My Classroom, My Kingdom?

Glinda or the Wicked Witch of the West?

I remember daydreaming in college about the day that I would finally get a classroom of my own. I envisioned how I would set up my classroom, the beautiful bulletin boards that would grace the walls, and my cherub students sitting in their desks eagerly watching me, their loving, beneficent teacher leading them throughout the day with a kind smile and patient correction for anyone who might step out of line.  I would be the gracious queen of my little classroom kingdom.

It was such a beautiful dream…having it play out in reality is not quite the same! Let’s just say that my cherubs don’t particularly like being led through Math, English, Reading, Science and History. They don’t particularly like my classroom rules and procedures. Not talking in class is one of their least favorite rules. Standing quietly in the hallway is another one that they tend to buck against. We practice…again and again we practice. I discipline….again and again. But you know what? They just don’t want to get with my idea of our perfect little classroom!

And instead of the gracious queen, I feel like an impossible dictator.  Instead of sweet Glinda reigning over the munchkins, I feel more like the Wicked Witch of the West! My kingdom is not going as planned!  I feel out of control! I look around at our classroom and feel intense feelings of frustration…why won’t they listen to me?! Why won’t they just obey?!  And those feelings of frustration soon begin to bubble over into impatience and irritation with the students who are messing up my plans for my little kingdom.

                And I would love to justify it as righteous anger – after all, they are not pleasing God, and they are distracting others from learning! But when I examine my own heart, I quickly find that I am more upset that they are getting in the way of my desires and plans.  And James has a little something to say about that!

 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)

James is so clear in letting us know that our sin comes from our desires. I am frustrated and impatient because my desire for a neat, well-behaved class (which is a good thing in and of itself!), has become an out-of-control need. I need to have a neat, well-behaved class, or I can’t be happy. I need to have a great class, or I can’t be patient.

 Wait, who’s in charge here?

I have viewed my class as my little kingdom…when in fact, my classroom is God’s Kingdom. I am trying to orchestrate my plans to be in control of my classroom. I  don’t have time for student misbehavior – that’s not  a part of my kingdom plan! I don’t have time for students who are not getting on board with my procedures and methods-  that’s not a part of my kingdom plan!  My kingdom looks like 25 students sitting in their seats, diligently and faithfully completing their assignments, doing well in school, getting along with each other, respecting and loving me as their teacher, and growing into the most spiritually mature third and fourth graders ever!  But many days, that is not the way that God’s kingdom looks as it plays out in my classroom. My students fight with each other. They don’t obey. They don’t turn in their homework. They talk and goof off as they walk in the hallway to their specials! But God wants to use each and every one of those situations to grow all of us – students and teacher – to be more like Christ.  I think about Jesus Christ and His time here on earth – how many times that, in earthly terms, His plans were derailed.  The woman with the issue of blood that stopped Him as He was going to the home of Jarius (Matt. 9:20-22), the children coming to Him (Luke 18:15-17), His disciples not understanding what He said (Luke  9:44-45), the disciples arguing with each other (Luke 9:46),  healing a paralyzed man while He was teaching (Luke 5:17-26), and the crowd following Him when He went to be alone (Matthew 13:13-14).

Oh, friends -if anyone can identify with what we feel in our classrooms when our students fail to understand, interrupt with misbehavior, and have needs that feel overwhelming to meet – it is Christ!

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

How did He show love & patience with all of these interruptions? Because He realized that He was there to build God’s Kingdom. And behind each & every one of those interruptions was a person who needed God.

Too much of a good thing?

Of course, it is not wrong to strive for a well-run, obedient, peaceful classroom – those are all good things that we should be working for! The issue is when those desires become what our classroom needs to be like for us to function. How can we tell if those good desires have morphed into out-of-control needs? By the way we react when we don’t get them!

Honestly, for me, I react in impatience and frustration because I want my perfect little kingdom instead of God’s perfect plan. My classroom is God’s Kingdom…and God’s Kingdom is about glorifying Him through saving sinners and conforming them to be more like Him. That student who refuses to obey is in desperate need of God’s grace, not my impatience! Perhaps he needs to be saved…or perhaps he has accepted Christ to be His Savior, but he needs to submit his will to God and grow in sanctification. Ultimately, that student’s problem is not submission to me — it is submission to God.

