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DEVOTIONS POSTED IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS
FOOLISHNESS IS BOUND UP IN A CHILD'S HEART
Proverbs 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
The tenth grade boy raised his hand during study hall. I quietly walked to his study center and asked if I could help him. "The light bulb isn't working. Can I go get another one from the janitor" he asked.
I hesitated for a moment and then I told him that there was enough light in the room without the lamp directly over his study center. After I walked away, I saw him tighten the bulb and turn his light back on. He was playing games and trying to get out of class for awhile. At first, this really made me angry. I knew he would gloat over tricking me if I had let him leave the classroom.
How do we keep from getting angry when kids play tricks on us? Well, the above Scripture helped me to get things into perspective. Foolishness is a natural part of being a child--especially some children. The reason we discipline them is to "drive it far from him." We should not allow ourselves to get angry over their foolishness but rather we should see it as an opportunity to train and discipline it out of them.
This student's statement to the teacher was a lie. His game actually led him into sin. Children need to understand that foolishness often leads to sin. If they respect God's Word and desire to do right, they will hear biblical instruction and change their ways. This student earned a consequence for his deceit and lie--not foolishness.
By the way, a sense of humor helps to overcome your offense. Don't ever forget what it was like to be a kid. Much of the time kids don't think all the way through their foolishness. However, for some students this same response could be a form of mockery rather than simple foolishness. Mockers seek to make the leader look foolish--(Proverbs 9:8.) The same consequence would be appropriate whether it was foolishness or mockery.
Dear God, Help me to be level headed rather than hot tempered when it comes to kids' foolishness. Help me to see these situations from your perspective. Their folly is an opportunity for training. Give me the grace to discipline rather than react personally in anger.
WRITE THESE GOALS IN MY HEART
Proverbs 1:2-4 . . . for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young.
Solomon names six purposes for the book of Proverbs
1. To teach wisdom (God's perspective on issues)
2. To gain instruction (natural laws of cause and effect)
3. To discover words of understanding (insight into God's Word and how it relates to current issues)
4. To accept Instruction in
Wisdom –understanding God’s character
Justice—dealing with others in a righteous manner
Judgment—knowing right from wrong and recognizing Satan’s traps
Equity--teaching values that will bring truth and balance to life
5. To give prudence to the simple (Teaching a foundation of truth so they will no longer be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, philosophy, religion, or fad. Ephesians 4:14 (KJV)
6. To give knowledge and discretion (decision making ability based on truth, and understanding God's purpose and will.)
These six goals are imperative to our students' future. I encourage you to write these goals in your plan book and to review them often. Teachers should give students a foundation of truth that encourages right behavior, obedience, responsibility, and balance in everyday living. These acquired attributes will help to produce a happier, more congenial, and more productive society.
These truths are universal. The principles of Solomon can be taught without using the Bible or referring to God. They are universal truths that are applicable in every society, in every nation, and in all life experiences. They can be applied to work or play, to secular jobs, to profit or non-profit organizations, to public or private schools, and to individual family settings.
Dear God, Show me your truths and help me to teach those truths to my students. I submit myself to learn more of Christ's character so that I may become an example to my students.
WHEN I AM WEAK, GOD IS STRONG
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 … "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
It has been said that God is more interested in my character than my comfort. I found this truth to be a solace as I struggle through each year’s unique circumstances. Teachers often experience conflict, stress, disappointment, and fatigue during a school term. We must serve employers, our fellow teachers, parents, students, children, our families, and churches. We work and live on a stage for all to critique. Our every move is closely regarded, and our mistakes are often recorded. Our efficiency is evaluated, and our children are tested. Under the close scrutiny of our audience, our weaknesses will become conspicuous. These are often the weaknesses we try hard to cover up, or the weaknesses we deny.
Scriptures tell us to humble ourselves, to accept the truth about our weaknesses, to submit to our leaders and ask for instruction and support, to lean on others, to ask God for wisdom, and to trust God for strength to overcome. We often respond with denial, excuse, anger, or pride when confronted with our failures. Remember that God's strength is made perfect in your weakness. Your lack may be a chance for someone to serve you as they use their unique gift. Or it could be an opportunity for you to see God's power manifested through your life. Your weakness can become your greatest strength as you allow "the power of Christ to rest upon you" and empower you with overcoming grace. God's grace is sufficient. His wisdom is awesome, and his Word is true. Let the nagging, despised, and hated reoccurring weakness in your life be a pivotal point of turning to God for strength. His strength is perfected in your weakness.
Dear God, I don't like to be weak, but if my weakness bends my knee toward your throne, I will be grateful. I know my perfection is in you alone. God help me in my struggle. Teach me to lean on you.
DO YOUR GRADES MEASURE LEARNING?
