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When you go to work every day, you expect to do your job. That’s what you’re responsible for. You’re there to make a living. You want to do what you have to do and then go home.

As an elementary school teacher, I have a huge responsibility. It’s twenty something of them, and just one of me. While I’m there to make a living, students are there to get an education. My classroom is basically a place of educational business where I do what I’m supposed to do, and the students usually do what they’re supposed to do.

Except, that’s not how it actually works for me. Yes, I’m there to do my job, but I’m in awe of how God has allowed me to experience so much more than just work. The love, appreciation, support, and encouragement I receive from being a teacher is invaluable. I thought I was there to pour into the lives of students, but I never expected to be the one being filled up.

Each year, a new set of students’ names appear on my class roster. I spend an entire school year with these children…teaching them, praising them, motivating them, redirecting them, and watching them grow. I communicate with parents via e-mail, posts on Twitter and Class Dojo, newsletters, and we meet in person or talk over the phone when necessary. But sometimes, the relationships I thought would be temporary for the school year, end up extending into a friendship that lasts longer.

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Teaching is the joy of my life, but it’s hard for so many reasons. Hours are long and the salary is low. Some students are challenging, while some aren’t challenged enough. Sometimes, it’s a real struggle. But every now and then, there’s a note on my desk or an e-mail in my inbox that reminds me that I’m making a difference. Someone takes the time to say thank you, but what they don’t know is that their thank you is fuel for me. It gives me the strength to dig deeper and to keep going.

Imagine your students moving on to the next grade and yet you get an invitation to their soccer game, or to hang out at their pool over the summer. Their parents invite you to dinner, or to attend the county fair with their family. How about someone you taught years ago asks you to attend their piano recital or their graduation? What about when a child you taught invites you out for ice cream and pays for it? The time when you noticed a delicious treat in their lunch, and you commented that you love that, and the next day, they bring one to share with you. Oh, what about when they notice you coughing and they put a note on your desk saying they hope you feel better and thank you for coming to work today? The presents, the gift cards, and the text message saying they were thinking of you on the anniversary of your father’s death… what is all of that?

It’s love. It’s amazing love. It’s beyond a job. It exceeds all things surrounding education. It is God wrapping His arms around me, embracing me in His adoration for me. It is His light shining through the smiling faces of these children that I’m so privileged to watch grow up. The acts of kindness are direct reflections of God’s heart for us and reminders that He sees us, and we matter to Him.

Your job is your job. But I encourage you to slow down and take a moment to think about what else it is. Notice how God meets you there and supplies you with more than you expected. I guarantee, love is surrounding you, even there.

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