Reaching Through Teaching (Mar-Apr 2003)

By Matt Dabbs

by Michelle Lanius
March – April, 2003

As I heard myself say, “Yes, I think I will take the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) job,” something within me screamed, What are you thinking?

I had used my education degree to teach first grade and then GED (Graduate Equivalent Diploma) courses. What concerned me about this new position was that I would be responsible for teaching the basics of the English language to people who at the very least were a little unfamiliar with my native tongue. What could I offer to these students besides a basic understanding of English?

As I thought of resigning from my other job, I prayed to God that he’d show me what I needed to do. I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, while at the same time using my degree, if only on a part-time basis. This ESOL position was open, and it now felt right, after prayer and discussion with my family, that I take on this challenge.

It only took two weeks for God to show me his plan for me in this job. I thanked him for his wisdom and guidance. The students that entered my classroom had such awesome stories to tell. As I continued to use the many ESOL textbooks to teach these eager students to better write, read and speak English, other more valuable life lessons were learned as well. Through each student’s life story and discussion of their goals for the future, I began to see humble, eager, persevering, beautiful spirits ready for more challenges.

These students wanted not only to improve their English skills but also wanted to grow personally and spiritually. And they welcomed my input in all these areas. This is the greatest opportunity for me to share God’s love, and I am amazed at how overwhelmingly accepting and receptive these men and women are.

Because of teaching in a public school setting, I do try to follow the guidelines of separation of church and state. I also subscribe, however, to the philosophy I heard one teacher put so profoundly: “You can teach Jesus without even saying His name.” That is what I try to do every Tuesday and Thursday night. This does not mean that we as Christians do not mention Christ’s name when the time is right, but we can begin with ministry that ultimately leads to speaking Jesus’ name boldly. So many students and teachers have asked why I seem to care more than the other ESOL teachers they know. My response is “I care about your English skills, and in order to help you further I want to learn more about you.”

In class, I try to be a teacher and friend. I also get involved in my students’ lives by arranging social and cultural events for the class. Every student who is expecting a child has a gift shower, usually arranged by the class. Many nights we prepare dinner together to learn about each others’ cultures. If I feel that someone is in need of encouragement, I will send a card and pray for a student. The response is amazing!

One student, Dalia, has been in my class for more than a year, and she has shared with me her heartbreaking story of growing up with various relatives because her mother couldn’t care for her. She has lived in Puerto Rico, Spain and Venezuela before coming to the United States eight years ago. She told me that she kept her faith in God and knew he would make a way for her, and he has. She’s been blessed with a wonderful husband and three sons and now works as a postal clerk at a hotel. Her determination and hope inspire me.

I feel blessed to be a part of this faith journey with my students. Students do come and go, but every now and then I’ll receive a letter or phone call from Flora from Colombia, Claudia from Italy, Won Hee from South Korea or Salina from Bangladesh. They are keeping me updated on their progress. Some students exemplify their perseverance by returning to class after a long absence due to health or family concerns. Some even continue their desire to learn well into retirement age. Their upbeat and encouraging words help me know that God led me to this great service opportunity, and I’ve been blessed so much for being a part of this ESOL program.

Are you a Bible class teacher looking for resources? In cooperation with Ministryweaver, we provide printable study guides for Bible class teachers. See the Bible Teaching Resource link on the home page.New Wineskins

Michelle Lanius

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About...

Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1584 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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