A teacher learns a valuable lesson in God’s classroom.
by Kristi Dodge as told to Karin Dixon Butler
“What happened, Lord? I was doing Your work; it was my life’s passion. I loved my job, and now it’s gone.”
I’d lost my dream job due to budget cuts at the church where I had been working full time for the last four years. Okay, so everything about the job wasn’t perfect. What job is? But I’d been an associate pastor and head of several different departments. I’d been in ministry, just as I’d wanted.
Because of situations at the church, I was relieved to be let go. But for financial reasons, I was nervous. My husband and I were in a place where I needed to work. Now I had to start over.
Job offers were not forthcoming. I even struggled to find something I could apply for. At fifty years old, I wasn’t a hot item on the job market. I lacked a college degree, and my only real experience was working for a church.
Eventually, however, a nearby school district hired me to teach extended half-day kindergarten, and no degree was necessary. I would teach the regular kindergarten curriculum, but do it differently for those children whose parents paid for them to attend school all day.
Instead of rejoicing that I had a job, I was angry.
“All right, Lord. I’ll do this. But You know it isn’t what I want.”
I grumbled, feeling as though I was going back twenty-two years. After all, I should be in ministry again.
But God knew what He was doing even if I didn’t. It took only a week for me to fall in love with the children and the job. Soon I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
By March of the school year, the class had become so large that I was given an assistant. She was nearing graduation with a teaching credential, and was academically more qualified than I was.
My assistant explained the credential program to me. While it sounded interesting, I figured I was too old and that it would take too long for me to finish. But God countered that thought: “I want you to do this.”
Reasoning with God
I fought it — not because I didn’t want to do the credential program but because I thought it was impossible. I wasn’t arguing with God; I was trying to reason with Him.
I explained to Him that at my age, I wouldn’t be out of school until I was fifty-eight. I didn’t have a bachelor’s degree, and before getting one, I would have to do two years at a community college.
Even with all my well-thought-out reasoning, God didn’t listen. I had a feeling stronger than ever to seek a career in teaching.
I went to the community college and sure enough, it would take me eight years to complete the program. I checked another college and got the same answer.
Then I looked into George Fox University. Something about this accredited Christian university just felt right in my spirit. I applied there, even though I didn’t think anything would come of it.
Mother’s Day weekend I received a phone call that I’d been accepted into George Fox’s twenty-month program to get my teaching credential.
I knew I wasn’t really qualified, so I argued with the school, explaining my credentials weren’t enough. I adamantly stressed my deficits.
“Mrs. Dodge,” said a patient voice, “we get to decide who is eligible for our programs. You are eligible.”
It was really happening; my dream was coming true! Maybe God knew what He was doing after all.
In fact, I realized He’d prepared me for George Fox years earlier when I earned a degree from Life Christian University. I’d taught their classes in my church, and even though the school wasn’t accredited by the US Department of Education, the church leadership felt that I needed a degree from the school.
Little did I know how this would help me years later!
The twenty months at George Fox went by like a whirlwind. While it was work, I found it easy. I did my student teaching in my local elementary school and loved every minute of it.
After graduation, my husband and I thought it would be easy to get a job. It wasn’t.
I interviewed at thirteen schools and consistently made it as one of the top two candidates, but the other person was always chosen. I did get a job offer from a Christian school, but after careful consideration, I turned it down.
I really felt my place was in a public school among the lost. I didn’t know how I could witness to the students and faculty, but my heart longed to teach there.
Finally, a school where I had previously interviewed called me needing a teacher for a “high needs” second grade class. Once again, I went through the interview process and then waited. I got the call on a Monday morning. “Do you really want the job? You know the class is high needs.”
Oh, yes, yes, yes. I absolutely, positively want the job, I said inwardly. Outwardly, I answered with a calm “Yes, I do.”
Going into a public school, I wondered how I could show Jesus to my co-workers. Again, God had prepared the way for me.
In my first week, another teacher came up to me on the playground as I was watching the children. “Tell me about yourself,” she said.
“What do you mean by that?” I asked.
“What makes you you?”
God, are You kidding me? I thought. Once again, You are answering my prayer in a way I never would have imagined.
Since the most important thing in my life is my relationship with Jesus, I took a deep breath and said, “I’m a born-again Christian.”
The other teacher cut our conversation short. I later found out she was extremely socially liberal.
Although the conversation ended, our relationship didn’t. I respected the woman as an experienced, dedicated teacher, and she respected me. In fact, I often asked her for help and advice. I did what I could to love her into the kingdom.
Grace for the challenges
In my classroom I soon discovered “high needs” was putting it mildly. So much craziness went on while I tried to teach. The children did not sit still in their places with bright, shiny faces; they were beastly. Some of them were designated “behaviorally challenged.” To top it off, a seven-year-old was suicidal.
Because of God’s grace, I turned this class around from complete chaos to one of the best behaved classrooms in the school. The principal said in his nine years, this classroom was one of the worst he’d seen.
I see teaching as my destiny now — all because I lost a job I didn’t think I could lose and consented to do something I didn’t think I could do.
And I’ve learned my own lesson: God turns setbacks and less-than-positive attitudes into opportunities and blessings when we obey Him.