PR 11:1 The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.
God cares about your grade book. He cares about your test strategies. He also cares about the student’s success or failure. The marks you make in your book are measurements or percentages of learning. The degree of success that a student achieves is reflected in their scores. At least that’s what most people assume and accept to be the case. However, in my past experiences, it has not always been true.
I once worked with a teacher who gave 20 point bonuses on tests when students did “favors” for him like bringing him candy or doing special chores. Another teacher gave test questions like “How do you spell relief?” “Rolaids” was the answer. “Relief” was considered wrong. I’ve seen other teachers take points off test scores because of misbehavior or failing to write their name on the paper. Are these accurate “weights” or measurements of education?
Grades are based on percentages. An 88 means the student completed 88% of the tested material correctly. How can we have an accurate measurement if that 88 has been tampered with a loss of 10 points for failing to put the name on the paper, or an added 20 points for a special favor brought to the teacher? And trick questions, even though they may be cute and enjoyable for the teacher, are they an accurate reflection of material learned in your classroom? What about homework that was not done or an assignment left at home? Is the “0%” really a correct evaluation of their education? Or is it a measurement of behavior, attitude, or organizational skills?
I ask you to consider your guidelines for measuring grades. Let the grades in your record book reflect actual test scores and academic achievement. Regard undone homework or papers not completed as behavior problems. Design consequences for these behavior problems to encourage the student to learn new patterns and habits. If a student continues to receive zeros for no homework and he fails the course because of it, what has he learned? He hasn’t learned much—at least not in self-discipline. The truth is he may have passed every test given and may have mastered the subject material, but his behavioral problem was never addressed. He doesn’t need to repeat the subject matter another year; he needs to be held accountable for his assignments and be disciplined into correct behavior regarding his responsibility to do homework assignments. A zero is faster and easier to give than holding a student responsible. However, we are doing children a disservice by letting them take a zero rather than requiring them to complete the work.
Once a tenth grade student didn’t turn in the assigned research paper. At first he told me that he had put it on my desk and I must have lost it. I called the parents to inquire about the paper and discovered he had not been working on it at home. I encouraged the student to be honest and finally, he admitted that he had not done the paper. I gave him an “I” for incomplete rather than a “0”. I wanted him to learn to do a term paper. I met with him during lunch hours and after school to check on his work. The project was completed a week later. This was his first report or long term project ever completed. He had learned to take zeros. He knew how to work the system and how to keep from failing most of the time. He did his next project with the class. The discomfort of having to meet with me those extra hours and being made to do the report was painful enough that he did not want to repeat the process again. I did lower the grade for the project being late, but allowed the student a chance to get a “low” passing grade if the project was done well. I felt the lost points reflected the need for re-teaching—thus a lack of achieved learning.
DEAR GOD, LET MY GRADES REFLECT AN ACCURATE MEASUREMENT OF LEARNING. GIVE ME CLARITY OF THOUGHT REGARDING YOUR WAYS. ALLOW ME TO SEE EACH SITUATION AS YOU SEE IT, AND GIVE ME THE WISDOM TO MAKE CORRECT JUDGMENTS.
GIVE ME WISDOM TO MEET THE CHALLENGES
2 Timothy 2:24-26 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
Some topics create heated discussions in a classroom--discussions that cannot be proven, cannot be solved and will set the classroom at odds. I avoid these topics. There are disagreements within society that will not be solved and are nonessential to the overall success of the Kingdom of God or my classroom's yearly essential elements. Some students look for a "question" to get you started. Face it, class is more fun if you can get the teacher off the lesson and onto a debate that brings excitement.
As the Lord's servant, we are not to quarrel. If the issue is unbiblical and you can quickly "instruct" the student to further understanding--do it...gently! However, these matters (though they need to be addressed) are usually better dealt with privately after class. If the student's question is genuine, he will appreciate you taking the time to answer the question. If the student is trying to stir up a discussion or an argument, he will be disappointed and unexcited about handling the question privately. As you consistently confront his questions after class, he will soon give up his rabbit chases.
At the time of the "off track" question, simply say, "That is an interesting question, but I do not think this is a good time to discuss it. See me after class, and we can talk about it. Now, let us get back to our lesson...” or "I am sorry, but we need to stick with our lesson today. Does someone else have a question that pertains to our lesson?"
Should students try to challenge your knowledge or your authority, do not try to "prove" your qualifications or get into a battle of wits. The student should be confronted privately regarding his inappropriate behavior and informed that his "off-track" questions are disruptive and cannot be allowed. Remember to reprove him gently. If the student should continue this "attack" in the classroom, meet with your principal and develop a specific plan of action to stop his disruptions. Never ignore disrespect or challenges-- gently (but firmly) reprove.
