One of my favorite parts of teaching – yet ironically the hardest – is helping to sculpt the hearts and minds of my kids. As a Christian English teacher, I’m not only to infuse my students’ minds with literature and grammar and vocabulary, I am to entrust to them great mysteries of a Savior who loves them and wants their full surrender.This past week gave me one such opportunity, and next week is handing me another one.
Literature stories so often lend themselves to great biblical conversations. My middle school babies (okay, they’ll hate that word, but if you’re a teacher, you know it’s true…they’re your babies forever) and I had a solid conversation about lying and standing up for truth despite the consequences because of one character’s ever-so-small comment that lying is sometimes the only option you have. I love to watch their wheels spin as they contemplate God’s truth and how it translates into their lives for today, not just how it fit 2,000 years ago. That day with them will remain one of my favorite memories; I know it will. Those kinds of conversation always do.
I said it was my favorite, but I also said it’s the hardest thing in the world to tackle. Teachers will amen on this next statement: it is SO scary to stop and think that the hours upon hours spent with our kids can be seen as our hands and words and activities and morals – spoken or not – chipping away at poor habits and building the character or chipping away at the securities and destroying the character of each child in our room. Let me expound…When I see a child cheat, I can either lecture about cheating or discuss integrity. When I see a child procrastinate time and time again, I can lecture about procrastinating or discuss honoring the time God gives us and using each moment for His glory. When I see laziness emerge in a child whose homework is never done and whose papers are never turned in on time, I can lecture or I can turn it into a character-building conversation and help to shape that child’s heart, mind, and habits. Goodness. The pressure builds when I think of that kind of responsibility.
I’ve spent the better part of 2 hours today searching for a video or a story or a visual lesson to help me with the upcoming conversation this week (not my middle school babies this time). I found a video, but more importantly than my kids seeing that video – though I’ll probably still show it, God reminded me that vulnerability with them is what is going to help most. I truly believe the bottom line issue is a result of the narcissistic culture they live in: if it doesn’t benefit me or interest me or make me feel like I want to feel, it’s not worth my time or attention. As I started thinking back on my life, there were plenty of times I tried to get God to agree with that kind of attitude…He never did. (Insert duh emoji here.) It’s not about what benefits me. It’s about what brings glory to Him. So what am I going to tell this crew? My story. They need to know that sometimes it’s about learning to surrender your plan. Your desires. Your time. Your way. Because ultimately, it’s not about us. It’s about Him. If they will even take away the smallest fragment of that lesson, I will be satisfied. Lesson plans will go out the window that day because analyzing poetry isn’t nearly as important as learning to analyze your own heart.
May our days as teachers be more focused on our babies’ hearts and minds than the curriculum before us.