When I look at my classroom as God’s Kingdom and not my own , that student’s behavior is not personal towards me. Instead of reacting to his disobedience towards me and how it has affected our class, I should be concerned for how his behavior is affecting his relationship with God.  When that is the case, instead of being quick to anger and quick to lecture them,  I will be slow to anger and slow to speak…because my primary motive is not fixing my kingdom but rather building God’s kingdom, and anger & impatience are not tools for that!

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God  (James 1:19-20)

Building God’s Kingdom is messy work here on earth.  Especially when it is that time of the semester, you are exhausted, and you have that tough class.  My students are in need of transforming grace, but so is their teacher! I need God’s amazing, transforming grace to tune my heart to His — to see my classroom as His Kingdom that He is ruling and reigning over. I am simply the steward – not the ruler!

So, yes, we will still have rules & procedures. There will be consequences when those rules & procedures are not followed. But I am begging God for His grace to help me respond in love & patience in those times, because it’s not about having my little kingdom upended. It’s all about Him and growing His Kingdom!


Continue Reading

Asking the Expert

“How do you help a student get organized?”

“How do you help a student struggling with reading comprehension?”

“How do you help a student who can’t stay in their seat?”
“How do I get play dough out of the carpet before my custodian finds out and kills me?”

What did teachers do before Google?

Seriously, I don’t think I go one day without Googling something.

I am so glad that Google does not judge me for some of the rather….well, dumb, things that I ask. Because I ask a lot of questions.

When I am not on the internet surfing for answers to my myriad of teacher questions, I am hunting down the other teachers in my school and asking them question upon question.

How would you handle this?

What would you do in this case?
What do you think?

I love getting answers. I love the feeling of implementing something that I learned to hopefully solve a problem I am facing in my classroom.

One day, I realized that when I have a question, my default is to Google it and begin to pick other teachers’ brains around the world.

Now that is not necessarily a bad thing – asking questions from those who know more than we do is a very wise course of action! In fact,  Proverbs encourages us to listen to others instead of relying only on what we know!

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,  but a wise man listens to advice. (Proverbs 12:15)

However, I realized that my questions always drove me first to “the experts” rather than to THE EXPERT.

My first response should be to take my question to the One who created and knows both me and my student.

After all, where better to find answers?

My God wants me to come to him with my concerns and issues. He isn’t so busy taking care of world affairs that he doesn’t have time to “deal with” my problem of a class that won’t stop talking. He isn’t going to scold me for taking up his time for something so “minor” in the grand scheme of the universe. He tells me to come to him. He tells me to ask. He promises that He will give.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)

I want my default to be that I take everything to Christ first.

Before I jump on the internet, pull out my college textbooks, or grab the ear of a colleague, I want to first start on my knees. Praying that God would…

  1. Give me Wisdom – wisdom in choosing the proper way to deal with the situation. There are so many ideas out there – I need wisdom to choose the methodology or solution that would be most helpful to my student.
  2. Help the student that is struggling – That He would encourage the heart of that student who is academically behind. That Sarah would realize that her value is in Christ and not her GPA. That little Johnny would be able to stay in his seat. That through these struggles, these students would be drawn to love Him more and realize their own need of help from Christ.
  3. Give wisdom to others involved in the situation – that He would help parents know how best to help their child. That administration would have wisdom in making decisions that could affect this student.

Those behavior issues? Yes, I will probably still ask others for advice…but I will first pray that God would work in that student’s heart. That neat Pinterest behavior modification idea may help…but without prayer for a changed heart, all I am doing is helping to mask the symptoms of that student’s sinful heart.

Those parent issues? Sure, I will use that great communication idea found on a blog…but first, I am going to pray for my own heart in dealing with that family. That I would be loving and Christ like in the way that I relate to them. Then I am going to pray for those parents – that God would give them wisdom in raising their children and that they would also have the correct responses in the face of conflict.

And when I get to see God answer those prayers and work in powerful ways, I will know that it is not because I am such a wonderful and clever teacher. I will know that He graciously listened to my request and worked in ways that only He can work.  I will know that He directed me to that idea to help my student who struggles with reading comprehension. I will know that He worked in my heart, my students’ hearts, and their parents’ hearts. I will know that He is the one who deserves all the praise.

So I am not finished asking the experts, yet.

But I do want to ask the all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving Expert first.

Praying this year that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:17).

Continue Reading

Loving the Hard-to-love Student

Maybe you have gotten your class list for the upcoming school year and you were eagerly reading it when a name on the page brought you to a screeching halt.

You got THAT KID.

Of all the students that ended up in your class, you ended up with THAT KID.

He is legendary among his former teachers.

The stories you have heard about him are enough to get you to consider retiring at 35.