Dear God, Help me to be secure enough as a teacher that I can gently reprove a challenging student without anger or resentment. Teach me to respond as a Christian and as a professional teacher.
LET MY LIFE BE A LIGHT TO SOMEONE TODAY
Psalms 119:130 “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”
At the end of my lesson I said, “Your final assignment for today is to write a letter. The letter can be addressed to anyone—your mother, your dog, your friend, your teacher, whoever. It is due at the end of the period. After I grade it, you may mail or deliver your letter if you like.”
After the bell rang, twenty-five letters lay on my desk. Several students wrote letters to their friends, some wrote apology letters to their teachers, but one letter was addressed to me. It was a complete surprise. It was from the one boy in my class that I felt I was unable to reach. He was always into inappropriate behavior. His demeanor said that the things I taught in Bible were of no interest to him. No matter what I tried, I always felt that he had a deaf ear to spiritual things. Then I got his letter. (This is a paraphrase—not the actual letter.)
Dear Mrs. Wyrick, I know that you love God with all your heart. I can see it when you teach Bible.I
know I act like I don’t care about God, but I do. Right now, I am having a real bad time in my life. I
am not doing right, but I want to do better. Please pray that someday I can learn to love God as
much as you do.
I sat quietly in my empty classroom and held the letter in my hand. I read it again, and then a third time. Tears came to my eyes, and a prayer formed in my heart. “ Thank you Lord for allowing your light in me to touch this student. Help him to find you. Help him to know you personally and to love you deeply as he builds a closer relationship with you. Give him good friends that will help lead him in the way he should go. Watch over him as he walks through these difficult times in his life.”
When you plant seed, you never know which seed is going to produce the greatest harvest. Love each student unconditionally. Show concern, kindness, and gentleness to them all. God often chooses the ‘least likely’ person to join His army.
Dear God, Fill my heart with love and compassion for those struggling with sin. Help me to set your standard of righteousness in a loving way so that they will be drawn to your light. Let my life be a living epistle of Christ. I want to live my life in such a way that my students can see Jesus through my words and my actions.
GIVE ME THE RIGHT WORDS IN TIMES OF CONFLICT
Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Sometimes you have "just had it.” Your patience wears thin with students who test the boundaries. Students want to know whether you will stand firm or collapse under the pressure of their misbehavior. Classroom rules are essential. If you fail to enforce the rules, you will lose more than a battle; you will lose the students’ respect. You cannot afford to give up or give in. Students are more secure when the teacher enforces boundaries.
God is our refuge during these stressful times. Since deep meditation and prayer are not possible, you must depend on the constant abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. A silent, inward cry for help brings the heavens to stand alert. Ask God for help. Do not rely on your own stamina and abilities. God's supernatural wisdom and strength are available to you in an instant. Just ask.
Be slow to speak! Allow yourself time to think before saying or doing anything. Lectures do not work on repeated offenses! Have a plan of action before the conflict. Follow the plan. (Stress often indicates that you have not followed the discipline plan consistently.) You are in charge. Anger is unnecessary! Anger belittles your position and causes you to lose your students' respect. Love the child--correct the behavior. The behavior is not the child; the misbehavior is his childishness! Foolishness is found in the heart of a child, but correction helps set him on the right path again. (Proverbs. 22:15)
Seasoning our words with grace and salt (love and firmness) will eventually help students to understand that you are working "for" them and not against them. Consistent training in self-control will teach students respect and obedience. Most misbehavior will gradually fade with loving correction. Be loving and firm with a serving and caring attitude. Without grace and love, your students may perceive your firmness as a personal attack.
Dear God, I want to control my tongue when students push me too far. When I have to be salt to cleanse the behavior of my students, let it always be for their good and not because I am angry or irritated at them.
MAY MY LOVE FOR YOU BE SEEN BY OTHERS
John 14:15 If you love me, keep my commands.
Most young children obey their parents because they fear the consequences of not obeying. They test limits to discover the consequences of each infraction. After their curiosity is satisfied, and they understand the borders, most will feel secure and resign themselves to remaining within those limits until a new issue arises. Their resignation directly links to the consistent consequence they find when they disobey. If the consequence is sometimes given and other times not given, the student will continue to test that issue. They have a need to know there is a boundary.
As children mature into young adults, a change takes place in their motivation for obeying. A respect and genuine love for parents will often replace the childhood fear. They begin to obey their parents out of respect and a desire to honor their mom and dad rather than out of the fear of punishment. This is what the Scripture means—“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” A mature person, who has set aside the rebellion of their teenage years, will joyfully follow the directives of the one who has earned their love and respect. They know that blessing will be the result. Willful obedience based on love instead of fear is due to developed trust!
