In a tiny East Texas town, I stood before my eight 11th grade Sunday School students who were staring back at me with glassy eyes while I expounded on a lesson from Amos. It was at that moment I heard God whisper to me, “You have to do this.”
Whaaaat??? This is the girl who never babysat. This is the girl who has a degree in accounting. This is the girl who said, “I’ll never be a teacher!” This is the girl who told her dear friend who loved substituting she was crazy.
My initial response was, “Surely You don’t mean me, Lord!” Eventually, it became, “If You say so.”
I followed my crazy friend’s footsteps by starting out subbing and loving it too. Now I was also crazy. Next, I contacted the area college to see how to get my teaching certificate. I enrolled for the fall semester in the two classes I needed before I could do my student teaching that spring. In the summer before I enrolled in college, I had two close calls to begin teaching with an emergency certificate, but neither materialized. So off to college I went!
This girl was scared to death and so excited at the same time, because God had called me and I had stepped out in faith. The plan was coming together beautifully. Until…
There was a phone call my husband made to buy some used electronic equipment for the plant he worked for from a plant in Louisiana. Did he know anyone looking for an electrical supervisor position? Maybe? The trip to pick up the equipment included an impromptu job interview. I’d only been in college a month when his job opportunity came. Now what?
God was leading us to move in a few short months, before I could finish the semester for preparing for His call on my life and too late to get a tuition refund. Why did He put a kink in what seemed like a perfect plan? I was subbing on the days I wasn’t attending my college classes and loving it. I was a shoe in for getting a job for the next school year. Didn’t I do everything in my power to obey God’s call?
Instead of being a college student and substitute teacher, I began preparing for a move that was not in my plan. Finding a place to live close enough to my husband’s new job proved difficult. The one place we could find had a horrible school situation for our children, but I had heard of a Christian school and checked it out.
From the time I arrived in the reception office, I felt at home at this school. There were hot pink “Moms In Touch” prayer group brochures on the counter. Everyone was so helpful and made me feel hopeful. Not only did my children have a wonderful Christian school available, they needed me to sub and my degree was enough to be able to teach there the next year.
God really did have an excellent plan in Louisiana that was so much better than what I thought it was supposed to be in Texas. Be flexible, Cheryl!
Meanwhile, the house in Texas didn’t sell. We rented it to our church’s education and youth minister for almost a year. We had little cash to get into a new house, but the rent house wasn’t where my sweetheart wanted to live. He wanted to live in the piney woods further north, so I painstakingly searched for a house in that area. Keep in mind that I had found the perfect school for the kids and me where we were living. Didn’t my husband understand God’s obvious plan for us?
After finding an adequate home for us to buy, I mentioned to our school superintendent one day at church that we were moving north. I was shocked and disappointed to hear they had a campus near there and had two teacher openings for the next year. I didn’t want to leave our new town. It seemed like a perfect place for us. Why did my husband have to be close to pine trees? Why would God move us away, set up a great situation, then make us move almost an hour away six months later?
I remover driving north on the interstate to handle business for the move, crying and singing along with a Twila Paris song on the radio, “Do I trust You, Lord, when I don’t know why?”
It was easy to say “yes” to becoming a teacher. It was easy to say “yes” to moving to Louisiana for my husband’s wonderful job opportunity. It was easy to say “yes” to a Christian school for the kids and me.
It was SO HARD to say “yes” to starting over again. But I did it! I had to trust God and my husband, even when everything inside of me was screaming “NO!”
This girl who loved Jesus taught 1st grade to 24 precious students with a degree in accounting and lots of faith that the Master Teacher would show me how to be a teacher. My daughter had been in 1st grade the year before, so I was familiar with the curriculum. I loved those kids and was determined that they wouldn’t suffer just because I had never taught school before and didn’t have an education degree. I had never been so exhausted in my life, but it was a successful year.
By May, I felt like a total failure as a wife and mother. School took so much out of me, partially because I felt the need to go way above anyone’s expectations to prove I was good enough without a teaching certificate. Every time someone told me how good a teacher I was, I felt the sting of the enemy’s fiery darts because of how much my family had been neglected.
I quit. Told my principal I wouldn’t be back the next year. She asked how she could help. It was too late. I never asked for help at all that year, though I was drowning under the weight of my unrealistic expectations of myself. Everyone said the second year is better, but I couldn’t take that chance. She said she had seen real leadership qualities in me and had felt I would be the one to eventually take her place. I was shocked and flattered, but no job was worth sacrificing my family. God had someone else in mind, I was sure.
Apparently, I had misunderstood what God had asked me to do with my life. Or maybe the timing was wrong. I didn’t really know what to make of this mess, but I was sure God was at work.
That next school year, I managed to get a grip on my home life, attended a daytime ladies Bible study, and subbed in either the classroom or cafeteria at school. I missed being at school all the time, but I enjoyed not being so stressed and burned out. Ladies at church didn’t seem to want to sing cute songs with motions. Part of me was craving being with kids and fulfilling the call I believed I received. What was I supposed to do?
My certified, experienced, mature, pastor’s daughter replacement seemed fabulous at first, and our son was in her class. Then things began unraveling. One of the boys in the class was constantly being picked on by her. The students were way behind in the curriculum. Principal observations went well, but not much teaching was going on when no one was looking. My son came home crying many days, saying how mean she was. It was a hard time, and I felt so guilty.
Eventually, I was asked to help with an improvement plan. I was to observe her for a week, teach with her observing me for a week, then observe her again for a week. Reluctantly, I agreed, putting my ability to tangibly love my enemies to test. Afterwards, nothing really changed, but she did enough to keep her job. A personal matter brought about her resignation in January.
Next, they asked me to take over the traumatized classroom just until a replacement could be found. They needed a lot of love and to catch up academically. I agreed to fill in temporarily. The first day I was back in the classroom, I knew I had to stay. Those precious kids needed me and I needed them. After talking it over with my husband, he agreed I could come back if I didn’t let it drive me crazy and have to work all weekend.
With more realistic expectations and writing my lesson plans on Thursday nights, I was back where I belonged. They were such a sweet class, and I loved leading them in silly songs with hand motions. I was doing God’s plan HIS WAY instead of mine, and it led to so much joy!
My principal retired and I ended up taking her place. Our little campus was turned over to a local church a few years later and most of us moved back to the campus where the kids and I began. Once again, I was in the classroom, but taught 4th this time. In my 40s, I was required to complete my masters in education for our accreditation and state approval. I was put back into a leadership position again as I prepared to graduate. God blessed me so much during more than twenty years in Christian education.
God did mean me when He called an accountant who was a stay-at-home mother to become a teacher. It was quite a roller coaster ride to get there, but I really did have to do this. And He was faithful to walk with me all the way.