An Open Letter to the One Who is About to Become a Missionary Teacher
Bring a winter coat. I didn’t, and it was the biggest packing mistake I made. You’ll need it. Trust me.
Don’t have any expectations for your classroom or your students. The reality is, your students will never reach them, and will simultaneously far exceed even the most impossible goals you have set for them. I can’t explain exactly how these two realities can coexist, but they do. And they will. You will understand when you get here.
This job is easily the hardest you have ever had. Your day doesn’t start at 7:15 when students arrive and it certainly won’t end at 2:30 when they go home. Expect to work longer and harder than you ever have before.
Expect to lock yourself in your classroom over lunch and turn on Netflix at least once. Sometimes you just need to see Ross invent a g rated way to give the finger. Missionary teaching is HARD, and sometimes, you’re just gonna need you time.
Pack waterproof shoes. Its muddy here, and wet tennis shoes are possibly the most uncomfortable things on the planet.
Root yourself in who you are in Christ. Create a network of people who will pray for you and who will remind you that you are His. You need people who will speak truth into your life, and who will pray truth over your life. Never before have I questioned myself more. I have never struggled with constant feelings of inadequacy or doubted my calling quite like I have this year. But I have never been so refreshed, so renewed, or so sweetly reminded by Jesus just who he created me to be.
Your students will break your heart in ways you never knew it could break. You will hear about their brother with a tumor on his head and about their mom who almost died in a car accident last week. And they will come up to you and say “want to hear something sad? My parents separated yesterday.” Not taking work home with you is impossible. Be prepared to cry with them and for them. Bring knee pads. You will be driven to constant and fervent prayer because there simply is nowhere better to turn.
Your students will love you fiercely- especially on the days when you feel like you don’t deserve it. They will give you their last cookie and the last bite of their chocolate bar. They will invite you to their birthday party, and when you show up, you will be treated as the guest of honor. Your walls will be wallpapered over in handwritten letters, hand drawn pictures, and construction paper hearts that were made just for you. They will give you their last fruit snack because “Miss! Its food from the United States its food you like!” They will make you belly laugh and cry and question your sanity and you will forget how you ever lived without them.
You will have parents crying because their child failed but they are just so thankful for everything you’ve done to help them. You will have parents scream at you because their child has a 94% and “why do you hate her? Why would you fail her?”.
Life will stop making sense, but for the first time, you will understand.
This job is such a beautiful paradox, much like the Christian life should be. You will feel defeated yet invigorated. You will simultaneously celebrate failures and victories. You will work harder than you ever have before yet feel like you haven’t done enough. You will be exhausted yet refreshed. You feel alone- so painfully alone, yet enveloped in the sweetest community you can imagine. Everything will feel odd and out of place, but you will click into the role for which you were created in a seamless transition. Never before have such opposites comingled so sweetly. But they will.
It’s the best job you will ever have. It’s hard. But easy things are rarely worth doing.
Welcome aboard. It’s going to be the ride of your life.
A first year Missionary Teacher