back to school

Lost for words. This was the first week back to school after a sabbatical and summer break. Busy-ness and preparation rituals don’t allow for much reflective time. My niece Shelby asked me what I was going to write about this week (she follows the blog), I said I didn’t know. She suggested I write about the first day of school. I asked her to start me off with a few sentences containing her own thoughts about returning to school after summer vacation and this is what she wrote:

“As all may know, school has started once again. Some students detest going back to school but I love it! The thing that I love the most about going back to school is going into a higher grade, learning new school related things, and God related things. I go to an Adventist school and the lovely thing about it is we learn about God everyday and my relationship with God is definitely strengthened.” –Shelby, age 12

Ok, so she’s excited. She really does love school. She’s quite the smarty-pants and I mean that in the best way possible. Monday morning I met my first year students as part of their orientation. I’m teaching a first-year seminar so I have a class filled with freshly minted college students who I will advise through year one. Such young and bright faces.

Each year when school starts up again I enter with mixed feelings. I enjoy teaching and most days think I’m fairly gifted at it. However, sometimes I dread the responsibility when the seriousness of it weighs down on me. Teaching well is not a joke. As much as I may laugh my way through each semester I am keenly aware of the responsibility that has been placed upon me. Introducing young minds to new ideas and gently pushing students out of their individual comfort zones must be done with care and clarity. It is the see-saw of challenge and nurture and the best of us make it look easy.

Today I meditate on several passages that help keep me in check in the midst of the fun and honor of teaching, as well as the short falls that many educators occasionally experience.

Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life. James 3:1-2. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned… Titus 2:7

Teach your children well. Teach your young people well. Joyful Returns. Welcome back teachers and students, new and old. Here’s to blessed beginnings this new academic year.

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About Calenthia Dowdy

Calenthia Dowdy (PhD, American University) is a cultural anthropologist and youth ministry educator who focuses on urban youth and culture in the U.S. and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Alongside teaching, speaking and writing on youth, cities, race, gender, and faith, she serves as the director of faith initiatives at a comprehensive community health center that specializes in HIV/AIDS care