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LET ME WALK IN UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

Ephesians 5:1-2 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

          In times of required discipline, the love of Christ is a significant tool.  Consequences are earned, and established rules should be followed. However, you can administer the discipline “for the student,” not “against the student.”  To withhold consequences for misbehavior is to deny a student the security of the classroom boundaries.  

          The specific consequence is not as important as the emotions you display. When correcting students, teachers need to be neutral; you are a tool of the law.  The student is not coming against you, the person.  He is rebelling against the rules of the school.  Don’t discipline a student when you are angry.  It is best to postpone the discipline until you can get control of your emotions. If you lose your composure or temper, the student will be considered the winner of the conflict.  The student must never win!  You are the adult.  You are the tool that God will use to train the child. 

           Learn to forgive students quickly.  Stay before God in prayer until you overcome any unforgiveness.  Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child--you are an adult.  Your behavior should be above his. Force yourself to learn unconditional acceptance of the child by looking beyond his current response to what he can become after he is fully trained.  

Dear God, Can you help me with my anger?  I need help with the mocker that keeps tormenting me and disturbing my classroom. I want to be more like you.  Teach me to be lovingly consistent like you.

  

HELP ME TO BUILD A POSITIVE CLASSROOM

Proverbs 29:2 When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan. 

The teacher determines the classroom climate. If your class is unhappy and full of strife, the first place you must check for error is in yourself.  If you lead with wisdom, your students will rejoice that you are their teacher, but if you are unjust, moody, or fail to show the love of Christ daily, your students will not enjoy your class. 
Inconsistent discipline and a lack of routine in the classroom can create discipline issues.  Children follow better when the rules are clear, concise and consistently enforced.  Mood swings confuse students.   

Smile.  Be personable.  Be interesting.  Have some excitement about your lesson.  Be professional.  All of these traits will help create a positive atmosphere.  Students do not need you to be their second mom or big brother or best friend.  What they want and need is a leader—a teacher who can connect new information to what they already know, to make the lesson relevant to their lives, and to offer a safe place to study and learn where they don’t have to fear being bullied or embarrassed. 

Dear God, Give me the grace to evaluate my leadership style and classroom behavior.  Help me to see the truth about my shortcomings and my wrong attitudes.  Give me the courage to change the areas that are out of order.  May I always walk in submission to your will.

TEACH ME COMPLETE JOY THROUGH FORGIVENESS

            Jesus continually stressed forgiveness. Repeatedly He taught that we must forgive to be forgiven (Matt. 6:14, 15; 18:35; Mark 11:25, 26; Luke 6:37; 2 Cor. 2:10; John 20:23). Judgment and unforgiveness will shatter our inner peace and joy.
            Unforgiveness affects our health and well-being.  Just the mention of certain names and our backs begin to stiffen. Our minds are flooded with unhappy, angry, bitter, and painful memories. A good day can become a terrible day just by seeing somebody in the grocery store or hearing someone mention a certain name. These offenses are unresolved issues--unforgiven debts.
            You cannot be free until you free others. The unforgiveness you hold out to others becomes the pain and suffering you inflict upon yourself. Where is the wisdom in this self-inflicted pain because of the wrongdoing of another? Jesus wants us to realize that by releasing others of offense, we are actually freeing ourselves to be happy again.  
            Forgiveness is a choice--not an emotion.  Choose to forgive as many times as it takes to be free of the offense.  Do not be discouraged if it takes time, and do not stop forgiving. The freedom you will experience will be worth the energy required. 

  
Dear God, Teach me complete forgiveness. I am willing, but I need help.                                                           
  
HELP ME TO DISCOVER EACH GIFT 

Proverbs 18:16 A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great. 

            God gives gifts/talents to each person. We discover and develop these God-given abilities as we mature.

Some receive gifts that are never opened. An unopened gift that sits on a shelf is either a package of expectation

or a waste of something valuable. Until someone opens the gift and uses it, it is merely a shell of what might be or

could have been. An unused gift is unused potential and cannot accomplish what God sent it to do. 
           Why would someone leave a gift unopened, unused, or undiscovered? Perhaps the fear of failure or fear

of men causes us to shy away from new experiences. Neglect or procrastination can also produce a stale or

undeveloped talent. Laziness or self-protection can stifle potential. Or, even a lack of awareness of its existence

could be the cause. No matter which applies to us, we can push past our fears and insecurities and open all our

"packages" of potential. We should try new things and take classes in areas we have never studied before. We

only develop as individuals when we remain teachable and flexible. Different experiences, good or bad, can be

opportunities to learn and grow if we determine to discover more about ourselves. 
         Comparison can stunt our personal development. Gifts are unique to each individual; they are our personal

monograms stamped by God in our original design. Each unique talent adds variety and richness to our world. 

