An Attitude of Gratitude: Maintaining Joy in the Midst of Classroom Challenges
Teaching is a different ballgame today than it was when I entered the field in 1999. Things have changed. It seems there are far more challenges in the field of education today than there were a few decades ago. I’m sure those who have been in the field longer than I feel this with an even greater intensity. Extreme budget cuts, increased testing, and the ever-changing dynamic of society’s woes can suck the joy and life out of you as a teacher. If you allow yourself to dwell on these things you can find yourself in a downward spiral very quickly. How do you keep your sanity and joy as a teacher, then, in the face of all these challenges? Take a look at a few keys from scripture that point to an attitude of gratitude as a weapon to wield in the midst of today’s challenges.
A Shift in Perspective
No one is denying the fact that today’s teacher faces great challenges in the classroom. I heard a quote some time back by Bill Johnson, pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, CA, that has really stuck with me. He said, “Faith doesn’t deny a problem’s existence. It denies it a place of influence.” As a Christian educator faced with many challenges in today’s classroom, how do you deny those challenges a place of influence in your state of mind? How do you keep them from stealing your joy? Change your perspective!
The book of Philippians offers us a prescription for changing our perspective!
So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. – Philippians 4:8, The Passion Translation (click here to view The Passion Translation on Amazon)
Have you ever been in the teachers’ lounge when a complaint session is going on? Maybe you’ve even been part of that complaint session. I know I’ve been guilty of that on occasion. How did you feel in the midst of it? In my experience that complaint session never solved the problem. Rather, it destroyed my mood, quickly sending me in a downward spiral and into a grumpy state of mind. My students didn’t deserve that! Praise God, somewhere along the way He pulled me out of that complaint cycle. God shifted my perspective to appreciating the blessings in teaching rather than the challenges! It completely changed my frame of mind and made me a much more joyful teacher for my students!
An Attitude of Gratitude in Prayer
About a year ago I found myself praying for peace in a situation that was causing much anxiety and stress. As I was praying Philippians 4:6 for a person affected by the situation the words, “with thanksgiving” suddenly jumped out at me like flashing neon lights. In all my years of quoting and praying this scripture I had never seen the part that thanksgiving played as a key to peace.
“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7 – English Standard Version, emphasis added
If you’re like me, you’ve quoted this scripture time and time again focusing on “let your requests be made known to God.” The key to peace that I had been missing as I “let my requests be made known” was thanksgiving! In the act of thanksgiving we acknowledge that He is God, and He is the source of our blessings. In some supernatural mysterious way, as we offer thanks and our focus shifts to Him, peace begins to overwhelm our anxiety and stress. Even as freshly as yesterday I experienced this. My thoughts were filled with a dozen problems that are much bigger than me, but as I thanked Him and focused on His greatness, peace began to overcome every anxious thought in my mind.
I love the way the Passion Translation expresses the importance of this attitude of gratitude in prayer:
Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers knows to you through Jesus Christ. – Philippians 4:6-7, The Passion Translation (click here to view the Passion Translation on Amazon)
An attitude of gratitude to God shifts your perspective to acknowledging He is greater than every challenge you face. It also positions you to asking and receiving His answers for each challenging classroom situation you face.
Let joy be your continual feast. Make your life a prayer. And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God’s perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, The Passion Translation (click here to view the Passion Translation on Amazon)
I’m not denying that the challenges of education today are great. I write this, though, to encourage you to not let those challenges steal your joy. If you are still in the field of education today, you must know that God has called you to it in this season. Keep on keeping on! God will show you how to navigate every challenge as you continue to give thanks to Him, acknowledging Him as the one who has the answers. Let an attitude of gratitude pave the way to maintaining your joy as you teach in the midst of difficult circumstances. Your students are worth it!