Do you trust God enough to believe that He always leads the steps of the righteous? He has promised that he will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). He has promised a long and abundant life to those who obey (Deuteronomy 6:2). God knows every detail of our lives and watches over us more than He takes care of the sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).
If you trust God, it will be evident in your life. As you confidently walk through your day, be willing to accept the things that you cannot change. Your love for God will shine into your world. If you say you love the Lord, but you continually break the "rules,” rebel against leadership, and purposely disregard biblical commands, you do not understand love. Jesus said that if we love Him, we will (a choice) obey (do) what He commanded. A person in love does not have to proclaim it to observers. It will be obvious. You honor those you love. Allow God’s love to penetrate every part of your life. Submit to His commands, and His love will flow freely throughout your day.
Dear God, Teach me to trust you that I may grow in a greater love relationship with you. Lord, I want to trust you more!
A TERRIBLE, ROTTEN, LOUSY, NO-GOOD DAY
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Ever had one of those days? Nothing goes right; everything you touch breaks; everything you say is wrong; all your hopes are shattered; all your friends are mad at you. It's just a terrible, rotten, lousy, no-good day. Hebrews 12:2 gives us a key to overcoming on these days—“looking unto Jesus.” Although this statement may seem simplistic or trite, the Bible gives a KEY to a better day.
1. Get alone (even for 5 minutes).
2. Take a deep breath; relax; refocus.
3. Cry out to God for peace and restoration.
4. Meditate on Jesus--who was, is, and is to come.
5. Recite or sing this song:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of God's glory and grace.
(Words & Music by Helen H. Lemmel, 1922)
God is the author of your life and of your faith; He is also the finisher. He, who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it (Philippians. 1:6). Jesus endured the cross by looking past the pain to the finished product. We can also look past our current pain and frustration by turning our eyes to greater, eternal purposes. Allow God to restore your joy today by refocusing on the one who made your joy complete--Jesus Christ.
Dear God, Thank you for your son. Thank you for your truth. As I turn my eyes to the truth, help me to allow the truth to set me free so I can find peace in the midst of turmoil.
CONFLICTS ARE OFTEN MISUNDERSTANDINGS
Job 34:32 Teach me what I cannot see; if I have done wrong, I will not do so again.
One day my husband discovered that our boys had opened two boxes of Corn Flakes. To save cabinet space, he began to combine the two boxes. My youngest son saw what he was doing and asked, “Dad, are you looking for the prize?” My husband chuckled and realized that he and my son could be doing the very same action and have two completely different reasons for doing it. You cannot always know the motives of the heart by a person’s actions or words.
It is easy to misjudge one another, and have disagreements that create conflict. When dealing with conflict, we need to seek to understand the other person's perspective. Understanding motives may clear the offense painlessly. We all have blind spots. We may be unaware of our errors in a disagreement. Allow the offended student, parent, or teacher to explain their perspective of the situation. Misunderstandings are common. Talking through the problem together can calm storms. Apologize for anything you said that caused offense or anger--even if only 1% wrong. Explain your intent if your words were misinterpreted. Be honest and own up to anything you said or did that was less than unkind or tactless. Apologize for any offensive tone or attitude. This can be done without backing down from the message that needed to be sent. When possible, be at peace with all men.
Dear God, Teach me to use your truth and your love to pull down every stronghold that tries to destroy relationships within my school, my home, and my church. Help me to recognize the battle within my own mind, and give me the courage to reject the thoughts that seek to destroy. Give me a humble and contrite spirit as I deal with conflict.
TEACH ME TO HONOR THE WISE AND CORRECT THE REBEL
Proverbs 19:25 Flog [discipline] a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke the discerning [wise], and they will gain knowledge.
Proverbs 21:11 When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom; by paying attention to the wise they get knowledge.
These proverbs identify three groups of people—the wise, the simple, and the mocker/scorner (rebel). The book of Proverbs tells us that the wise student listens to instructions. He listens and learns from it. The wise are willing to learn from other people’s insight without experiencing it themselves. The wise student has the heart to learn and follow the rules.
Simple students are tossed about—not sure which way to turn; they can turn to the right or to the wrong way. They do not decide their direction until they see the teacher’s response to misbehavior. If the teacher is consistent and true to the discipline policy, the simple will obey. If the teacher is inconsistent and allows the rebels (mockers) to rule the classroom, your simple students will join in the mockery. With consistent boundaries, the simple student will become wise (teachable) to avoid the consequences of misbehavior. The simple student’s response to authority depends upon the actions of the leader. They will either follow the wise or follow the mocker when they decide which side wins.
Mockers or Rebels must receive firm and quick correction. The only way you will gain wisdom in your classroom this year is to deal with the student who challenges your authority. Do not overlook little challenges—rolling eyes, smirks, put downs, innuendoes, partial obedience, and challenging questions regarding your knowledge or ability as a teacher. Ignoring the rebel or mocker is to allow him to duplicate himself throughout the year.
