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365 Meditations for Teachers by Teachers
By Sally D. Sharpe, Angela M. Bailey, Cindy M. Bradley, Danny Hill, Cathy Howard, Amy Maze, Kellen Beck Mills
Dimensions for LivingCopyright © 2005 Dimensions for Living
All rights reserved.
Angela M. Bailey
GOD'S PROMISE OF PEACE—READ MATTHEW 6:25-34 AND JOHN 14:27.
BEFORE EACH NEW SCHOOL YEAR, WE ARE PRESENTED WITH new strategies, materials, team members, students and parents, and sometimes administrators. These changes often require shifts in thinking, teaching styles, and even preparation. Then, as the first day of school draws near and more of our time is devoted to decorating classrooms, reviewing class lists, meeting with grade-level teams, and participating in staff development and in-service, stress begins to build!
In the midst of the preparation and planning, we must remember that our heavenly Father is always with us, guiding us and giving us his peace. We must concentrate on what is truly important and do a good job for the Lord.
When you feel stress building, focus on "resting in the Lord." In the morning, pray about the day and turn it over to the Lord. You will experience better days filled with peace.
This month we will consider ways to reduce our stress and keep our focus on the Lord, remembering that he will give us his perfect peace as we trust in him. And that's a promise we can count on!
Father, each day help me let go of my stress and focus on the peace you have promised me. Amen.
KEEP YOUR JOY—READ NEHEMIAH 8:10 AND PSALM 30:5.
As summer draws to a close, we begin to plan all the lessons we're going to teach in the coming year. We think about field trips, centers, gifts for students, and room decorations. Then, suddenly, we realize that school is upon us and we have so much to do—including all the meetings that the administration has arranged! Stress builds, panic sets in, and we get heated and agitated. Just a few days ago we were happy, thinking of all the wonderful activities we would do with our students. What happened to our joy? Why are we now short-tempered with a sour look on our faces?
The students and parents need and deserve to see our joy, not our frustration. Our job is to assure them that we are ready for this exciting job and are confident we will have a successful year. If we allow ourselves to get stressed out, we will have no patience for Evan who needs an extra push, no encouragement for Brandy who needs to do a little better, no pat on the back for Lauren after she finally learns her multiplication facts.
If we remember that the Lord is the source of our joy and we stay close to him, then we will be able to keep the joy in the classroom and school and continuously make learning pleasant!
Lord, restore the joy in my heart no matter what situation arises or what I'm faced with. Amen.
GOOD RELATIONSHIPS—READ EPHESIANS 4:32A.
When my son's first-grade teacher took the time to eat dinner with us because my son had made progress in school, it was the highlight of my son's year. Personal touches such as that make an impression on the student as well as the entire family.
As educators, we need to be intentional about developing good relationships with our students and parents. Working on this at the beginning of the year goes a long way toward preventing unnecessary conflict later on. Then, if there should be something negative that needs to be discussed later in the year, there will be goodwill to cushion the conversation and help everyone communicate better.
I always make it a practice to call parents at the beginning of the year and welcome their children to my class. I let each parent know how proud and privileged I am to have the opportunity to teach his or her child for the year. Sending notes is fine, too, but there is nothing like personal contact.
What can you do to strengthen your relationships with your students and parents?
Lord, show me ways I can develop good relationships with my students and parents this year. May my love for you overflow into every other relationship in my life. Amen.
DO WHAT IS RIGHT—READ GALATIANS 6:9.
I remember my mother telling me when I was a little girl, "Always do what is right and you will never have to worry about being wrong." She was right. Doing the right thing eliminates a lot of worry!
I remember a student who always was teased by the other students because she wore glasses and was very skinny. Many times the students would blame her for devious tricks they had played on others. Often she would take the blame, refusing to tell the teacher the truth. After a period of time, however, the little girl began to get tired of the children blaming her and picking on her, and she began to bully others.
As teachers, we need to recognize the signs indicating that students are being teased or bullied and do what is right to protect and help those children. Children should always know that when they enter our schools, they are safe. When expectations regarding teasing and bullying are given and are followed consistently, students usually will comply.
This year, focus on having a classroom where students always feel comfortable to learn and grow.
Lord, thank you for telling us in your word not to grow weary in doing right. Guide me each day in leading your children. Amen.
POSITIVE THOUGHTS—READ JAMES 1:22.
