Surprised by Grace
A week or so ago, we emailed some of our wonderful teachers and asked them to reflect on the past few weeks of massive change. We asked them for some thoughts or an example of how God has sustained them by his grace for the path laid before them.
Please continue to pray for our teachers as they, along with all of us, weather this storm.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12).
Emily Fraser (Lower School Art)
“How can I elevate joy and decrease the fear that may be in some of my little students’ hearts during this time of uncertainty?” This was the question I prayed when we as teachers began to prep for virtual teaching.
For children, joy often comes in the form of laughter. Laughter and silliness are both crucial and beneficial for children (and grown-ups too!), but especially in times of uncertainty; laughter can calm a child’s heart and make them feel safe.
Knowing joy and thus laughter was the medicine needed, I considered ways in which I could, as a teacher, bring laughter into the hearts and homes of my students. Cue “Lady Blue,” the spectacle-wearing, large, blue crayon with a silly high-pitched voice in an unidentifiable accent who just might bring a few smiles, giggles, and laughter through virtual art lessons. Little did I know, being silly and light-hearted would have an impact on my own heart and bring joy to my own family as well. It has filled me up to see pictures of your children enjoying art at home, and their smiles have been a gift to my soul! I pray joy triumphs over fear in your hearts, and that your home is filled with laughter!
Scott Forrester (Upper School English and Rhetoric)
In English class, the seniors read a sermon given by CS Lewis in which he discusses the value of “Learning in Wartime,” the importance of continuing in one’s education in the midst of “unfavorable” conditions. He suggests that World War II, in the midst of which he is speaking, “creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.” What my students and I are discovering is that he was absolutely right, that, surprising as it sounds, our current circumstances are not really new; it is just that we are more aware than before of what has always been the case. That is, that we are fallen, broken people, living in a fallen, broken world, and God’s sovereignty is both terrifying and comforting (Ecclesiastes 3:14), as indeed it should be if appropriately viewed. Being more than ever responsible for our own education, having to get along with our irritating family members, having to face our own impatience and tendency to grumble—these are lessons that have always needed to be learned. Now we know it. Now we must be about the business of enacting the virtues of temperance and prudence and faith and love that learning in “wartime” requires.
Alicia VanDerhoof (6th Grade)
This transition has not been easy because it has revealed some idols in my life—idols of security in a schedule, daily reassurance in face-to-face conversations, and successfully appearing to “have it all together.” Overnight, those securities were taken away from me, and I was forced to continue each day without them. Although still working on permanently removing these idols, I am overwhelmed by the way God has shown me that he is all I need. He has shown me that it’s his grace that allows me to finish each day, not my to-do lists. It’s by his strength, not mine, that I plan tomorrow’s lesson and keep up with emails. In learning these truths, God has whispered for me to watch him work in these uncertainties. With open eyes, I see 15 smiling faces greet me each morning to share prayer requests and start our class with devotions; I see pictures of new hobbies and books that have been picked up by each of them; and I still see each of my students’ faces when giving and receiving our usual blessing at the end of class: “The Lord be with you … and also with you.” Every day is filled with new mercies and overflowing grace that makes it such a joy to teach at The Geneva School.
Jill Lewis (First Grade)
The past few weeks have been hard … uncharted territory for all of us as we work together to do remote teaching and learning. The first week of remote learning brought late nights of creating lesson plans for my classroom parents, making instructional videos, learning new technology, and making time to daily check in personally with each of my first graders. I thought the long hours and loss of sleep would be the most difficult, but seeing the faces and hearing the voices of each of my students as I FaceTimed them was emotionally overwhelming. I miss them terribly.
But God. God knows about all of this and all the challenges each one of us is facing. I have experienced his grace and help in so many ways in the past several weeks. His grace has been sufficient. I am beyond grateful to be part of the Geneva community. Faculty have pitched in to help me navigate technology, our leaders have answered every text and email we’ve sent, they send a daily devotional just for the teachers to encourage them, parents have shared words of encouragement, and first graders have learned to Zoom! I initially planned for our remote learning Zoom lessons to last no more than 20 minutes. Guess what?!!! First graders can sit and attend and actively participate for an hour via Zoom! (The mute option has been a great assistance to keep the flow going for our lessons too.)
God has given us the creativity and stamina to do this. I’ve had this quote written in the front of my Bible since 1990. “Grace is the overflowing favor of God.” —Oswald Chambers. Our heavenly Father’s grace is sufficient for our need.
Elizabeth Smith (5th Grade)
Having to change and giving up control are two of the hardest things for people to do. Yet here we are in a world interrupted by change and totally out of our control. The ideas of change and control, although somewhat juxtapositions of one another, are so intertwined that when one is out of balance we see an effect in each. Almost no one likes a forced change, and we all, in our human nature, fall into the belief that we have control … until we realize that we don’t.
The truth that God is in control is easy when times are good. As a Christian, when things are going well, it is easy for me to say that God is in control. However, the times in my life that have been hard, I have also had to lean on this. It is not easy to stop the wheels of anxiety and worry from spinning. In these moments of troubles and undesired or unwanted change, I try to control. However, when I stop and remember that God is who he says that he is and that he is in control, it is so much sweeter to relinquish my hold on control and give it to God.
One of my favorite verses is from Matthew 6: 26–27, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” I have no more control over the things of this world than the birds of the air. God is in control.
Leonore Chamberlain (2nd Grade)
Just a few weeks ago, I did not know what this whole remote learning experience would be like, but today, I must admit, it is not as hard as I expected! I truly do miss teaching my students in the classroom and giving and getting real-life hugs, but this remote experience has a few wonderful perks. I love meeting with my students in our Zoom classes, and I also value our one-on-one Facetime sessions so very much. I do not just get to help my students individually but I also get to have so many meaningful life conversations that a regular school day might not allow for on a one-on-one level. The students and I tell jokes to each other, we share how our day was, and we show our pets or other things we have at home to each other. What a fun way to connect and build deeper relationships!
I am beyond grateful for my families, as well. Their kind and encouraging words and their unconditional love and grace towards me throughout this whole process are truly appreciated. God is so faithful to our Geneva community! He truly made this transition from teaching in the classroom to teaching remotely from home so much easier than I feared.
What a blessing to be able to see all of my students, teach them, and have fun with them, partnering with my students’ families daily, and at the same time being able to spend more time with my family at home and being able to help teach our daughter, too.