Make it a priority to give honor and praise to those who obey. As you acknowledge the positive things your students are doing, you will encourage correct behavior. When you reward the wise with appreciation and privileges, the simple students learn to obey. When you consistently deal with the rebel by giving him/her their earned consequences; the simple will usually reject the rebel. All students look for ways to feel significant and get attention. The mocker is seeking attention from his peers and his teacher when he acts out. He gets this attention through disobedience and negative behavior. If we correct the rebel but do not reward the wise for good behavior, the simple will follow the rebel who seems to be getting all of the attention. If we have positive rewards for correct behavior and negative consequences for incorrect behavior, the simple will choose the right direction.
Dear God, Give me the courage to be consistent and the wisdom to see mockery for what it is. Remind me to honor and acknowledge those students who are following directions and participating in class. Help me to lovingly apply discipline so that the simple can learn wisdom and the mocker can put away disobedience.
TEACH ME TO STAY IN THE BOUNDARIES OF MY JOB
Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment.
It amazes me how staff and teachers always have better ideas than administrators and principals do, and how students always have better ideas than teachers do. In fact, it seems that my superiors always made decisions that were unfair, thoughtless, and required too much unnecessary work. Does that sound familiar?
I must admit that I experienced these feelings as a child, as a student, as a secretary, as a teacher, as a principal, and as a school administrator. In fact, I cannot think of any of my jobs where I did not, at one time, experience these feelings of frustration and discontent. However, as I progressed up the "ladder" of leadership, I made a discovery. Decisions always seem much more simple, clear-cut, and obvious to those who do not have to make them than to those who carry the responsibility of leadership.
For instance, a student feels it is a simple thing to dismiss school. “If everyone is tired, then we should just dismiss for a day of rest.” Sounds simple, but leaders know that this is not reasonable. Feelings cannot be our measurement of attendance. Although this seems naive, the decision you are questioning from your authority may be as simple and clear-cut to your boss and not to you.
The basic principle is "know your place.” Know when you have the authority to make a decision and know when a decision belongs to a higher authority. Do not cross the line. Know the boundaries of your responsibilities and decision-making privileges. Learn to obey directives quickly, quietly and gladly. When you cannot find peace with the decision, prayerfully prepare to make a private appeal to your leader. Offer an alternative solution as you express your concern. Be careful! If you are constantly questioning or appealing your authority's decisions, you will negate the validity of your appeals. In fact, your appeals will probably never be seriously considered. Save your appeals for the important issues. Obey without comment or conflict for the smaller issues. Choose your battles carefully.
Dear God, Teach me to be a good follower. Help me to understand that my boss may be basing decisions on a bigger picture than mine. Give me the grace to understand and accept your principles of authority. Teach me satisfaction in my job.
DEAR GOD I NEED TO CONFESS!
Psalms 32:1, 5 Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. ...I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"-- and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Lord, nothing is going right today. Everywhere I go someone seems offended. Did I speak too harshly? Was my look unkind? I did not mean to be. Somehow, I feel "off track"--a little off center. Help me, God! Forgive me! Cleanse me and set me back "on track.” Give me grace and gentleness to deal with my students and coworkers. You and I both know where I missed your will. I am embarrassed. Teach me again, Father. Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalms 51:10 (KJV). I thank you for your faithfulness.
As a teacher, I have learned that being "off track" is not a privilege that I can afford. One bad day can build walls with students and staff that may take weeks to tear down. Only the Spirit of God can give me the strength to change my attitude. He has promised His grace to me that can and will redirect my day.
If we want our students to follow a right path, we, as teachers, must constantly be aware of our personal response to God. Our attitudes and our sins affect our students. Remember Luke 6:40 The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.
Dear God, never leave me in my sin. Constantly bring conviction and restoration to my life. I want to be your obedient servant. Change my heart, oh God.
ASK THEM! DON’T JUST TELL THEM!
Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.
I learned a valuable lesson during my first year of teaching from a quiet, well-mannered ninth grader. In fact, this is a story I tell students each year to illustrate the correct way to respond to a teacher when the teacher is wrong.
I was busy, as usual, rushing around the classroom trying to get my goals accomplished before the day was over. As I passed Dan’s desk (not his real name), I said, “Dan, you have a detention for gum. You know you can’t have gum in school.” I hardly missed a step as I continued on to the front of the classroom to write down the detention.
Dan sat quietly and waited for an opportunity to speak with me. Later, I walked toward the back of the classroom near his desk. “Mrs. Wyrick, may I speak to you?” he asked in a soft tone. I nodded. He said, “Mrs. Wyrick, I wasn’t chewing gum. Mr. Wilson gave me permission to have a cough drop.”