When I was offered my first teaching job, I asked my mother, who was teaching in middle school, for advice. She said, "I have one piece of advice that will carry you through your entire tenure of education: Don't spend the majority of your time in the teachers' lounge!" I wouldn't understand that until I actually began teaching. She also told me to think positive thoughts instead of focusing on the negative communication I would hear.
In education, it almost seems natural to complain because everything is constantly changing. However, our thoughts always should reflect what we can do to move with the change and work for good.
During my first year as a teacher, I worked with a teacher who said she would never make the changes that were being demanded of us. She did not return the following year! Well, that eye-opening experience taught me to have a positive attitude and do my best to do whatever was required or requested.
As educators, it is our job to do all we can to meet the expectations not only of our students and parents but also of our administrators. Rather than getting "hung up" on a request, spend your energy on how you can make the change work in a positive way for you and your students.
Father, help me be not only a hearer of your word, but also a doer. May I not question what is asked of me but respond with optimism and enthusiasm. Amen.
NO MORE COMPLAINING—READ EXODUS 16:3.
As I've mentioned, change is inevitable in the field of education. Curricula change, assessments change, students change, expectations change—everything changes. Along with these changes, we have to adjust and start over. Sometimes this can be especially difficult if we've made up our minds that we are not going to change!
When the Israelites were traveling with Moses, they complained because Moses had taken them out of Egypt into the wilderness where they were not guaranteed food each day or a comfortable place to sleep each night. They complained consistently to Moses, and he told the Lord that the people were hungry. So, the Lord sent manna from heaven each morning for them to eat. After receiving the bread, however, they still weren't happy; they continued to complain about everything.
As educators, we have to be willing to make changes if we want to continue growing in this ever-changing field. When curricula change, there are reasons; when assessments change, there are reasons. Instead of worrying so much about the change, let's consider how we can truly affect the lives of children with this change. Instead of complaining about it, let's consider the positive effects that this change can bring upon our students and our schools.
Father in heaven, I will not complain but will accept the task you have given me and wait for your direction to complete it. Amen.
IMAGINE AND BELIEVE—READ GENESIS 15:5-6.
Before I became a school administrator, it seemed that every year I was assigned the students with behavior problems. My colleagues would tease me and say, "Oh, you can handle them; that's why you get them each year." Then they would share their "war stories" about their experiences with these students when they were in their classrooms.
Usually I found that when I didn't begin the year with my mind already made up about these challenging students, they would surprise me every time. I often reminded myself that the Lord told Abraham to count the stars, saying that he would make Abraham father of as many children as the stars he could count. Though it was difficult at first for Abraham to believe this promise because of his age, he began to believe what seemed impossible, and the Lord "reckoned it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6 NRSV)." God was, indeed, faithful to his promise.
Students need to know that we love them. We must focus on the end results instead of what we see now, imagining that we can achieve success. If we communicate our goals for our students, the majority of them will follow through. It's when they sense that we don't care about them that they become discipline problems.
Make it a practice to remind yourself daily that what seems impossible is possible with faith!
Father, thank you for our jobs and for the children I teach and lead. May I, like Abraham, imagine and believe, trusting you to make the impossible possible. Amen.
BE STEADFAST—READ 1 CORINTHIANS 15:58.
As teachers, we have the awesome job of influencing lives forever. When students enter our classrooms, they generally view us as the authority figure. (Though some students see us differently, the majority hold this view.) If we want to be successful, we must realize how much power we possess and determine to remain steadfast or consistent in our expectations; we must remember that the tone we set at the beginning of the school year continues throughout the year; and we must acknowledge that, even though they may never admit it, students want parameters.
One year when I was teaching third grade, many of my students had been labeled by previous teachers as "the worst students in the school." Nevertheless, I decided that I would treat them just as I had treated all of my previous classes. I came in the first day with my usual high expectations, and I proceeded to model these expectations and allow the students to practice them. I was consistent with every expectation, never wavering.
After a few months, teachers were commenting, "How did you get them to act that way?" I told them that I had remained consistent and steadfast in what I wanted to accomplish, and I had set high expectations for all the students, regardless of how they had been labeled in the past.
Father, help me be steadfast and consistent in the parameters and expectations I set for my students, remaining confident that my efforts are not in vain. Amen.