He may be obnoxious. She may be lazy. He may be disrespectful. She may be argumentative. He may be disliked by every other student. Whatever he may be, he will be a challenge.

Most teachers I know would take a bullet for any one of their kids. We love each and every one of our students…and yet that very student I would jump in front of a bullet for, I can act so unloving with in my daily interactions. I get tired of dealing with the same discipline issues. I get frustrated with their derailing of my plans. I just want them to learn their lesson! I want them to make my life easier! Why do they have to be so difficult?

When I look into God’s Word, I see so many examples of hard-to-love students.

That student who always spoke their mind…that was Peter.

That student who thought that they knew better than the teacher…Well, that was Peter, again.

That student who just never seemed to learn his lesson…that was the entire nation of Israel!

The student who turned against the One pouring His life into him…that was Judas.

The student who whined and complained no matter how much they had been given…that was…Wait. That is me. Don’t I look at all the blessings that God has given me and whine about what I don’t have?

Come to think of it…I am also that student who speaks her mind to God about what I do and don’t like about His plans for my life. I’m that student who turns her back on God and does her own thing many times. I’m the student that never seems to learn the lessons that God is teaching me. I’m the student that thinks I know better than the teacher.

Hmmm…could it just be that I am a hard-to-love student?

That despite all of the good things I may have done…really, I haven’t done anything that could possibly deserve God’s love? That before salvation, I was actually God’s enemy?

And, all of a sudden, that hard-to-love student and I have something in common. A BIG something! Neither one of us deserves love based on our actions and attitudes.

But, you know what? True love doesn’t depend on how much somebody deserves it. True love is unconditional. It is freely given.

How thankful I am that my Heavenly Father didn’t give up loving me. He didn’t love me because I was anything special. He didn’t love me because I deserved that love. He just loved me. That’s who He is.

He loved me so much, that even while I was His enemy, He sent His beloved Son to take my punishment.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8, emphasis added)

I have been shown such amazing grace and unconditional love even when I was at my worst.

How can I then, being loved and accepted despite my condition, turn to that hard-to-love student and just let them go?

Give up on them and ride out the year?

Constantly nag at them and their faults?

Speak harshly to them and about them?

Because, you know what? Who doesn’t love the kids who love them back? They’re the easy ones -the ones who scribble “best teacher ever” on their spelling tests, bring you treats and handwritten cards, and just float through your class following all of the rules. It takes a heart changed by Christ to love the student who blatantly disrespects you, shows no regard for your rules, and seems to hate your guts.

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies [I certainly hope you don’t consider your student an enemy – but I think the principles here still apply!] , do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse youIf you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. (Luke 6:27-28, 32; emphasis added)

Lord, help me to show that student the unconditional love that you have shown to me.

Help me to  faithfully pray for that student…committing to pray for them every single day this year. It’s hard to spend that much time praying for someone without loving them.

Lord, help me to act loving even when I don’t necessarily feel loving. Help me to remember that love is a choice. It is not a feeling. Even when I am struggling with this student, help me to find the next loving thing that I can do for them.

That may mean sending them back to their seat so I can have a moment to pray before dealing with the discipline issue.

That may mean actively looking for something that I can praise them for or thank them for doing.

That may mean slipping a note inside of their desk for them to discover the next day.

That may mean asking them to join me for lunch or an after school snack in the classroom.

That may mean giving up some of my desires and rights to find a way to serve that student. It will mean sacrifice. But the sacrifices I may make don’t come close to the sacrifice that was made for me!

Lord, help me to remember that if this student is hard for me to love, he is probably hard for others to love. If I don’t show him your love, who will?

And most of all, thank you for loving this hard-to-love student so much that you sacrificed all to adopt me into your family. You knew what you were getting – and yet you still chose me.

When I show love to that hard-to-love student, I am living out a picture of the Gospel.  Lord, help this hard-to-love teacher love as she has been loved.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

Continue Reading

Teaching Tough Students

We all have those students.

The ones who know exactly which of our buttons to push and seem to take great delight in pushing them!

The ones who moan and groan over every request we make of them.

The ones who stir up trouble among their classmates.

The ones who just never seem to obey.

And if you are like me, my patience can begin to wear thin.

The year goes on, and I get tired of dealing with the same issues again and again. Why can’t they just learn their lesson?

While dealing with a group of particularly difficult students one year, I was struck with the story of another person who had to lead a pretty tough group.  His name was Moses, and he had the opportunity to lead the people of Israel through the wilderness after being freed from slavery. Now, you need to know some things about this group of people…

They complained (A LOT).

