Washing Students’ Feet

The day has been long. Your students are gone. The classroom is a mess  and your desk is piled high with paperwork while your to-do list grows by the minute.  You begin to slog through the to-do list when there is a knock at your door.

It is a student who stopped by because they didn’t understand the Math lesson from earlier that day.

It’s a student who forgot a paper in their desk, and when they go to pull out the paper, their entire desk explodes with other papers, pens, Lego pieces, and a half-eaten sandwich from last week.

Or perhaps your phone rings and it’s a parent who wants to have a long conversation.

Another student’s parent emails and lets you know that Junior is not getting the content – could you meet with him when you have a chance?

And sometimes, I don’t have a very good attitude with all of the requests that come my way. I begin to grumble in my heart.

Will the grading never end?

Why can’t that student just clean up after themselves?

Why does that parent have to call and talk to me again?

How on earth am I supposed to fit one more thing in?

I thought teaching would be different – more dramatic moments of touching kids’ hearts and lives…less paperwork!  I thought I would be seeing these students change under my guidance while inspirational music swells in the background (can you tell I really love those teacher movies?). Many days, I find that I am just teaching them to clean up their trash from the lunch table, learn their multiplication tables, and be kind to their friends (while a student whistling during class provides  the “inspirational” background music).

But sometimes the mundane and messy parts of teaching are where Christ can shine the brightest through us.

After all, look how Christ Himself spent His final hours- doing a simple chore.

He wrapped himself in a towel and one by one began to wash His disciples’ feet. This was a servant’s job, yet the King of all is seen kneeling on the floor, lifting up dirty foot after dirty foot and gently bathing them.

He washed their feet, knowing that in mere hours they would forsake Him.

He washed the feet of Simon Peter, knowing that Peter would fiercely deny ever knowing Him the very next day.

And yes, He even washed the feet of Judas, the disciple who had been with Him all of this time, had seen the miracles…and was planning on betraying Christ that very night.

But Jesus served them quietly and humbly.

And He wants us to serve those He has placed in our lives. He wants us to get right down into the trenches where it is not always pretty, and where our students don’t always “deserve” it, and to pick up a towel and begin to wash their dirty feet.

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. (John 13:14)

So what does it look like for us to wash our students’ feet?

  • Perhaps staying late to help with academic work.
  • Giving up some of our prep period to help a student get their desk and binder organized (I am sure there is a very special crown in Heaven for this!)
  • Grading (Yes! Grading their papers is one way that I can serve my students!)
  • Giving up part of your Saturday to attend their soccer game.
  • Taking the extra time to provide support for a student or family.
  • Setting aside our to-do list to listen or to help.
  • Your free time that you give up to plan, grade, contact parents, and do all of the other things that don’t fit into an 8 hour day (or even a 10 hour day!)
  • Searching in your white skirt & pearls for their baritone in the dumpster after school (true story – don’t even ask how a baritone gets accidentally thrown away).

These are all things that can be difficult to do…or at least, difficult to do with the right attitude. Sometimes we simply need to lay aside our titles, our college degrees, our years of experience, and get down to serve our students. When we serve, we look like Christ. Just as Christ’s final hours washing His disciples’ feet were not a waste of time, the time and energy that we give to our students is never wasted – it’s an eternal investment.

After all, when we stand before Christ, He is not going to be looking at the grades our students got on the standardized tests. He is not going to be looking at our “Teacher of the Year” honor or our advanced degrees. He is not going to look at the number of workshops we have presented. He is going to be looking at how we showed our love for Him and others.

And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. (II Corinthians 12:15)

I had the privilege of serving at a Christian camp for three years. The president of the camp, Dr. Ken Collier, would tell us the story of a man whose motto in life was “He who dies with the most toys wins”. Dr. Collier changed this motto around to fit our ministry…

He who dies with the dirtiest towel wins. – Dr. Ken Collier

So who’s ready to go get some towels dirty?

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When Discipline Disrupts Your Day

Aaggh! Discipline – the dreaded “D” word. We all know it’s important; we do it everyday; we all probably struggle with being consistent in it; and we all know that it can disrupt our day in a big way!

You are charging through your day with your class when a student decides to directly disobey you. Perhaps it is what we would consider “minor” infractions (i.e. talking in class). Perhaps it is a “big” issue like lying or disrespect. Whatever it is, the disobedience needs to be dealt with. It needs discipline.

