Dear Worn-Out, Run-Down, Absolutely Exhausted Teacher

Dear Worn-Out, Run-Down, Absolutely Exhausted Teacher,
Wow – you have almost made it! It is May and the countdown has begun! I know you are tired – deep down to your toes tired. And no wonder! For the past nine months you have poured yourself into your students. By God’s grace you have loved them. You have prayed for them. You have shouldered their burdens. You have cried for them. You have rejoiced with them. You have encouraged them. You have counseled them…and oh, yes – you’ve also taught them English or Math somewhere along the way.
You’re probably sick after your body has finally surrendered to the germs it has been battling all year long.
Even though you are exhausted, you’re probably not sleeping well because of the gazillion school-related thoughts and to-do lists going through your head at night.
You’re stressed when you look at all the curriculum and special events that need to be crammed into the next few weeks.
Your patience is wearing thin – it seems like you have been dealing with some of the same behavior and discipline problems for the entire nine months. Your kids have spring fever and all of those classroom management routines and academic skills you have drilled into them seem to have vanished.
You are discouraged. You haven’t reached them all. You look out at the sea of faces and see the one student you felt like you could never connect with. You see the student who has hardened their heart towards God. You see the student who may fail and need summer school. You feel like you have failed.
You feel like it is taking everything in you to drag yourself across the finish line of the school year.
But God’s not done with you, yet.
When you are tired, you are extra vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. He would love to see you fizzle out at the end of the year – just focusing on enduring the final days instead of thriving.He would love to see you stop leaning on the love and power of God that has been sustaining you all year long.
Don’t let him.
I can guarantee that you can’t finish this year well in your own strength, but you don’t have to. Finish this year strong, relying on God’s strength. In all of the busyness and exhaustion, cling so closely to your God. Spend a little extra time in prayer and His Word. Keep your gaze firmly fixed on Him and all that He has done this year.
Instead of focusing on how far your students still have to go, take a moment to realize how far they have come.
Instead of focusing on how you have failed this year, take a moment to see the moments of God’s grace in your classroom. You weren’t a perfect teacher – there’s no such thing. You probably did fail in some areas this year (in fact, I can guarantee it!), but remember that God delights in using broken things to accomplish His purposes. God chose you to be the teacher for your class this year – He didn’t make a mistake. You were where you were exactly when you were supposed to be there. He wanted to use you to teach them…and He wanted to use them to teach you. Look for the moments of His grace and spend time thanking Him for them instead of wallowing in where you feel that you failed.
In the stressful and overwhelming days yet to come, don’t forget your students. Don’t get so wrapped up in rushing through curriculum and packing things up that you fail to really enjoy your last few days with them. Stop running around for a minute and just observe them. Relish the joy on their faces as they tell you a story. Delight in the smiles and laughter they share with their friends. Look back at their pictures from the beginning of the year and see how much they have grown up. Have times where you put aside your to-do list and just love your kiddos for these final days. Use these days to direct their eyes towards God and all He has accomplished this year.
Yes, you are tired. You feel like you are completely done.
But God’s not done.
He is still at work in you and your students.
Lean on His everlasting arms and finish the race strong.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
 He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Surely God is good!

Love,

A fellow worn-out, run-down, absolutely exhuasted teacher

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Instructing a Child’s Heart Review + Giveaway

Who is ready for a giveaway?! I firmly believe that you can never have too many books, so I am going to try to add one more to your resource library! 🙂

Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd & Margy Tripp is a tremendous resource for anyone who works with children! While written specifically for parents, there was sooooo much in here that I took away as a Christian teacher desiring to help her students grow in Christ. The Tripps’ goal is not to give a simple three-step method to change the behavior of a child.  It is all about using God’s principles to help form the hearts of our students. More than geared towards “fixing” our children, it challenges us as authorities to examine our motives and methods behind the way we teach our children.

Our objective when we teach our children is not simply to ensure…that our children are not criminals or that they “do well”. Rather, our desire is that they should love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and mind.  (Tedd & Margy Tripp)

Our goal is to help our students love and glorify God. How do we do this when they are bombarded with different “truths” on all sides of them?

They hear one thing from their friends.

They hear one thing from the media.

They hear yet another thing from their parents and teachers.

Then they hear things from God’s Word.

Whose instruction is winning out?

Throughout the book, the term “formative instruction” is used frequently. According to the Tripps, formative instruction is “teaching that ‘forms’ our children…[it] is ‘before the problem instruction’. Its focus is interpreting and responding to life in biblical ways.” Formative instruction is the the way that we weave the Gospel, Scripture, and our view of God into the daily moments that make up life.

I love the idea that we are constantly using this formative instruction to help our students build a biblical framework before trouble/discipline hits.Times of discipline can’t be the only times that we hit our students with Scripture. if we do that, they are very likely to resent Scripture! Also, the Tripps point out a truth that we know probably all too well…

We never do our best teaching when we are in a discipline situation…if we try to do our formative instruction in the context of corrective discipline, our focus will be too narrow. We will miss the big picture – the opportunity to teach a worldview.

Instructing a Child’s Heart is a book that will encourage and challenge you. Filled with Scripture and a focus on the Gospel and our great God, this book is a resource that will help you in journey as a teacher or parent.  It is a book that will help to refocus your gaze on God and how our view of God trickles down to our children.

Parenting [Teaching]that exhibits a vital relationship with God in all the joys and storms of life is irresistible to children and young people. Conversely, the surest way to harden our children’s hearts to God and his ways is “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (II Tim. 3:5)

Shepherd’s Press has graciously donated a copy of Instructing a Child’s Heart for a giveaway. I was not paid for this review, and all opinions expressed are my own. 

 

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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?

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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.

Discouragement

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.

 

 

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Welcome!

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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