They didn’t listen (A LOT).

They didn’t obey (A LOT).

They just couldn’t seem to learn their lesson (A LOT).

Sound like anyone you might know?  😉

Poor Moses. What a group! After seeing God provide for them again and again, the Israelites were again complaining because they were thirsty. They  were personally attacking Moses – why have you brought us out here to die? (sounds like my students in Math class!). So Moses went before the Lord with their complaint. God instructed him to speak to a rock and water would come out for the people.  So armed with the promise of God, Moses went before the Israelites at the rock…and directly disobeyed God. Instead of speaking to the rock, he took his staff and struck it. Water still came out despite his disobedience. The Israelites were happy…but God was not. What’s up?

Moses was frustrated with leading this rebellious people. He grew angry and lashed out. He got results, but he went about it completely in the wrong way.

I do the same thing. Many times I feel like I am figuratively “striking the rock” with my difficult students. I get frustrated. I grow impatient and angry. I let unkind  and harsh words fly out. And you know what? Sometimes there may be results. That tough student may shape up…but I have dishonored God in the process.

You know what is interesting? When God spoke with Moses about his sin, he didn’t specifically mention his anger. Anger wasn’t the problem – it was simply a symptom of something going on in Moses’ heart.

And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them” (Numbers 20:12)

God got right to the root – Moses was angry because he didn’t believe God.

I realized that my problem with these difficult students was not my impatience and anger. My real problem was that I wasn’t believing God.

  • That He was the one who had placed these students in my life (Rom. 8:28-29)
  • That He would give me the grace and patience to lead them (I Thess. 5:24)
  • That He is the one who could change their hearts…not me (Jer. 24:7, Ps. 51:10).
  • That He is enough for me…no matter what kind of students, the kind of day, or the kind of school year that I may be facing (Ps. 16:11).

When I don’t believe God’s promises and react wrongly to my difficult students, I have not glorified Him. I have not shown them the greatness of their God. I haven’t shown them a glimpse of His character. Even if they shape up and became a model student, if I have not showed God to them, I have failed. After all, the sole purpose of our life (which certainly includes our teaching, discipline, etc.) is to glorify God.

In him [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestinedaccording to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory (Eph. 1:11-12).

 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31).

Moses failed to believe God, and as a result, God was not glorified among His people. I don’t want to make the same mistake in my teaching!

So how can we make sure we aren’t “striking the rock” as Moses did?

  1. Stay in a close relationship with the Lord – stay in His Word and spend time in prayer. We can’t show our students someone that we don’t know very well.
  2. Memorize & meditate on God’s Promises – this goes along with #1. It’s hard to believe and depend on the promises of someone that we don’t know. What promises do you have trouble believing about God and His working in your life? Commit them to memory – write them on index cards and stick them around your home and classroom. When you are tempted to doubt, preach those verses right back to yourself.
  3. Remember God’s work in your own heart – how many times have I repeatedly disobeyed God? Over and over again in His Word, He tells me what to do. Over and over again, I choose to do my own thing and suffer the consequences. I repent and turn back to Him…and do it all over again. I’m a pretty slow learner. I’m not too different from my difficult students! Yet God has shown me such amazing love and grace! How can I not let that same love and grace spill over to my difficult students?

How about you? What characteristics or promises of God help you in dealing with challenging students?

Continue Reading

The Dangers of Good Kids

We all have our “good” kids.

The ones who are responsible, turn in their projects and homework on time, and get good grades.

The ones who never have to stand out minutes from recess, get demerits, or detentions.

The ones who don’t cause us much (if any!) trouble!

We are relieved to have these students in our classroom, because there are some others (ahem) who are quite the opposite. Those other students tend to take up a lot of our time and energy.

Our “good” kids can slide through the year, and we assume that they are doing just fine spiritually. It’s Johnny and his disrespectful attitude  or Janie and her rebellious heart that we are worried about.

But many times, our good kids need us to get involved in their lives just as much as the tough students need us.

Here are a few issues that can tend to affect these good kids.

Pride  & Hypocrisy

Some students take pride in their clean records. They look down on their classmates who are always getting in trouble or struggling with low grades. Many times this pride will become evident to others, but sometimes students (and teachers, too!) can hide it behind false humility.

