“TeachBeyond teachers are ‘born again’ teachers – that is, teachers who themselves have been transformed and filled with God’s Holy Spirit to become empowered for a ministry of transformation.”
It wasn’t yet 8 a.m., and it had already been a difficult day. So when Levi came to school late and out of dress code—again—I snapped. It wasn’t my finest hour, yelling at this 11th grade boy in the middle of the school foyer. Even in the moment, I was aware that this was not the right way to handle the situation—but I didn’t really care. After sending Levi to call home for appropriate attire, I took a deep breath and left the school grounds. For about half an hour I stormed around the neighborhood, tears streaming down my face, trying to ignore the stares of the construction workers who must have thought this foreign lady who kept passing them was majnuneh—crazy. Eventually, I calmed down enough to have a rational conversation with the Lord and by the time I returned to the school I realized that was not the only conversation I needed to have.
The wary look on Levi’s face when I pulled him out of math confirmed what I already knew. It wasn’t easy, but I apologized to this young man for the way that I had conducted myself. While affirming that violation of school rules still had consequences, I acknowledged that I was wrong for losing my temper and that I was sorry. He was wrong, but so was I.
At TeachBeyond, we talk a lot about transformational education, but the truth is that while education can open many doors and provide many opportunities for students, this is not the type of transformation that we mean. We want more for our students than entrance into good universities, more than advanced economic opportunities or emergence as good global citizens. We want our students to experience life to the full—life that comes through the indwelling power of the Spirit of God. We want our students to know Truth and to make connections between God’s Word and the world He has created. Wherever we find ourselves teaching—in contexts that welcome the gospel, or those that are hostile to it—we do what we do because we believe in the transformational power of the Holy Spirit to bring this life abundant.
If we want to see our students, schools, and communities transformed and filled with God’s Holy Spirit, we cannot rely simply on best teaching practices—though they are important. Transformational education comes about when teachers themselves are being transformed. This basic truth is so foundational to what we are called to do in the classroom that it bears restating from time to time.
If we want to see life-giving transformation happening in our students, then we as teachers need to be intentional about pursuing our own relationship with Jesus. We need to root ourselves deeply in His presence, and open ourselves up to the encouragement and chastisement of His Word. As we do so, our lives will begin to reflect the transforming work that He is doing in us.
When I blew up at Levi that morning, he saw me at my worst. But the Lord gives grace, and as I allowed the Spirit to work in my heart to convict and correct me I was able to show Levi something else as well. I was able to show him that Jesus can change the heart of an uptight, angry principal. I may never know what, if any, impact that encounter had on Levi, but I know this: in that moment, I was transformed. My heart learned a bit more how to soften towards Jesus and towards my wayward students. I started to look a little more like Jesus that day.
While our stories of transformation are not always as dramatic as the one above (and praise the Lord for that!), our lives are often the loudest testament of the gospel that our students hear. Regardless of whether we can openly proclaim biblical truths, our lives bear witness day in and day out to the truth of what we believe. So if we really want to see those around us transformed, we need to tend to our own faith lives. Transformational education begins with the Holy Spirit’s transforming work within each one of us. And that is something worth celebrating!
Becky Hunsberger, M.Ed.
Coordinator of Teacher Education Services