To be honest, I don’t really enjoy discipline. I would prefer us all to just float through our day with happiness and sunshine, everyone getting along with each other and following the rules so we can have a wonderful and nurturing learning environment.  Um, so yeah…that’s not a regular day in my class. See, my class is full of little sinners led by one big sinner…there are going to be ugly moments and moments that require discipline.

And sometimes I am a little resentful that I have to deal with these issues at all.

I am irritated because I have already dealt with this situation before.

I am frustrated because my plans have just been derailed by a nine year old.

But I need to step back and examine my own heart…am I upset because their disobedience is causing problems for me…or because it is displeasing to God?

So often I look at discipline as a disruption to my instruction.But discipline is probably the most important instruction I will do all day!

That moment of discipline is a divine appointment, not a disruption – sure, it wasn’t on my schedule for the day, but it was on God’s agenda for the day. He wants to use that discipline to reveal Himself to my student and  to me as well!

I think it is really helpful to study how God disciplines us as His children as we form our views of discipline . Hebrews 12 is a great chapter to go to! As I studied the passage, my Ryrie study Bible noted four purposes of God’s discipline of us.

  1. It is part of the educational process by which a believer is fitted to share God’s holiness (v. 10).
  2. It is proof of a genuine love relationship between the heavenly Father and His children (vv. 6,8).
  3. It helps train them to be obedient (v.9)
  4. It produces the fruit of righteousness in their lives (v. 11)

Of course, being a teacher,  I had to take these and apply them to my classroom!

  1. Does my discipline encourage my students towards holiness? 

Or am I emphasizing a mere outer goodness like the Pharisees had?  Holiness is about my students’ hearts first and foremost – what are they worshiping? What do they love so much that they are willing to disobey God to get it? Am I focused on their heart in discipline or just getting quick outer results? (There will be many times that you can’t stop to deal with the heart right then and there – we can’t make a regular habit of bringing Math class to a halt so we can take a student out into the hallway and start digging to find out what is at the bottom of his heart! Follow your classroom management plan, give a consequence, and try to find a few minutes later on that day to discuss what was really going on. This can also be helpful because your emotions won’t be as high and the student won’t be quite as defensive as he would be in the heat of the moment.)

…but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness (v. 10)

  1. Does my discipline stem out of genuine love for my students?

Or, once again,  am I merely irritated at my plans being disrupted or that they are making me look bad? Do I react differently to their misbehavior when there are other teachers around?

For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives (v. 6)

  1. Does my discipline encourage my students to be obedient?

This may sound strange at first – how can discipline not encourage obedience? Well, I need to ask myself if I am being consistent in my expectations? Do I  expect their obedience the first time, sweetly and completely? Or am I satisfied with something less? Am I disciplining them with an attitude that is like our Heavenly Father who is slow to anger, gracious, and merciful?

Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? (v. 9)

  1. Does my discipline encourage long-term righteousness?

Does it show my students that righteousness is found in Christ and not in their own strength? They can’t fight sin on their own – they need Christ! Does my discipline illustrate to students that obedience should stem from a love & appreciation of what God has given to them?  Or does my discipline merely encourage them to be compliant because “life’s just easier that way” ?

For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (v. 11)


When discipline issues arise, instead of getting irritated, angry, or overwhelmed, I need to turn my gaze to God’s purposes for discipline. We as teachers need to remember that we can’t “fix” our students’ hearts -we can only point them to the One who can.


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When a Teacher Has Nothing Left to Give

There are days when I look at teaching and decide that there is no way I can do this. I’m pretty sure there is no way that anyone can do this!
How on earth am I supposed to teach Bible, Spelling, Handwriting, English, Math, Science, History, and Reading while meeting the physical, social, emotional, behavioral, and spiritual needs of all these students? In 7 hours a day!?! And that doesn’t even include the grading or lesson planning!

Teaching requires a lot of time and a lot of energy. There are simply not enough hours in the day to get it all done. There is just no way that you can have the wisdom to deal with all of the situations you come across day by day.  Some days you go, go, go – trying to meet the needs of your students, their parents,  your school, your family, and church.  And if you are like me, there are some days you feel like you have absolutely nothing left to give.