Have you ever thought about the type of students the Pharisees would make? Talk about rule followers – these guys were champions! They had a loooooong list of rules and they pretty much followed them all to a “t” (and my students struggle with the 5 rules in my classroom!). The Pharisees were very religious and very proud of their accomplishments…but they didn’t have a heart for God. Christ had some hard-to-hear words for these religious leaders of his day.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.  So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:27-28)

We need to be so careful as teachers that we don’t emphasize outward keeping rules over a relationship with God. Now, the two aren’t exclusive – after all, God does say, “if ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). But following God’s commands should stem from a love for Him…it’s not about obeying commands just for the sake of following the rules. With the help of the Lord, we should always seek the hearts of our students and not just what is seen on the outside.

For these students, we need to lovingly show them God’s view of pride.

Pride and arrogance and the way of evil  and perverted speech I hate (Prov. 8:13b)

 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

But we also need to show them the greatness of their God! Only when we see God as He really is can we see ourselves as we truly are. Help them to see His forgiveness of their sin and His grace that gives them the gifts that they have.  When I am focusing on all that I have been forgiven of, I don’t have time to look at all the things that others need to be forgiven of.

Love of Approval

I have always been more of a rule-keeping “good girl” – and many times I did really want to please the Lord. But I also loved the approval of others. When I obeyed, I found out that life worked out pretty well. I would look at the other kids in my class who were getting in trouble, and I just didn’t get it. It seemed so simple – just obey the rules and you won’t get into trouble!

Yet, I had my own idol to deal with – the idol of approval. Oh, how I craved it (and still do!). But I should not be controlled by what others think about me – I need to be controlled by God’s love for me. I need to live for Him, not for others.

 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;  and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (II Cor. 5:14-15)

When I had the opportunity to work with some inmates in a detention center, I realized that this “squeaky-clean” church girl had a lot more in common with these inmates than I would ever have thought. Some of them were in there because they wanted the approval of others and so they______________ (fill in the blank). We shared the exact same idols in our hearts – they just manifested themselves differently in the circumstances we found ourselves in.

Performance Treadmill

In his book, Transforming Grace, Jerry Bridges uses the term “the performance treadmill” to describe the idea of the desperate, continual working to gain God’s acceptance instead of realizing that God’s acceptance is not based on our work.

Some of our good kids genuinely do have a heart for the Lord, but they don’t have an accurate understanding of God.

Perhaps some are trying to earn their salvation – for these students, we need to show them Scripture that helps them to see that their good works do nothing towards salvation. We can only be saved through placing our faith in Jesus Christ.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)

 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Is. 64:6)

Some students have accepted the Lord as their Savior, but they are trying to earn God’s approval and acceptance – even though it has already been given to them at salvation! They keep all the rules because they want to impress God,  or they feel that God will love them more the better they are.

Jerry Bridges uses the example of the disciple Peter to help us see God’s unconditional love. Peter had some pretty big failures in his life – but God still loved and blessed him despite his failures.

God blessed Peter, not in spite of his sins, but without regard to his sins. That’s the way His grace operates. It looks not to our sins or even to our good deeds but only to the merit of Christ. (Jerry Bridges)

We need to help these students see that God’s love for us is not dependent on our performance. It is unconditional!

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have continued my faithfulness to you (Jer. 31:3b)

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

As teachers, do we show God’s unconditional love to our students? Or does our love/treatment  of them depend on how their day is going? One thing that I have implemented this year is giving each of my elementary students a hug or a handshake (their choice) at the end of the day before they leave the classroom. My hope is that this  small gesture can help to show them that no matter how their day went, I still love them.


Some students don’t fall into the above categories – they genuinely do want to serve the Lord and are seeking to live lives that are honoring to Him. They understand God’s unconditional love.

But it’s hard to be the “goody-two-shoes”. It’s hard to always be standing up for what’s right and being laughed at or left out. They may not vocalize it or show it, but we need to encourage them! Find little times to share a smile or an “I’m really proud of you…”

Drop a quick note to them – who doesn’t love getting mail or discovering a note tucked inside of their desk?


Just because our good kids are the “easy” kids in the class doesn’t mean that they don’t need help, too! May the Lord help us reach all of our students!

What other struggles do you see pop up in the lives of your good kids? How do you find is the best way to approach and help them?


A few of my favorite resources…

Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges – an amazing book that really helped me in the area of working so hard to gain God’s approval.

Sidney & Norman: A Tale of Two Pigs  by Phil Vischer – This is probably one of my favorite books to read aloud to an elementary class. It deals with both types of students – the students who struggle to obey all of the rules and the students who find it easy to follow the rules and pride themselves on their achievements…and shows them that God doesn’t love them based on what they do – He just loves them.



