Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Teaching with Grace

Several months ago, my pastor preached a sermon about parenting. 

In Colossians 3:21, fathers are commanded: "do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged." Likewise, Ephesians 6:4 says "do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in training and instruction of the Lord."

As I was listening to the sermon, I was overwhelmed by how these truths about parenting in justice and love are so applicable to me as a Christian teacher.

As teachers, we often get so caught up in the fast pace and requirements of teaching that we forget that our students are not just some product on an assembly line. Rather, they are souls that we have been given the honor of shepherding for a time.

The Grace of the Gospel

Something that is unique about Christianity is that I am not "required" to be kind to my students because I want to earn a gold star or need my good deeds to outweigh my bad. 

Instead, as a Christian, I am able to look at the failings of my students knowing that I failI can look at their misbehavior and rebellion knowing how I rebel against my God in my sinI can look at their weakness and frustration knowing that I don't have it all figured out either.

But thankfully, as a Christian, the good news is that I am not left to steep in weakness and sorrow, and I should not leave them there either. 

I may not have it all together, but I know who does. I know that when my classroom begins to fall apart, I have a sovereign King who holds the universe and everything in it together. I know that despite my dark heart and selfishness and brokenness, I am dearly, deeply, unconditionally loved. I am convicted to repent of my rebellion and am covered and forgiven. I am shown grace. But I have not just been shown grace. I have been given grace. I have tasted the sweetness of this grace. I did not just experience grace when I initially recognized Jesus as the sacrifice for my sins. I experience grace on a daily basis when I continue to mess up and am still welcomed back into loving fellowship with my Father.

God is Just    

So, as a teacher, should I not extend both accountability and grace to my students? Thankfully, the Christian God is not a willy nilly god that allows us to do whatever makes us feel good. We know what a classroom like that looks like. We would not say, "Wow, what a great teacher." We would think "Man, does that teacher really care about her kids if she is not going to hold them to any kind of standard?"

Our God is one of standards and of justice. Would He truly be good if he was not just? Does a good parent not tell his child the right way and lead him in it? Likewise, how can a parent communicate his child's worth without love? These two things go hand in hand: Justice and love.

When we only discipline our students and do it out of our own need for power rather than showing them the grace and love that has been extended to us, we exasperate them.

Your Students Have Worth

As Christians, we believe that ALL human beings, regardless of age, race, or influence, have worth. We all have worth because we are made in the image of God, the mighty, gracious, loving creator of the universe.

Start treating your students like they have worth. 

If you are a believer and you antagonize your students and blame them for everything, stop. You are an ambassador for Christ. Reflect the gospel that has been shown to you. Exhibit the grace that you live by.

I used my notes from this parenting sermon to construct some discipline guidelines for me to remember as I seek to show my students the Gospel by disciplining them through love and justice. 

May your students enter and leave your classroom knowing that they have worth and hope. May they be edified and filled. May you be salt and light in the dark, fading world that they are experiencing. May they leave you with an understanding of grace.

I Will Not
I Will

Discipline you harshly

Speak with kindness and self-control

Shame you

v Address your disobedience privately
v Discuss how your actions are bad, not how you are bad.

Highlight every misbehavior to
break your spirit

Work to see the best in you and be gracious when I don’t

Discipline you without reason

Talk with you openly and often about the “why” behind our rules

Discipline you inconsistently

Make clear expectations for everyone and uphold them daily

Discipline you out of selfishness

Remember that your misbehavior is not a personal attack

Discipline you unevenly

Spend the majority of my time affirming your positive behaviors

Discipline you without forgiveness

v Ask if we are on good terms after I discipline you
v Be intentional about showing I forgive you

Discipline without love

Tell and show you that I care about you and have high expectations for you

Discipline without listening

I will ask you questions and give you room to explain your actions

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