But I am reminded of some other exhausted teachers with some very limited resources…

We all remember the Sunday school story of the feeding of the 5,000. It was an incredible miracle and made for a great lesson!  However, have you ever thought about the events leading up to the miracle (Mark 6)?

Christ’s cousin, John the Baptist, had just been brutally executed.

The disciples had just returned from their journeys where they were teaching,healing, and casting out demons. They had been so busy that Scripture says, “they had no leisure even to eat” (v. 30).

They must have been exhausted from it all. And Christ invited them to get away and rest. He knew they needed a break.

Yet news got out, and when they arrive for their mini vacation, thousands of people are waiting there for them.

And Jesus doesn’t turn them away. He has compassion and begins to minister to them.

I can only imagine what went on in some of the disciples’ heads. I mean, if it were me, I would probably be fighting back tears or a temper tantrum (probably both). Lord, I have been so busy for you. I just needed this time to breathe. Can’t you tell all of these people to just wait until tomorrow?

So they minister to this crowd on the day that was supposed to be their rest day,  and near the end of a long day, Jesus asks them to do the impossible. Feed all of these people- 5,000 men plus their families.

I think I would have lost it.

How could Christ do that to them? They had been working so hard for Him, had spent their vacation ministering to people, and now He wants them to feed all of these people!

They check their resources – just a few loaves of bread and a few fish.

And Christ wants them to feed over 5,000 people with that?

Yet, look at what happens when the disciples bring their limited resources to Christ. He multiplies it…a lot. They had enough to complete the job Christ had given them…plus leftovers! They ended up with 12 extra baskets (hmm…enough for each disciple to take home a basket?)

Christ didn’t need the disciples, and he didn’t need those loaves and fishes to feed the 5,000. He chose to take those limited resources and do something incredible with them…something that pointed people to Him.

Sometimes in teaching, you will feel completely at the end of your rope. You will feel exhausted and you will have nothing left to give – your resources will look like those paltry loaves and fishes. You just don’t have enough time, energy, or wisdom to meet the demands of the job.

But when we turn to Christ with the little we do have, He multiplies it to become enough – no, more than enough!  He gives the grace for you to meet the obligations you have.  This is not to say that there are times that you need to get away, rest, or say “no” (that’s another post for another day). But I am reassuring you (and myself!) that God gives grace to do what He has called us to do today.

He calls us to do the impossible so He can show us His incredible power.

And He loves you so much that He isn’t going to just give you enough to meet the needs of others – He is going to take care of you and your needs, just as He did with the disciples. And when He does this, the glory goes to Him!

You don’t have to do today on your own – surrender your limitations to Christ and let Him do something amazing!

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. II Corinthians 12:9

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The Pursuit of Perfection in Teaching

Do you ever just feel overwhelmed? Like you’re a failure at teaching?

Your class seems crazy, the grading stack seems to multiply faster than you can tame it, your lessons feel like they are falling flat, and you just know that you are not a good teacher.

Then you get on Pinterest and see these wonderful classrooms and amazing teachers and you really feel depressed.

But being overwhelmed has helped me begin to think.

Why do I get so frustrated and overwhelmed? Well, teaching is hard and overwhelming, no question about that! But I often find myself in this slump, simply and honestly, because I want to be the best. I have always had to be the best – have the best projects in the class, be the best student teacher, the best person…and trying to be the best is awfully hard. There are a whole lot of people and circumstances that barge in and mess up my plans for being perfect. And, of course – my own imperfect heart doesn’t help the situation, either! 😉

When my goal is to be the “perfect” teacher, it’s no wonder I am frustrated when I have to do  a  not-so-exciting lesson plan that involves reading the textbook and doing a worksheet.  I thought I was going to be one of those really fun teachers who always had the entire class hanging on her every word and action every minute of every day (I may have watched one too many inspirational teacher movies)! No wonder I am irritated when I have to scold them for misbehavior. No wonder it drives me crazy when I have a fun lesson and it goes off course through students’ disobedience or failure on the assessment. I am confronted with the truth that I am not the best teacher…maybe I’m just an average teacher – or maybe even below average!

And I realize that being the best has become my idol…that is why I get so frustrated and overwhelmed when I face these issues in my class. The idol of perfection is a hard god to worship – you see, it is never satisfied. No matter what you do, you will always feel like you have to do more and be more.

