Inspired by a substitute teacher

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If you make the right choices, even though your IQ may not be the highest, you can go very far. Decide that you will do well where you are.

If you make the right choices, even though your IQ may not be the highest, you can go very far. Decide that you will do well where you are.

Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46) Nathaniel asked Philip this question because Nazareth had such a bad reputation and that’s where Jesus was from. How could such a bad city produce such a majestic being? (Not biologically of course).

I substitute taught at River Rouge High a few years ago. I recall one day, when the students completed their assignments, I decided to give them a pep talk to keep them from chattering amongst themselves.

Some of the students griped about how they disliked their school because of the lack of opportunities there. Many programs that had once presented opportunities for scholarships and learning experiences had recently been eliminated. The curriculum was skeletal. Some were worried because they believed that their opportunities were limited because they were attending a so-called ‘sub-standard’ learning institution. Some worried more about their safety, fashion or fun than learning. Many were there because they felt like they had no better options.

I gave them my story about how I went to River Rouge High nearly twenty years prior. I told them how I had begged my dad to put me in a ‘private’ school because I thought I would get a ‘better’ education. Those who had the means had made a mass exodus and went off to fancy pants private or more ‘upscale’ schools. There were not a lot of programs offered during my tenure there either, so I understood their plight. I too thought I would be doomed.

But it was not so. I went on to get my University of Michigan BA degree. Thank God I came to realize that I could bloom where I was planted, even if it was not exactly where I wanted to be. I decided that I would make the best of my situation. The smaller student population meant less competition and therefore I could shine all the more if I simply applied myself. “I can be a star here!” I declared.

A substitute teacher told me in first grade, “You can be anything you want to be.” I had the audacity to believe her and I have carried that with me since 1976. I conveyed this to the students I was with that day, hoping it would do for them what it did for me. It doesn’t matter what school you go to. Do the best you can where you are. You can be anything. It’s your choice. I recently read a quote by JK Rowland that said something like, “Success is based more on your decisions in life rather than your abilities.”

If you make the right choices, even though your IQ may not be the highest, you can go very far. Decide that you will do well where you are. Believe that God will create great opportunities for you where you are.

I reassured those students that good things can come out of River Rouge High. Good things can come out of Ecorse, Southwest Detroit, Inkster, Romulus, Lincoln Park, Melvindale, and in your town. Just ask Ben Carson or some other brilliant people from our neighborhoods who attended public schools. There are people in these schools who care if you demonstrate that you care. Your attitude makes a world of difference. People are willing to help those who sincerely want to do something productive and positive. If God be for you, you cannot lose.

Shine wherever you are. Your light is needed there. You may think you’d be better off somewhere else, but there is a reason that God hasn’t provided the means for you to be there despite your best efforts. There is purpose in where you are. It’s not to say you’ll be there forever, but while you are, make the best of it and ask God to show you your purpose there. Then do it. What a blessing to be able to encourage those students that day. It was a substitute teacher who changed my life. I just hope that I was able to pay it forward. I hope you do the same. You are the ‘good thing’ from your town.

I added my own twist to the saying, “Bloom where you’re planted.” Bloom where you’re planted, until it’s time to GROW somewhere else!!! 

Janine Folks - Spiritual Columnist

About Janine Folks - Spiritual Columnist

Janine Folks is a licensed and ordained minister, inspirational writer of a weekly newspaper column, columnist for a national Christian magazine, self-published author of several books, and co-founder of a women’s prayer group called Women of Transition. Janine holds a B. A. in Liberal Studies with concentrations in Business, Sociology and Communications from the University of Michigan. Janine has studied Clinical Pastoral Education in Detroit, MI and works as a chaplain in the medical field. An avid roller skater, 2013 recipient of a Spirit of Esther Award from the Alliance of Women in Ministry, Janine lives in Michigan is a mother of three.