Continue Reading

Speaking Grace to our Students

I couldn’t help but laugh at this image I found floating around on the internet…because as a teacher, I feel like this sometimes!

You start out the day with great intentions, but it doesn’t take long before you start getting short with your students. Maybe you didn’t get much sleep last night, maybe you are dealing with some outside circumstances or stresses, maybe the day’s schedule got changed and the kids are just going crazy .  But whatever is going on, it’s not a good day. By the time that last bell rings, you have been impatient with many of your students and even called some of them out unkindly.

What is up with that? I mean, you love them, right (you may not feel like you love them right now, but you know that you ultimately do!)? So why do these words fly out of your mouth? Some teachers are notorious for yelling at their kids, but sometimes our unkind speech can be more subtle – a little one-liner here, speaking harshly in a moment of discipline, an impatient response, calling them out in front of the whole class, and other similar words of unkindness.

Words that put them down in front of their friends.

Words that embarrass them.

Words that hurt them.

Words that don’t look anything like Christ.

As Christians, the way that we speak to our students should look very different from the unsaved teacher down the hallway.

When we find ourselves struggling in our speech towards our students, we first need to see where these words are coming from…and I’ll give you a hint – it really doesn’t have anything to do with our students!

The Bible clearly tells us that our words come from our heart – every word we say is indicative of what is in our hearts. Our tongue can often be the “check engine light” – yes, those words coming out aren’t good, but they are signaling a much deeper problem. Our students merely help us to see what is in our hearts.

“…out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

But there is hope! See, if the problems with our speech stem from what others (namely, our students) are doing to us, we don’t have much hope of fixing it. We are giving up and admitting that others have the ability to make us sin. If our students are having a good day, we’ll have a good day! If they are having a bad day, we are forced to also have a bad day. However, if the problem is with my own heart, Christ has the answer for that!

He died so that I would not have be enslaved to my selfish and impatient heart.  He has set me free from its control! Now, He lives inside of me and is working to produce His character in my life.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Gal. 5:22-23)

Words that look like Christ come from a heart that seeks Christ- a heart that desires to please Him and point others towards Him more than it wants its own desires. I can’t just put on loving, patient, and gentle speech…I first have to deal with the heart that is producing the unkind and impatient words.

I need to search my heart and see what it is that I want more than obeying God’s command to love others with my words.  I need to confess it to Him and ask for His help. If I lose my temper or say something unkind to a student, I need to have the humility to call them aside later and apologize (and no excuses – “Well, I should not have said that, but if you wouldn’t have…”). We can be tempted to think that this will make our students lose their respect for us – but have you ever had an authority in your life apologize to you? Chances are that increased your respect for them, not lowered it!

Once I have dealt with my heart, I can begin to replace that old speech with words that look like Christ, and of course, Christ has the answer yet again!

 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Eph. 4:29)

Instead of using words that can tear down our students, let’s look for ways to speak grace to them, to build them up and encourage them. I have been challenged to be more proactive in doing this by really focusing in on 1-2 students a day and going out of my way to deliberately and specifically build them up with my words – look for the little things  to praise them for, encourage them when I see them struggling with something, point their eyes towards Christ. Of course, I want to have this spirit with my whole class, but I think that zoning in on a few students at a time will help me focus on specific encouragement instead of just general praise.

Also, be warned that if you are determined to please Christ in this area, your flesh is really going to fight you. I sat down on Tuesday to begin drafting this post after hearing a wonderful sermon on it. I was excited about using my speech to really minister grace to my students…and then my flesh began to kick and scream. It decided that it was not going to go down so easily. The very next day (and the rest of this week!) I struggled so much with being patient with my students. I wanted to blame it on the fact that they were just not listening to me…but that wasn’t the reason. The reason was because I have an impatient heart – I want what I want when I want it. My students were getting in the way of what I wanted (quickly getting through our research paper writing unit!) and so my impatient heart just bubbled right up and out my mouth. I failed multiple times and had to ask their forgiveness the next day. And Satan would love to keep us down and defeated at this point…but the Lord reminded me of Prov. 24:16A

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again…

It is not that a righteous person never falls. They fall, but by the grace of God, they get back up and try again. And again. And again…and they seek God’s help every time, knowing that they will continue to fall when they are depending on their own strength.

May God help us all to speak grace to our students!


Continue Reading

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.


Continue Reading

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!

Continue Reading