HIGH EXPECTATIONS—READ 1 TIMOTHY 4:11-12.
I have always had high expectations of students. The question I have to ask myself is this: Am I modeling the same kind of behavior I expect of them? There is an old saying: "Practice what you preach." In other words, if I say it, then I must do it as well!
When I was in elementary school, there was a teacher who most students did not like at the beginning of the year. This teacher was "mean" because she expected every child to follow her rules. Actually, she was an awesome teacher who used creativity, taught every child, and worked well with parents. But when it came to discipline in her classroom, everyone had to follow her rules.
Whenever students saw her, she consistently modeled the same behavior she expected of them. By the year's end, everyone loved this lady because she had enough guts to set limits and never lowered them. Even though they didn't like the rules at the beginning of the year, by the end she was their favorite teacher.
Since becoming a teacher, I have tried to model the same expectations for my students. I have found that all students want teachers to set parameters and, more important, to be consistent with them. It's when we waver back and forth that students find an open space and "fill it."
Lord, help me stay strong and consistent as I model the behavior I expect of my students. Amen.
TRAIN UP A CHILD—READ PROVERBS 22:6.
Once I had to attend a meeting in the media center at my school. One of the paraprofessionals would be assigned to cover my third-grade class, which was located in a trailer in the back parking lot.
After the meeting, I went to my classroom and found my students sitting quietly, completing the work I'd written on the board. The strange thing about this peaceful scene was that there was no adult in the classroom! My students said that they had been alone the entire time and had assumed I was in the front office listening to them over the intercom, just as I had told them I would do someday. In my absence, they had taken the attendance and lunch count and sent someone to turn those counts in to the front office. They also had started their work, which was written on the board. I found out later that no one had informed the paraprofessional to come to my room.
As I've said, my expectations of my students have always been clear and consistent. So, they thought that this was a test, and they wanted to prove to me how responsible they could be.
High expectations communicated in love can dramatically influence the atmosphere of our classrooms as well as the achievements of our students.
Lord, help me "train" my students in such a way that they will not only meet my expectations but also exceed them. Amen.
WORKING FOR GOD—READ EPHESIANS 6:7.
In every school where I've worked, I have worked with teachers who went far beyond what was expected of them, as well as those who did only the bare minimum. On individual teams, colleagues know which teachers they can go to for sharing new ideas, discussing classroom achievements, and asking for help in particular areas. Administrators also know which teachers are committed and which ones are less enthused.
In teaching, as in any job, we need to continually realize that we are working first and foremost for God. Every lesson we teach and every skill we present should be done in a way that pleases and honors God. You see, we often lose sight of who is really in charge. We think we're working for the system, but we're not. We're working for God. Students are the first ones to know when we don't want to teach, and when they realize this, they stop working to their full potential.
Once we "get" this revelation, we will be more enthusiastic about our position and our purpose. Administrators and other colleagues also will begin to notice when we change our outlook. Most important, God will notice!
Lord, help me eliminate much of my stress and worry by remembering that I am working for you, not the system. Amen.
ARE YOU COMPLACENT?—READ COLOSSIANS 3:23.
Schools have different academic levels. There are high-, low-, and average-achieving schools. Some teachers have a passion for a certain level and will teach only at a school that is at that level. Whatever our preferences may be, we need to be sure we never become complacent. The students at each of the levels need our dedication each and every day.
I once taught at a high-achieving school where the administrator, who felt that we had become too comfortable and complacent, wanted us to improve our test scores. One staff member commented, "We're already number twenty in the state! What do you want— number one?" The response was, "Yes! We set the expectation, and students will rise to meet it."
When I taught in the classroom, sometimes I was tired and didn't think I could accomplish any more; but when I would go that extra mile, the students would always "move" with me. Students are waiting for our direction. If we know where we are going, it's easy for them to follow, move ahead, and excel.
No matter what level of school we work in, let us continuously encourage our students to excel!
Lord, keep me strong— physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually— so I can give it my "all" each and every day, remembering that I am working for you. Amen.
Excerpted from 365 Meditations for Teachers by Teachers by Sally D. Sharpe, Angela M. Bailey, Cindy M. Bradley, Danny Hill, Cathy Howard, Amy Maze, Kellen Beck Mills. Copyright © 2005 Dimensions for Living. Excerpted by permission of Dimensions for Living.
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