Jaleshea Cobbs is a 10th-grade world history teacher at a Title I school in Washington, D.C. She is a member at Anacostia River Church.
What do you do every day?
My work varies. Having block scheduling means I can plan ahead and teach the same content two days in a row, but seeing about 70 kids each day means no day is like the one before. Work is busy, and grading assignments makes for late nights. In addition to planning and teaching, I spend a significant amount of time building relationships with students and their families.
As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work?
Working with teenagers can be challenging and calls for much grace, patience, kindness, and compassion—not only for my students but also for myself. I’m constantly reminded of how much I need God’s strength to be good teacher.
How I work with my students reflects how God works with us: He’s always sanctifying us—teaching us and shaping us through his Word, our experiences, and the people he’s placed around us. My prayer for my students is to get a glimpse of God’s love and care through their experiences with me both inside and outside of the classroom.
How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world?
Where I teach, some students struggle even to get to school given the obstacles they face at their homes and in their neighborhoods—teenage pregnancy, drug usage, violence, and so on. It’s heartbreaking to see the injustices and trials many students daily face—struggles that, of course, influence their academic success.
At the level of school administration, student data is often elevated over the students’ best interests. Teachers are pressured to pass students to the next grade level, even if they haven’t mastered required skills in areas like reading and writing. This “improved” system hurts the children, creating more obstacles for their education.
Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others?
I know the students need and deserve great teachers, so one way I love and serve them is by striving to become a better teacher every day.
I also get to love and serve my coworkers. Our work is tough, and we all need refreshment. Showing up faithfully, helping out with copies, getting supplies, cheering someone up, being a listening ear—these are some ways I try to intentionally serve them. I want them to be better teachers, too, so I seek to hold them accountable for their actions. I hope they see that my desire for their flourishing is motivated, not only by my love for God and the students, but also by my love for them.
Editors’ note: The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are edited and condensed.