empowering students to reach their full potential and fulfilling the promise and possibilities of your own life. All of this must be realized in the context of bringing the same enthusiasm and energy to your personal and family life that you try to bring to your classroom as an educator.
The pandemic has complicated an already complex and challenging profession. There is the uncertainty of not knowing from one day to the next whether you will be teaching in person or remotely, along with all the implications of teaching during a period of social distancing and lockdown. There is anxiety caused by wondering if you have been exposed to personal health risks that may impact your own health or that of your family. Trying to communicate difficult concepts over Zoom or teach something that requires tactile practice is hugely challenging for teachers. And so is trying to teach while wearing a face mask—and being tasked with making certain that students are masked as well.
Thousands of our members have made support of education one of their priorities. Thank you! You share in the blessings that are realized from this ministry. Each day thousands more join in praying for the health, safety, and development of our students—and the effectiveness and success of our teachers and schools. We take up this work each day confident in God’s leadership and power to guide and bless us. I invite you to join us in bringing the needs of this ministry to our heavenly Father through your prayers—and thank you for this important support on behalf of our students and teachers.
In Adventist schools across our union there has been an extraordinary effort made by teachers, leadership, school boards, and churches to operate our schools safely and successfully during a challenging and uncertain time. While we cannot fully predict what will happen next and how it will impact our schools and our students, we believe that we are doing the work to which God calls us and for which God equips us. And our prayer for every student is that they will not only survive, they will thrive.
Berit von Pohle is director of education of the Pacific Union Conference.