I think of teachers much like I do of nurses—heroes. Like nursing, teaching is an unsung job that requires tremendous amounts of personal investment in other people’s lives. And, also like nursing, teaching has the potential to make a tremendous difference as well.
Teachers have a unique ability to influence moldable lives. I still remember the names of and specific lessons from many of my teachers, and I’m guessing you do as well.
So, as a new school year begins, how can you as a teacher—in any teaching setting—use your influence to effect life change in your students?
- Pray for life change in your students. Teaching is too incredible an opportunity to squander on mere facts. Don’t settle for just imparting information, but pray that God will use you as an agent of grace to bring lasting change in your student’s lives. Make it your goal that your students not only learn what you are trying to teach them, but pray for moments to impact them in truly life-changing ways. And remember, these opportunities often come with less fanfare than we expect. It may be that one moment of encouragement or serving that makes the greatest difference.
- Prepare your heart. More than prepared lessons, you need a prepared heart. God has to be working in you to work most effectively through you. Guard your walk with Him. Yield to the Holy Spirit. Let His fruit show up in your classroom through you.
- Actively look for reasons and ways to praise your students. Years ago, I heard the statement, “Correction does much, but encouragement does more,” and I have found it to be true. In the course of a school year, there will be many times you’ll need correct your students. Purposefully work to stay ahead of the correction by giving them specific praise. Notice what they do well, and tell them what you appreciate about them. Praise them personally, in a note, to their parents, in front of the class, and in any other way you can find.
- Recognize the value of what you are teaching. Students don’t always see school as valuable, but you do—or you wouldn’t be teaching. When you remember the value of what you are teaching, it will increase your enthusiasm in the classroom and create a greater appetite for learning in your students. Remember, too, that there is more than face value to what you teach. You are not just teaching five year olds to read—you are giving them a life-long tool to learn. You’re not just teaching fifteen year olds history—you are shaping their worldview.
- Invest time in lesson preparation. This might seem like the most obvious way to prepare, but sometimes it’s the most overlooked. Even if you have taught the same material for twenty years, spend time in preparation. Put the same heart into preparing for the classroom as you did the first time you taught. You know the difference between when you are thoroughly prepared and basically prepared. Stay on the side of thoroughly prepared.
- Lead a reconciled life. If you carry outside conflict or inner turmoil into the classroom, it will impact your students. Before you begin the school year, make sure any relational conflicts within your ability to resolve are indeed resolved. And as you go into each day, give your burdens to the Lord so you can help your students carry theirs.
Perhaps you have already begun your school year. The good news is that no year is lived a full year at a time for teachers or for students. It is lived one week—really, just one day—at a time.
Enter each week with a level of preparation that includes, but is deeper than, lesson plans only, and anticipate a life-changing year for your students.