September 2, 2020

Plans of Mice and Men

When I was a child, my mom would often say, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” which comes from a poem called “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns. While we shortened this quirky quote as I grew older to the far simpler remark, “Plans of mice and men,” the point remained: it doesn’t matter who you are, there’s always a chance that things will not go the way you planned.

Isn’t that what we as teachers often deal with? Plans that don’t go the way we intended, fall apart mid-flight, or maybe don’t even make it off the ground. This falling out of plans is more prominent in our current global situation than ever before! And I, for one, had not planned for a global pandemic to be the background of my teaching debut! As Mom would say, “Plans of mice and men.” 

Starting my ministry as a quasi-online teacher has been an eye-opening experience, unlike anything university could have prepared me for. My naïve plans of a crisp, creative classroom were immediately dashed; daydreams of jigsaw collaboration and dramatic read-alouds squashed; visions of popsicle-stick trebuchets and outdoor reenactments obliterated. They had been the “plans of mice and men.” 

Instead, I entered my classroom (my desk squished into a corner of my kitchen), straightened my collar (paired nicely with pajama bottoms and bunny slippers), and prayed that God would show me the way to “just teach.” See, it’s easy to get bogged down when “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry” and forget that God has plans too. Great plans. Perfect plans. He even says in Jeremiah 29:11 that He has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (NIV). 

So, no, this was not the way I thought I’d be diving into my life as a teacher. Not by a long shot. However, out of this experience I have begun to learn how to “just teach” — how to be a teacher who provides support for her students when the world feels so uncertain. I have learned to communicate, be patient, type faster, take care of my students, and take care of myself. I have searched for resources I thought I would never use and struggled with technology I never even knew I could struggle with.

I have met students’ pets and been awed by their Lego building-block collections (I teach high school). But most of all, I’ve had to learn to be OK with depending on God’s plans. Even though “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” I can be confident in my calling and my faith, because God has a plan, a plan to give me “a hope and a future.”

The original version of this story was printed in the August 2020 issue of Canadian Adventist Messenger.