But God does not expect me to be perfect…He knows my sins and my weaknesses, and He loves me anyway. Just as I am saved by grace, I am sustained by grace.  Why would I labor at the altar of perfectionism to a god who will never be satisfied when I have a Savior who is calling to me,

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  Matthew 11:28-29

When I realize that I don’t have to be perfect, my goal can change from being the best teacher to glorifying God…and all of my issues are seen in an entirely new light.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink or whatsover ye do, do all to the glory of God   I Corinthians 10:31

I can glorify God through whatever I do in the classroom. I can glorify Him through a “boring” textbook/worksheet lesson. I can glorify Him when handling discipline problems and realizing that I perhaps have failed in a certain situation. This is not to say that I should not strive to improve my teaching…all good teachers are always learning and looking for ways to improve!  I am referring to those of us (myself included!) who feel overwhelmed by the unrealistic expectations and burdens we place on ourselves to be perfect teachers.


When I am focusing on glorifying God, then my day can not be ruined by a failed lesson, parent complaint, or student discipline issue. My eyes are too busy looking for ways in these circumstances to show my students how great our God is and how much He loves them. After all, as they go throughout their lives, is it more important for my students  to remember me as an incredible 4th grade teacher…or to remember their 4th grade teacher’s great God?

Being the perfect teacher is very subjective, and I will rarely “feel” that I am a great teacher. Honestly, right now, being the best teacher feels a little impossible.

Perfection is impossible.

But glorifying God is possible — under any circumstances.

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I Corinthians 13 for Teachers

If I am an entertaining and articulate teacher, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I have all wisdom in dealing with student and parent issues that arise, and have not love, I am nothing.

If I give  my free time grading, creating exciting lesson plans, and designing stellar bulletin boards; and have not love, I am nothing.

Love is patient

It does not get annoyed with the drumming pencil or the millionth time a student asks, “what page are we on?”

Love is kind

It speaks to students with kindness, even in times of discipline. It looks for little ways throughout the day to show students care.

Love does not envy or boast

It does not “show off” bulletin boards, lesson ideas, etc. to show up other teachers.

Love is not arrogant

It listens respectfully to the opinions of others and is willing to admit that it is wrong. It is even willing to ask forgiveness from students or other faculty when necessary.

Love is not rude

It finds ways to discipline students without belittling or embarrassing them.

Love does not insist on its own way

It does not get out of sorts when its lesson does not go according to plan or when scheduling does not work out in its favor. It does not consider its way the only way to do things.

Love is not irritable or resentful

It gives students a clean slate daily and doesn’t hold grudges. It doesn’t take student behavior personally. Its mood is not dictated by outside circumstances.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth

It looks for the positives in the students instead of focusing in on their weaknesses. It doesn’t feel smug or justified when the student “gets what’s coming to him”. It is heartbroken when a student makes wrong choices, not because those choices affect the day, but because those choices are displeasing to God.

Love bears all things

It sets aside its constant to-do list to really listen to what’s on students’ hearts and minds. It finds time to listen to the looong stories, pray for a pet guinea pig, and counsel the friendship drama at recess. These problems that seem so trivial to most are very real and heavy burdens on our students’ hearts.

Love believes all things

It believes the best about the students.

 Love hopes all things

Even after a rough day, it is still hopeful knowing that it was a day in which God was working His grace and perfect plan.

Love endures all things

It keeps going day in and day out. It doesn’t give up on any child because God never gives up on us .

Love never ends.

If you are like me, I see so many areas that I failed in loving my students today. Can I tell you a secret? There is no way that you or I can daily show that kind of love to our students without God’s grace!  We need God to work in our hearts and give us that spirit of love.

II Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power,  and of love, and of a sound mind.

When I realize that I am not loving my students as I ought to be, I need to look back to the love of God for me. He has loved me despite my sinfulness, and He has offered me grace to love my students in the same unconditional way. It’s all grace!

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Thanks so much for stopping by! The Lord has been teaching me so much these past few years of teaching, and I wanted to find a place to share the blessings! This blog will simply be a place for me to share God’s daily grace shown to me in the classroom – it is designed to be an encouragement to you! I have certainly not arrived in the school of grace, but I am learning more and more everyday! I look forward to sharing what God is teaching this teacher about Himself through the zany and crazy antics of my elementary classroom.

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