This post is part of an on-going Everyday Disciple series. We're celebrating here what it looks like to follow Christ faithfully in the day-to-day. I am thankful to share the stories of gracious friends and readers, and I have sought to preserve and honor their voice in the post below. I invite you to join me as we listen to their experience as an "everyday disciple."
Sarah is one of my oldest and dearest friends. Our friendship started in our days together in our high school’s field marching band, and it’s matured and stretched with time and distance. We’ve had our fair share of heart-to-heart phone calls while folding laundry. And ice cream. Lots of ice cream.
Sarah is passionate about her job in education, and it's my delight to share her thoughts with you.
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I am the Director of Early Education at Manhattan Christian Academy in New York City. I oversee the Early Ed department (programming, supervising teachers, etc.) within our preschool – 8th grade private Christian school.
My school is in a neighborhood of low socioeconomic status, with many immigrant families who are either unable to engage or unaware of the ways to advocate for their children. Some families do not know about our school, and many that do know about us assume they could never afford a private Christian education. But the school is very mission-minded; we strive to provide a godly, quality, affordable education for all families. As our school continues to grow, I see God’s mission being fulfilled, one family at a time, as He works to restores brokenness and flood dark places with His light.
Prior to this job, I worked as a teacher for a public school. I thought I would be a classroom teacher for years until I retired, but God obviously had something else in mind for me. When I transitioned to this school and this job, I wasn’t quite sure why God was leading me here, but I was certain He was doing just that.
Now, two years in, I realize I have a more far-reaching influence as an administrator than I ever had as a teacher. I very much feel I’m still growing into my role, but it has truly been a blessing.
In my previous job, I was the only Christian in my school, and unfortunately instead of “shining my light,” I allowed myself to be overcome by the world in my words and actions. I followed the example of those around me instead of seeking to emulate Christ to my non-believing coworkers.
Now, being in a Christian environment has pushed me to immerse myself in God’s Word (since I’m teaching it to children) and to monitor my words and actions from a gospel lens (since I have true accountability and community).
I will never forget the first time I met with a teacher and ended the meeting in prayer. I had seen my principal do this, and it was such a freeing (yet foreign) experience to welcome God into our professional life! Every time I pray with a teacher, or a parent, or a student, I am reminded of this great blessing.
The most unique challenge for me has been finding the balance between grace and professionalism. I’d say they’re on opposing ends of a spectrum but aren’t entirely mutually exclusive. Take, for example, when a teacher doesn’t turn in her lesson plans on time. I have a choice to make: should I show professionalism or grace exclusively? Or a compromise of the two?
Professionalism would say to the teacher, “You have failed to upload your lesson plans according to the agreed-upon guidelines in pg. 8 of the staff handbook. Tomorrow we will hire a substitute teacher for your class while you work in the computer lab on your next three weeks of plans. The cost of the substitute will be deducted from your next paycheck.”
Grace, on the other hand, would respond by first asking why the lesson plans weren’t submitted, and then weighing the validity of the response (Did the teacher forget? Has she just procrastinated? Was there a family emergency?).
Often, I find myself striking a compromise between professionalism and grace—maybe telling the teacher her excuse is valid but to just please give advanced notice next time this happens, or telling the teacher enough is enough and the next time it happens she’ll pay for her own sub. Though this is a minor example of decision-making in my position, I’ve found that decisions in “gray” situations are what make my job most challenging but, in the end, most rewarding. I love fruitful (and sometimes difficult) conversations with teachers as I coach and encourage them in their calling as educators.
A special part of my job entails teaching a Bible lesson every morning to the 60+ children in the program, and through that experience, I’m challenged to look at familiar Bible stories through a critical, Gospel-centered lens. As I prepare and teach each Bible story to the children, I first have to understand it for myself—and not just who did what in the story, but really what each story says about the character of God and our need for a Savior.
This has pushed me to learn so much and grow spiritually. Often when I’m teaching (even something like the birth of Jesus, a story I’ve heard my entire life), I get goosebumps as the power of the story and the truth of the message comes through. It's a challenging and beautiful thing to be in a position where my spiritual wellness has a direct impact on young children and their understanding of God. This holds me accountable daily in my pursuit of the Lord.
If you would like to be a part of this project, I would love to hear your story. Contact me for more information.