The comparison is always a trap. If we compare our weaknesses to another's strengths, we feel diminished.

If we compare our strengths to another's weakness, we become proud. Proverbs 16:18 says, Pride goes before

a fall. And, if we compare our strengths to other's strengths, we become critical and judgmental. 

Dear God, Are there undiscovered gifts and talents in me? If so, I commit myself to discover them. Help me 

understand my purposeful design and give me the courage to try new things. 

TEACH US TO BE SLOW TO QUARREL

Proverbs 20:3 It is to one’s honor to avoid strife,  but every fool is quick to quarrel.

            Have you ever sat with friends, siblings, cousins, or other family members and discussed something that happened years ago when you were younger?  Have you ever been surprised to learn that they recalled the incident differently than you remembered them?  Have you ever been shocked to realize the critical details for them were minor details for you and vice versa? We all see life through our own lens of experience and exposure.  We interpret words, body language, and events through our past history.  We “connect the dots” using past patterns to gain present understanding. 

             The first thing we need to understand is that our patterns of life do not necessarily have the same connotation to our coworkers or students. A person can say something to be cute and funny without realizing that the phrase is a significant trigger for anger or hurt in others.  Teachers can avoid strife by checking the message before choosing to be angry or offended.  

            A few people will try to push people’s triggers and make others angry or hurt their feelings, but we must not assume that most people are that way.  We can avoid a lot of pain and strife in our lives by considering that most people do not purposely go around choosing to attack others with what they say.  Even if that is not true of everyone, we will have a better day if we can teach our students and ourselves to be slow to be offended, to assume the best of each person’s intent, and to ask the person for clarification of their statement before choosing to be offended.  

          As we learn to walk in blessing and not cursing, in righteousness and not judgment, we will become slower to judge the words of others and less likely to be offended. The purer our hearts become, the more we are able to overlook offenses from others.  Titus 1:15 reads: “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure…” 

Dear God, I want to be a person that brings peace and does not stir up strife. Teach me to think the best about others and to be slow to anger.  Create in me a clean heart and renew in me a right spirit (Ps. 51:10). Purify my thoughts and heal my past wounds. Give me the wisdom and understanding needed to teach others these truths so that we may all live in greater harmony and tolerance.                                                                       

GOD KNOWS THE HEART

Psalm 44:21 Would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?

       I couldn’t believe the boy jumped on her back.  He was a tall eighth grader, and she was a petite seventh grader.  John had never been aggressive before.  He was sometimes careless and rowdy, but not mean.  Questions still filled my thoughts as John’s parents, his teachers and I took our seats in the conference room.  After prayer, the principal asked the teacher to give her report.  The teacher reported that John and the young lady were on the playground with the other students when John came up from behind and jumped on her back—piggyback style.  The startled girl fell to the ground and began to cry.  The teacher came to her assistance, and John was taken to the office.  

          John seemed somewhat frustrated, embarrassed and a little confused as the teacher gave the report.  The more we asked him “why?”, the more difficulty he had explaining himself.  No, he wasn’t trying to hurt her.  No, he wasn’t mad at her.  No, he wasn’t trying to show off to the other guys.  He was just playing.  Finally, the truth came out. He liked her.  He was flirting with her.  

          John hadn’t matured enough to realize that guys jump on other guys’ backs, but girls don’t like that.  He discovered that girls cry when you jump on them.  With some fatherly counsel, a small consequence and an apology to the girl, the issue was settled.   

          Educators must not be too hasty to assume we understand the motive of the actions.  Two different students can do the same action for entirely different reasons.  Asking questions and allowing the student to explain and confess is the best approach.  Also, be willing to look at issues through a child’s eyes.  Then, you will be able to help the student understand the issue from an adult’s perspective.  Unless the student understands the problem, he/she will feel you are overbearing and unfair.  