I was embarrassed. I thanked the student for his kindness and patience with me, and, of course, I quickly removed the detention from the record book. I was guilty of an assumption. I “told” him what he did wrong, rather than “asking” him if he had gum in his mouth. Although this gives a great example of how to appeal respectfully and quietly on the student’s part, it is also an example of how “not” to approach a student who appears to be disobeying.
Not only will a question help clarify the child’s intent. It also allows him to confess with his mouth when he is wrong. Confession is good for us all when we are wrong. When we are not wrong, it is good to have an opportunity to say so. Do not get too busy to deal with negative situations properly.
Dear God, Thank you for this valuable lesson. Remind me not to pass judgment on students when I don’t have the details of the situation.
WHAT IS GOOD? WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRED OF ME?
Micah 6:8 (KJV) 8He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
According to Micah 6:8 there are three things that the Lord requires of us—(1) To do things justly, (2) to love mercy, and (3) to walk humbly with God. Justice means being impartial, fair, and doing what is right. Mercy means showing compassion and concern for another. Humility means thinking of the needs of others before our own—not being proud or haughty.
This Scripture has an important application to teachers. We face decisions each day. Some decisions are small with little consequence, and other decisions may affect a child’s life for years to come. Many teachers react to situations in the classroom based upon personal experiences from his or her own school experience. Teachers often justify their decisions by saying, “That’s just the way it is done.” Unfortunately, teachers repeat unjust actions and merciless decisions against students without evaluating the legitimacy of such a decision.
For instance, if a student turns in his math test (or any other test) with unanswered questions, most teachers will quickly place an “X” on the blank problems and grade the test. I propose that the love of Christ compels us to ask the student, “John, did you mean to leave these questions blank?” If he says no, the teacher’s mercy and love would allow the student to complete the problems before grading them. Or, perhaps as the teacher is grading a paper, it becomes obvious that the student misread the instructions which caused him to miss every question in that section. Perhaps true justice mixed with mercy and humility would compel the teacher to ask the student to do that section again following the correct instructions before grading.
Immediately, some will say that is not right. He should have caught those mistakes. My question to you is, “What is your purpose for giving a test?” Is it to measure the child’s learning? If so, how does counting off points for his omission measure his true learning? If grades do not reflect the child’s knowledge, they are not accurate measurements of learning. Too many times we use grades to “punish” a student assuming we are training the child by giving a lower grade. Would this be Jesus’ response? The most important question in reference to the Scripture above is, “What is ‘good’ in this situation?”
I once had an experience that I would like to share. My dyslexic son was in the third grade. We worked extremely hard every night to get his work completed and to keep his grades up. One morning I checked his backpack and found a large stack of papers. They appeared to be graded and returned by the teacher. In a rush, I removed the papers and placed them on the kitchen table planning to look through them when I got home. About an hour after school began, my son came rushing to my classroom and asked me where his papers were. He told me he had a history paper in his backpack that was due that day. I assured him everything would be okay. I would explain to his teacher that it was my fault. To my shock and dismay, the teacher gave my son a “0” for the paper. She said I was asking for special privileges because I was a teacher. I told her that it was my fault, and my son didn’t even know that I took the papers out. I told her we would get the paper to her later that afternoon or first thing the next morning. She refused to accept the paper. She would not even consider my appeal. To this day I cannot see the justice or mercy in her response.
I often hear similar stories from parents. As representatives of Jesus Christ, it would be best for us to consider these type decisions through eyes of justice and mercy looking for what is “good” and “best” in the situation. As teachers, let us seek to be a blessing to the children and their parents rather than a stumbling block.
Dear God, Give me the wisdom to balance justice and mercy with a humble heart. May the love of Christ be the foundation of my daily decisions. It is not about my rights as a teacher, but rather about my responsibility to bless my students and bring them to success.
GOD, I THINK I AM ANGRY WITH YOU!
Psalms 71:20-21 Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more.
Admitting you are angry with God is the first step to finding the answer for your unresolved situation. Sometimes we pray and no answer comes—at least no answer that we can understand or see. Whether we are facing the loss of a loved one, an unexpected illness, a financial crisis, the betrayal of a friend, the loss of a dream, or another personal issue, our thoughts often accuse God of being unloving, unkind, and non-caring. Knowing that God has the power to stop the pain and right the wrong but doesn’t do anything to bring relief, is a test of our faith. Is God truly directing our path? Does he really have every hair on our head numbered? Does he really understand our trials and pain? Does he even care? If so, why is He taking me through this valley? Why is He so silent? Why me?
