Do you ever wonder what you will do when you retire?
Will I spend time babysitting my grandchildren? Or, will I look at ways of contributing to the education debate? Perhaps I can become involved in a program at church or in the community? I have this sense that, despite all the technology around us, positive human relationships are the key foundation to our future and must be championed, yet how do I champion that? Or, should I ….?
And so the questions continued as I drove out of school for the last time as an employee, and entered the world called ‘retirement’ at the end of March 2017. What next? Little did I know what would unfold in the months ahead.
“You never retire. Always something to do.”
“You will find that you will be even busier when you retire. Well, at least that’s what I have found out.”
“It is easy to stagnate. I don’t want you getting bored.”
“I’ll never be bored. I have always found something to keep me occupied.”
Voices! Voices! Words of well-meaning advice, caution, encouragement, even concern about my future well-being.
And, I am seeking words of wisdom and discernment beyond my years as I move away from a world that has embraced my life and about which I shall always be passionate.
Then, one morning, while on my daily walk along the seafront, March 16, 2018, a nudge, a voice in my head: “Write a book specifically to encourage Christian teachers. Short, easy to read with lots of tips and strategies to help teachers …”
The journey was spluttering to a start. I had so many unanswered questions. How could I stand tall in the grace that embraces my brokenness, a fallible, imperfect-by-a-long-way human being write a book for Christian teachers?
I had recently collated all my mentoring, leadership, pastoral care, health and well-being and adolescent brain research and compiled the Free Mentoring Minutes 260 short podcasts, each between two and three or four minutes in length, as an encouragement to anyone working alongside teenagers.
I had agreed to co-author a Coaching Handbook linked to a wonderful holistic education self-learning project being developed by Dr Jeannette Vos.
And now, this distinct nudge which I know was a message from God that I needed to test because I have to move to a deeper understanding of the meaning of being ‘faithful’.
During the following weeks I wrote a rough Introduction to a possible book, able to be read in an hour by a teacher, HEY TEACHER! YOU ARE AMAZING! – 7 Signposts of Effective Change-Agents.
This is a true story. Right?
Then began the journey of testing God’s voice, as I sent this Introduction to teacher friends and a variety of teaching associations and organizations in different corners of the world requesting feedback.
Over 90% replied, way beyond my expectations, and every response was encouraging, urging me to write this “much needed” book especially for Christian teachers.
But, although I have had other books published over the years, I do not see myself as a writer which, I appreciate, might sound strange to anyone reading this.
I started writing copious notes, capturing ideas, great quotes which had inspired me over a forty-five years teaching career, and the ideas for the book began to crystallize.
I continued to pray for that wisdom and discernment beyond my years, even writing to a small Christian publisher in Australia asking them if they would be interested in such a book. Ben responded and said it might not fit the genre of books they published, yet said he felt the book was needed and encouraged me to write it and send him a copy of the final draft manuscript when it was written. There was my motivation.
The writing journey
I asked trusted family and friends to comment on the content as I started writing. One rewrite. Two. Three!
Then a “WOW!” moment.
While my son leads the cheers in the background, my wife and daughter, the latter a primary school teacher, are both my greatest encouragers and critics. As they shared their feedback I realized that the millennial age group has different responses from the, possibly, plus forty age group.
“You must be softer, gentler, dad,” my daughter advised. “Write as if you were sharing with a teacher face to face.”
Things were starting to come together. I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. All the while, I was praying and praying for wisdom and discernment, as I wanted the message to be God’s message, using me as His messenger.
“You need to give more information about the personal stories you are sharing.”
“More reflective activities would be good.”
“I love all the tips and strategies. Teachers will appreciate those.”
“Why not ask some teaching friends to share stories you could include in the book?”
Fifth rewrite … more prayer, more suggestions … sixth rewrite. Nearly there!
Then the breakthrough! My wife and daughter approved the content and general tone and this meant time to check again with some trusted former teaching colleagues.
Positive feedback. More adjustments, tweaks and additions in the seventh rewrite.
Time to seek a publisher and to put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-16) because I call this the “rejection journey”. I have traveled the, “Thanks, but no thanks!’ journey many times over the years.
Some random googling for publishers who would accept unsolicited manuscripts, as I did not have a literary agent and finding one just seemed yet another rocky outcrop to scale. On the other hand, was God not my literary agent?
I sent off some proposals and then a friend of mine recommended a couple of publishers, one of which said they would get back to me within six to eight weeks.
In the meantime the Australian publisher had looked at the draft, liked it, but felt they did not have the contacts to market the book where it needed to be marketed in the education sector. They encouraged me to keep on keeping on. A New Zealand publisher was keen to work with me on the book, but this was a self-publishing opportunity. While I was grateful for the offer, I did not want to self-publish, as I am a pensioner now and have to be a wise steward of our finances. If the voice I heard all those months ago was from God, would He not present the right publisher at the right time?
The project was covered with more prayer as the weeks rolled along and the rejections started coming in.
Eleventh hour and about eight weeks from the time I began this publishing journey – I had thrown out the fleece, like Gideon, to God, with an August 31 deadline – that five minutes to midnight experience. On August 30 I awoke to find an email from Matt at Wipf and Stock publishers in the U.S. offering me a publishing contract.
The working title of the book is now: 7 Key Qualities of Effective Teachers: Encouragement for Christian Educators. The book will probably be published in March or April, 2020 if everything goes to plan.
Editing is now under way. Finishing touches are being applied to the manuscript. A marketing plan is being devised. I am setting up an army of prayer warriors to get behind the project and ensure that God’s goals for the project are at the forefront of all that occurs in the months to come.
Hey Teacher! You ARE Amazing!
We are being challenged more and more each day by an increasingly left leaning, emotionally driven, secular, faithless, yet influential and powerful media that controls what may or may not be published.
God seems to be telling me it is time to encourage all the amazing, often unappreciated Christian teachers who have a significant responsibility to speak into the lives of youth and their families.
God also seems to be challenging me me to shout out unashamedly from the rooftops this very simple message of encouragement to these Christian teachers (indeed, to all teachers if they have ears to hear), a reminder that they are never alone: “Hey Teacher! You ARE amazing!”
Thankfully, God is coaching me the meaning of being faithful to Him – a little reminder nudge that actually I am one of the fortunate to make it through the Cancer journey over fifty years ago and He began that coaching way back then and a little before when I took my first tentative steps to Sunday School at our local church.
I am sensing that I know what I shall now be doing during the early years of my retirement.
Be encouraged to chase your dreams. If they are part of God’s plan for your life, He will open and close doors because His timing is always perfect.
The journey continues ….
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be using their God-given talents. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in New Zealand and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Facebook or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website Robin’s free Mentoring Minutes daily podcasts (each podcast between 2 and 4 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here. About 45 blogs have been converted to short video clips, all of which are linked to encouraging youth to reach their potential. These are available on YouTube https://www.youtube.