 Dear God, Give me ears to hear my student’s heart.  Help me to discover the root causes of misbehavior.  Continue to teach me sensitivity and wisdom as I deal with unexpected discipline issues.


STUDENTS WANT DISCIPLINE   

 Proverbs 6:23 For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life.          

You will have opportunities to practice discipline techniques this year.  Students may try to make you lose your temper, or look foolish, or get you off track from your well-planned lessons.  In spite of all of this, they are asking you to make them behave.  In fact, they are hoping that you can control them and can teach them what they need to know.  Students are insecure when the teacher is unable to control the class.  When the teacher wins the confrontation, the students win too.

Make discipline your priority.  You can’t teach well until you have an orderly class.  If you invest your time in training procedures and behavioral expectations during the first week or two of the new year, you will be able to teach more throughout the rest of the year. 

Learn to “hear” and “see” what is happening in your class.  Watch body language.  It speaks louder than words.  Watch for eye contact between the students.  Listen for angry comments or irritation among the group.  Don’t allow “under the breath” remarks from one student to another.  Don’t allow rolling eyes, slamming books, or talking back.  All of these undermine your authority and build resentment.  Be willing to stop your teaching to deal with wrong attitudes—not just wrong actions. 

Work to become consistent in your responses; students are secure with teachers who are predictable.  Do everything “for” the students.  They want you to be strong enough to control them.  In fact, they are happier when you do.  Go toward any apparent problems.  Rather than worry about what someone might say or might do, be the first to confront the issue.  This helps you to maintain confidence and control.  If you think a student will carry a bad report about you when they speak to their parents, don’t wait for the parent to call you.  Be assertive and call the parents before the student gets home.  Report the incident clearly and carefully to them.  Also, inform your principal about the incident.  This builds a fortress around you and allows the adults to work toward a positive solution.  Do all of this with a professional, pleasant attitude.  You will gain respect. 

Dear God, Discipline is a difficult area for me.  Give me a strategy.  Give me wisdom and understanding about myself, my students, and your answers to my classroom.  I trust you.  I know you will answer as I cry out for your help.                 


HELP ME TO BUILD A POSITIVE CLASSROOM

Proverbs 29:2 When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan. 

         The teacher determines the classroom climate. If your class is unhappy and full of strife, the first place you check for answers is in yourself.  If you lead with wisdom, your students will rejoice that you are their teacher, but if you are unjust, moody, or fail to show the love of Christ daily, your students will not enjoy your class.  
        Without realizing it, teachers often create their own discipline problems through inconsistent discipline and a lack of classroom routines.  Children follow better when the rules are clear, concise and consistently enforced.  Mood swings confuse students.  All of us have bad days, but, as professionals, we do not have the luxury of allowing our moods to rule our behavior.  If you, the teacher, crack a joke and cause laughter in the classroom, do not punish the student who can’t pull himself back together as fast as you would like.  Instead, ask the student to get a drink or separate from the group long enough to pull himself/herself together.  Teach your students the importance of learning when to play and when to get back to work. 

       Smile.  Be personable.  Be interesting.  Have some excitement about your lesson.  Be professional.  All of these traits will help create a positive atmosphere.  Students do not need you to be their second mom or big brother or best friend.  What they want and need is a leader—a teacher who can connect new information to what they already know, to make the lesson relevant to their lives, and to offer a safe place to study and learn where they don’t have to fear being bullied or embarrassed. 

Dear God, Give me the grace to evaluate my leadership style and classroom behavior.  Help me to see the truth about my shortcomings and my wrong attitudes.  Give me the courage to change the areas that are out of order.  May I always walk in submission to your will.  Build consistency and a pleasant attitude in my daily walk.
 

TAKE UP YOUR CROSS AND FOLLOW CHRIST

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

          I was 23 when I had my first child.  I felt a little overwhelmed as they placed him in my arms and wheeled me out of the hospital to my car.  I suddenly realized that this baby was my responsibility. I quickly learned the meaning of self-sacrifice. He didn't sleep much.  He required a lot of attention and was reported as being the most demanding baby out of 72 babies in the hospital nursery.  Quiet walks, hot baths, and time just for me were gone. My baby's very existence depended upon me denying my comforts to meet his needs.  But I served him willingly because I cared deeply for him. He was God's gift to my husband and me.        
           When I entered the classroom, I was determined to be in charge.  Things would be done the way I wanted them done.  One of my coworkers, knowing that I was a new teacher, told me what worked best for her was to be flexible.  She explained that unexpected things would happen, and flexibility would be the key to getting past the rough spots.  My retort to her was, "Well, one thing I am not is flexible."

