I’ve always been a little bit of a mixed bag. When I was a youth director at East Lake Community Church, my small group girls were never quite sure which side of Lexi they were going to get. Deep Bible studies on the book of Romans or lessons on how to properly TP a house. Conservative theology. Liberal lifestyle. So, I would imagine that curiosity about my teaching style is not scarce.
As a teacher without a degree in education, I think I held my own. I assure you that my methods weren’t typical, but they worked for me. I approached teaching the same way that I approached youth group. (No, we didn’t play weird food games.) I liked to start my yearbook class off with something humorous or fun. Examples include: a silly Jimmy Fallon clip, an old school Run DMC jam session, or just good ol coffee and tea time. I figured that students were more willing to work if they were having fun and if they liked their team, including their captain (the boss).
Sometimes my youth group tactics bit me in the butt though. I let the students in my class call me by my first name, so all BFA students called me by my first name (whether I knew them or not). I let students miss my class on special occasions, so they asked to miss class all of the time. I let students dance on the furniture for advertisement videos, so they wanted to dance on the furniture daily.
There were times when teaching yearbook caused me to feel like a zookeeper trying to put all of the escaped animals back in their cages. After I got half of the class on task, some monkey would jump over and open a few more cages. I’m seeing video game potential here.
When I led the fun, I felt like I had some control. When they led the fun, the zoo went nuts. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the challenge. I threw everything I could think of at these kids (FIGURATIVELY). Technology at it’s finest. Google Docs, Youtube clips, camera tutorials, Apple tv, interactive games, you name it. Yet, it all boiled down to relationship. Those other things worked, but they weren’t nearly as effective in keeping my students on task as pure love and respect.
I loved my students and I can confidently say that they loved me. In an educational surrounding, that meant caring about the student instead of the grade. Ideally, this should be the mindset of all teachers. I can say that it was a lot easier for me to achieve at BFA though. Grace was encouraged. I took full advantage of that. My students still had to work very hard for their A’s and B’s, but I tried to make sure that they always rose to that standard. When they failed, the got the chance to work harder to make up for it.
Teaching art classes gave me the opportunity to get to know the students and to see their talents up close. I had the chance to encourage them and to see them grow. There were times when I felt more like an IT department, hopping from computer to computer to fix problems. At other times, I felt like Verrocchio guiding da Vinci. They were the brilliant ones. I was just there to teach them how to use their brilliance.
I was invested in the lives of my students inside and outside of my classroom. It changed everything. It was often confusing. I saw students unsure how to balance my roles. Like the small group girls balancing deep Bible studies with playful pranks, my students never seemed quite sure when they were supposed to behave and listen as apposed to indulging in immaturity. In one day, I could be giving an art history lesson to a student that I would end up making goofy music videos with (at their dorm) that night.
After 3 years, I decided that focusing on mentoring and discipleship was more important to me than teaching. Balancing those roles with teaching was hard. Friends who asked me what was next, after BFA, got an ear full about how I was ready to focus solely on youth ministry. I’m not sure that I knew what that meant. I just didn’t like having to be in a role where I had a project hanging over my head and dictating the way that I spent time with the teenagers entrusted to me.
I’ve had more time to reconsider this decision. I have many missions/ministry opportunities before me. The one that I currently feel drawn to offers the role of teaching to me again.
For those of you who don’t know… I concluded my time at BFA because I felt like God was moving me on to a place where He was not known. All of the programs and ministries that I have been a part of have been completely worthy causes. I believe that God has guided all of my steps. Yet, my heart is burdened for those who don’t know Him at all. For those who have taken up arms against him.
This school that I may have the opportunity to teach at is an international school in Germany. The city is incredibly atheistic and in need of Christ. The school is not a Christian school, unlike BFA. Mentoring and discipling teenagers in a place where the church is not present doesn’t usually come about naturally. I need a different environment for cultivating these relationships.
This opportunity may not work out, but I will admit that it’s guiding my actions right now. I’m on track to complete my counseling masters by Christmas and I’m working on teaching certification with the state of Florida. I’m also in the process of becoming a long-term missionary with The Evangelical Alliance Mission.
Teaching appeals to me. If you know me, you know that my interests are varied. I get bored with monotony. I want to teach, to mentor, to do photography, to film, to edit, to play music, to counsel, and to make coffee. Ok, that last one is just for my own benefit. That doesn’t make it less true though. My point is that I love jobs that allow me to exercise more than a few skills. Being a youth director capitalized on many of my skills, but that’s not really an option where the church hasn’t been built (or no longer exists). Teaching also allowed me to exercise multiple skills. So, I’m not ready to give up this idea yet. I’m moving forward.
Does that answer the question of “What’s next for you?” Don’t ask me what I want to be when I grow up. I hope to be married? I don’t know. I guess that I just want to be in a place where I know that I am serving God with everything I’ve got (LITERALLY).