I admit that I have had several times in my life where I couldn’t put the puzzle pieces together to understand “why?” I questioned, "How could God allow this tragedy or injustice?" The loss of my father was such a time for me. I prayed for his healing and waited expectantly for the miracle that never came. I was faced with choices of how I would respond to the unanswered prayers. Thoughts of anger, unfairness, confusion, and sadness bombarded my mind. As I struggled before God with these feelings, I remembered a hymn I often heard in my church as a child—“Needing a friend to help me in the end, Where could I go, but to the Lord?” The truth of this hymn sank deep into my thoughts. It was true; there was no where else to go but to God. God is my foundation. It was then I made a conscious decision to submit to God and trust Him realizing He is sovereign and His purposes are greater than my ability to comprehend. In essence, I chose to “forgive God”, or to release my anger, lay down my unanswered questions, take up my cross and follow Christ. As soon as I released my anger, I felt peace. I experienced the truth of what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” In this lifetime, I will probably never understand why, but I learned a valuable lesson about letting God be God. Trust and obey are the two foundational truths that helped me through many difficult times. I choose to let God be God.
Signs of anger toward God include lack of church attendance, inability to pray, avoiding the Bible, generalized anger and bitterness, and a loss of genuine feelings of love for others. Each of these responses affect your performance as a teacher. In my struggle, I realized that God was there all the time, watching, waiting and caring for me. My response had to be repentance for judging God, submission to his sovereignty and choosing to believe Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.”
Dear God, Minister to those who are angry, hurting, and disillusioned. Pour your love out to them and bring comfort in their grief and pain. Bring sunshine where there is rain, and bring hope where there is hopelessness. Teach us to choose to trust you more. You are sovereign.
IF IT WEREN'T FOR THE STUDENTS, I COULD HAVE A GOOD DAY!
Proverbs 14:4 Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. KJV
Do you ever have those days that you feel like teaching school would not be so bad if it weren't for the students? Do you ever get tired of the sticky fingers, smudged glass doors, or crumpled book pages? If we're honest, most of us feel that way from time to time. It's not that we don't love our students, but sometimes the effort required to lead and teach them becomes tedious.
This is how I was feeling when I discovered this verse. It was the first fall break of the new school year. As I was cleaning and reorganizing my classroom, I discovered that one of my students had spilled little round hole-punches all over the floor. The mess caused me to remember how tired I was last May. Then the reality that I would face more challenges this year caused me to sit and consider my career. A teacher’s job can be demanding even without the messes. Yes, without the kids, teaching would be a great job! Without the children, my classroom would be well organized, clean, and lovely. However, the value of teaching--the reason for my efforts is bundled up in those children. Even as much work as the children require, the hope for tomorrow's world is packaged in those rowdy, sometimes unruly, young boys and girls. I decided it was worth it. I dutifully began to pick up the little round dots.
What a privilege to be called to teach children! They are our investment for a better tomorrow. This realization, alone, is enough to encourage me to again press me toward the high calling set before me. I consider it a privilege to be called "teacher.”
Dear God, Thank you for placing me in the classroom to help direct the children toward your truths and your ways. I need your wisdom and guidance daily for such an awesome task.
TEACH ME TO BE GRACIOUS
Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
How many times have we purposed in our hearts that we are not going to be hateful or backbiting to someone when a certain topic comes up in the conversation? And, what do we do? Yes, we do exactly what we said we would not do! God's Word has some specific directions for each of us in this matter. James 4:6 says, "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble."
What is humility? Humility is NOT...thinking less of yourself! Humility IS...not thinking of yourself at all! When you are full of grace (seasoned with salt), you are spreading goodness, cheer, and concern for your fellowman. Your words will become a blessing and not a cursing to your brother. After all, isn’t that what Jesus taught in Luke 6:28 Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Teachers can create even more conflict by the way they answer a student or a parent in an emotional issue. Purpose in your heart to extend grace to those you serve through gentleness and kindness--even when they are not showing you the grace of Christ. As school teachers, we are the example to be followed. Let Christ dwell within you richly (Colossians. 3:16) and let His light shine through your words (and tone) to reflect his unconditional acceptance even when others are being unlovely. Remember, a soft answer turns away wrath.
Dear God, Give me the strength to empty me of myself enough to learn humility. Teach me to be slow to speak. Give me soft words when I do speak. Fill me with your grace and let it overflow in my daily walk. Let the love of Christ within me cover a multitude of sin in others.
SEND ME COWORKERS THAT LEAD ME TO A HIGHER PLANE
Proverbs 22:24-25 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.
Proverbs 29:8 Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger.
It only takes one disgruntled coworker to make the workplace a miserable daily grind, especially if that employee verbalizes his complaints in the teachers' lounge. Several years ago I was happy with my job assignment until they hired a woman with a critical attitude. After hearing her complaints against the leaders and the business day after day, I found myself liking my job less and less. Things that I never noticed before began to irritate me. Offenses began to grow. The job had not changed; my attitude had changed. I eventually found another job. Later I learned that the complainer stayed with that job for several years. She "talked" me out of my job!