          Guess what, she was right.  Part of carrying my cross was to put aside my perfectionist attitude, my in charge approach, and my unbending schedule to serve the needs of my students.  I gradually learned that it was not about me and my lesson plans as much as it was about the students and their success. I eventually realized that my students' success was my success and my students' failure was partly my failure.  The more I owned the responsibility to see them succeed, the more I became willing to walk the extra mile with those that required it.  God called me to help all of my students achieve, not just 80%. 
       I encourage you to discover what your personal cross is that God is asking you to bear.  When you do, submit yourself to God, pick up your cross, and carry it with grace and love.  Remember, when we cast our cares on Jesus, his burden will be light.  You can find peace and contentment when you choose to accept your “personally assigned” cross.  Remember, you never walk alone.
  
Dear God, Give me the courage to pick up my cross and follow you.  Teach me flexibility and gentleness as I deal with all of my students.  

FOOLISHNESS IS BOUND UP IN THE 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 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 a while.  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; instead, 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 led him to sin.  Children need to understand that foolishness often leads to wrong behavior.  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 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 to react in anger.                          

                                    

ACCEPT COWORKERS UNCONDITIONALLY

1 Corinthians 13:4-7Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

        We all have “quirks” in our personality. I have never met anyone that did not have significant strengths and significant weaknesses at the same time.  So, how do we learn to accept the oddities or the unloveliness of each other?  Paul gives us the key in the above Scriptures.  Love is the key to your happiness this year.  The more honest I am about who I really am, not who I want people to believe that I am, the more I realize how human we all are.  
       Performers seem to do everything right at the right time in the right way, and they notice when others are not measuring up.  Their greatest downfall is judgment, anger, and pride.  They lose a lot of joy in life because they either resentfully fix the things that others neglect, or reject people who don’t seem to measure up. 
       Happy-go-lucky people are always ready to play.  They often neglect responsibilities in exchange for the now.  They procrastinate on major and minor projects and create misery for those who depend on them.  They tend to be self-centered, thoughtless, and self-indulgent.    
       Meticulous or perfectionistic people must do things right.  They worry a lot.  In fact, they fret over everything.  They can be overbearing in their expectations and slow in their performance.  They are never satisfied with themselves or with others.  They lean toward self-rejection, disapproval of others and preoccupation with things.  
       Know-it-all people like to have a platform.  They control conversations and seldom listen to others.  They want to do things their way.  They talk a lot but may not do a lot to help when needed. They tend to be controlling, manipulative and overbearing.  
       And, I could keep going. People’s flaws are common. We all know them.  But we need answers.  And God has provided us one—only one is needed.  LOVE the unlovely by appreciating their strengths and trusting God to help them with their weaknesses.  The more I admit my flaws and commit them to God, the more I can accept other people’s shortcomings.  The truth is—we all need God.  He created each of us with challenges that require His help to overcome them.  Learn to see your coworker’s flaws as God’s tool for growth and maturity.  God uses people to develop our character. I find that the things that irritate me about others are the flaws in my life that I hate.    The more I let God change me, the more I can accept others.  When I spend my time allowing God to perfect me, I am not so quick to worry about what God needs to do in other people.  The more God changes me, the more I can have hope and faith that God can and does change situations as I commit it to prayer. When I choose to stop magnifying my co-worker's flaws and begin to concentrate on their potential, I am no longer their critic. Instead, I become their ally, a co-worker, and friend who wants to work and grow together as we serve God in our school.  It allows me to love them without condition because I know that God loves me that way.  
        Love is the key.  Love always protects (doesn’t expose flaws), always trusts (believes the best until proven otherwise), always hopes (sees what others can become), and always perseveres (because God is not finished with any of us yet).  Love builds unity among coworkers. 

Dear God, Give me unconditional love for my coworkers.  Help me to accept them where they are now as I realize that you’re still working on all of us.  Only you can change my heart of stone to a heart of flesh.  I am willing to learn to love them with your help.                   

 


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