Keep Calm and Shoot Straight

A Blog for Teachers
by Mary Jean Powers

What Difference Does it Really Make?

Aug 9, 2021

You don’t have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and then be willing to live for them and die for them.” 

John Piper

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

When I first began teaching in South America, I had questions. Lots of questions. What am I contributing that will make a lasting difference? Can I justify spending this much time, energy, and money to teach in a communist, third world country? How will playing ball, holding kids, reading to them, teaching music, English, and basic computer skills help them become contributing members of a community?

The answers came slowly.

Here’s what I discovered: the odds of those children truly Living Life were increased with every investment, every interaction. The goal is not Surviving Life; the goal is Living Life. As their teacher, my job was to create a safe environment in which students could laugh, cry, rest, eat, play, and learn successfully, i.e., an atmosphere where they could become healthy kids. Through education and personal engagement, the chances of them returning to the streets, selling themselves, stealing, dealing drugs and/or begging, were drastically reduced. The more they learned, the greater the odds of them becoming assets to society rather than liabilities.

Additional questions took me by surprise:

Might I be the only woman who would affectionately hold them on my lap, allow them to sit there for as long as they liked … without harming them?  Is it worth the price I’d pay?

What if I am the most consistent educator in their most formative years, spending the time, energy, and money necessary to teach them well, giving them a chance at a decent future? Is it worth what it would cost me?

What if I am the only one who would ever impart to them the joys of playing a musical instrument? Is it worth the investment?

Will my consistency make a difference?

Yes, I believe it will.

A Day in China

My friend tells the story of one of her visits to a small village in China. There she met an American woman who had lived in that area and ministered to the poor village people for 35 years. The day my friend was there, her team provided “school” for the small number of village children. They played games, drew pictures, sang songs, and even learned a few English words. This caused all kinds of confusion for my friend, so she sincerely asked the missionary to explain why they were spending time teaching these types of things to the children, knowing that they would never have the opportunity to develop them. (It seemed more logical that they should spend time teaching basic life-skills.) The woman patiently replied, “If you were a completely uneducated child here, and you worked every day of your life from the time you were big enough to carry sticks … if you knew you would marry at puberty, and most likely get pregnant right away, only to have the government limit the number and gender of the children you would bear. If you were that child and were given one day in your life to laugh and sing and play, to be creative, to use a part of your brain that would never again be used – one day to be a kid – would it be worth it?”

Is it Worth the Risk?

During one agonizing night between my first two trips to South America, I was weighing my options to further my education and become more qualified to teach the orphaned students I would encounter. I knew that a TESL certificate would open doors for me all over the world. How reasonable was it for a white, middle-aged Jesus-loving woman to be traveling back and forth to America-hating, communist countries? Was it worth the risk? That night I got my answer – not an answer for others, but for me. That night I wept. I surrendered. It became settled in my heart that, for me, it was worth risking my life. For me, it was worth the sacrifice. This opportunity would enlarge my heart, my understanding, and my effectiveness as a teacher. This opportunity would shake me from my complacency and force me to engage creatively, lovingly, and intellectually beyond anything I’d previously experienced.  It would stretch me in ways that I desperately needed and truly longed for.

How do you know when you need to be stretched as a teacher? In which areas have you become complacent? What do you still need to learn, in order to become the teacher you know you can be? What are you willing to sacrifice? Is it worth the cost?

About Keep Calm and Shoot Straight

I am a teacher. You, too? I hope you love the profession as much as I do! I was 16 when I got my first teaching gigs – I had 20 private piano students and a Sunday School class of 4 and 5-year olds! At that point in my “career,” my definition of teacher was very limited. But now – after 45+ years of experience – I have come to realize that teacher can mean many different things. I’d like to share some of those insights with you! My posts will range from quotes to prayers, from cartoons to words of wisdom. Much of my teaching experience has been international, so you'll get to watch some video stories from around the globe. Jesus is the best Teacher I know, so I will be including Him in this blog, as well. I hope my thoughts and my story will encourage, provoke, and inspire you to become the teacher you’ve been created to be!

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Mary Jean Powers

Mary Jean Powers

B.A. in Christian Education
M.A. in Biblical Studies
Music teacher (band and choir director, private instruction) for 35 years
International Bible teacher for 17+ years
Certified Walk Thru the Bible instructor
Certified TESL International Instructor
CEU Provider for ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International)
Certified Life Coach and Chaplain

Who am I? A teacher coming alongside teachers!