I have seen this happen in schools. Teachers get angry and stir up other teachers and make everyone miserable. The grumbler may even stir up parents and students. Or, sometimes it’s a student that becomes angry and stirs up other students. These things need to be corrected through loving confrontation. An unrestrained tongue (spark) can set a whole forest on fire (James 3:5).
Wise men turn away wrath; they do not socialize with angry men. You may be unable to stop others from complaining, but you can choose not to become part of the discussion. Simply excuse yourself from the conversation and leave the area. You may, in love, point out to the disgruntled worker how they are spreading bad seed and making themselves miserable. Coworkers can let the grumbler know that they don’t want to hear the complaints. This confrontation may help the person deal with their attitude and unforgiveness. Your willingness to say something about their protests could make a difference in their year.
Take personal responsibility for the atmosphere of your school as far as it is in your power. Offenses are to be handled personally and privately. Purpose always to clear offenses, and never let a lot of time pass without settling your anger. Don't pick up the offense of a coworker. Instead, encourage them to go to the persons involved to resolve the conflict. These are God's instruction to the Body of Christ. As you follow them, you will be the winner!
Dear God, Let me choose to turn from anger. Help me to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
I WANT MY SERVICE TO BE GENUINE
Colossians 3:22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.
Do you know a "man-pleaser"? (See Colossians 3:22 KJV.) If you do, you will have no doubt who they are. When the boss is around, they work diligently; they smile broadly giving "lip service" of praise and agreement. However, when the boss is not around their quality of work diminishes or perhaps even stops. They often gossip, talk about the boss, or argue about the company's rules. A man- pleaser usually does not carry his share of the work. Neither does he do anything "extra.” He only works when the "boss" is in sight.
God's ways are higher than man's ways. The Bible did not say that we should obey an authority because he has earned it. God wants us to obey our leaders because we fear God. A diligent worker is an honor to God. He not only shows his understanding of God's ways, but he also shows a quiet trust in the Lord by placing his life into God's hands. A godly worker works even when no one notices or appreciates his work. The Christian teacher should do their work "as unto the Lord.”
Do you catch yourself looking to see if the principal is coming? Do you say or think the words, “Here comes the principal,” with a quick check on your current behavior? If so, you may be a man-pleaser who is giving eye service only to look good. When you realize that everything you do is before God, the highest authority, the principal coming into your work area is not such a significant event. If your priority is to please the highest authority, you will never fail to please your principal.
Dear God, Help me to be a "God pleaser" and not a "man pleaser.” As I please you and obey your word, others will usually be pleased too. “If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)
DON'T TAKE THE FOOLISHNESS OF YOUR STUDENTS PERSONAL
Proverbs 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
The tenth grade boy raised his hand during study hall. I quietly walked to his study center and asked if I could help him. “The light bulb isn’t working. Can I go get another one from the janitor?” he asked.
I hesitated for a moment and then I told him that there was enough light in the room without the lamp directly over his study center. After I walked away, I saw him tighten the bulb and turn his light back on. He was playing games and trying to get out of class for awhile. At first, this made me angry. I knew he would have bragged about tricking me if I had let him leave the classroom.
How do we keep from getting angry when kids play tricks on us? Well, the above Scripture helped me to get things into perspective. Foolishness is a natural part of being a child—especially some children. The reason we discipline them is to “drive it far from him.” We should not allow ourselves to get angry over their foolishness, but rather we should see it as an opportunity to train and discipline it out of them.
This student’s statement to the teacher was a lie. His game actually led him into sin. Children need to understand that foolishness often leads to sin. If they respect God’s Word and desire to do right, they will hear biblical instruction and change their ways. This student earned a consequence for his deceit and lie. He was not disciplined for his foolishness.
By the way, a sense of humor helps to overcome your offense. Don’t ever forget what it was like to be a kid. Much of the time kids don’t think all the way through their foolishness. However, for some students, this response could be a form of mockery rather than simple foolishness. (Mockers seek to make the leader look foolish--Proverbs 9:8.) The same consequence would be appropriate whether it was foolishness or mockery. The teacher that controls anger or resentment during these times of irritation, will be more effective in training up the child in the way he should go.
DEAR GOD, HELP ME TO BE LEVEL HEADED RATHER THAN HOT TEMPERED WHEN IT COMES TO KIDS’ FOOLISHNESS. HELP ME TO SEE THESE SITUATIONS FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE. THEIR FOLLY IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR TRAINING. GIVE ME THE GRACE TO DISCIPLINE RATHER THAN REACT PERSONALLY IN ANGER.