I went through a phase way back in my college days when I watched a TV show called South Park. The show, quite crass and inappropriate at times, featured a kid by the name of Eric Cartman. Cartman’s tagline was one that is still echoed today by some of my own students: “Respect my authoritah!” It was cute to me back then. Very catchy. This grade school cartoon character was attempting to take charge on the show, but it was doing more than that. It was quietly telling kids that it was okay to stand up and buck authority.
We are in the midst of a changing culture. This culture that used to display undying respect for authority is beginning to buck in the opposite direction. Bosses and supervisors alike are being challenged by disgruntled employees. Teens are becoming surlier toward parents, teachers, and other authority figures. The word respect itself is almost fading away into the backdrop in favor of challenging our superiors. Why is this? Why are teachers today not getting the respect they deserve—or at least the respect that was given to teachers years ago back when we were students ourselves?
I wonder if today’s teens are merely following the example that they see their parents and elders acting out themselves. If their parents are coming home from work, complaining about their bosses, and changing jobs on a whim just to be happy, kids see this as the norm. Studies show the average adult will change jobs seven times during their lifetime. Why should they act any different toward their superiors if they see their parents acting otherwise? As Christian teachers we are called to a higher standard, a standard that is laid out in plain truth below.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13: 1). God put people in power above us for a purpose. It doesn’t matter what your administration asks of you. As long as it is not ungodly, we are subject to their authority. If your principal asks you to the in the hallways on alert every passing period, you best be modeling it.
“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5: 5). How often do our kids see adult figures disregard this toward our own elders? And how often do we as teachers enable students to do as they please? We must model being subject to our own authorities while setting our expectations just as high for our own students.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land’” (Ephesians 6: 1-3). This scripture could not be any clearer: obey your parents. Yes, God does call the husband and wife to leave and cleave toward one another, but He likewise asks us to still honor our father and mother. The more I model that toward my two little ones, the more likely they will be acting that out toward me.
My current principal is entering her final quarter before retiring in May. We may not have seen eye to eye on every decision during her tenure; however, I do respect my boss. I respect seeing her in the lunchroom sweeping trash under the tables. I respect the way she shows her face before, during, and after school, serving, supervising, and providing a model example for the kids to follow. I respect the way she cares for the faculty, hearing us out and keeping a positive attitude all the while. Whomever your boss is, that person deserves your respect. This is our calling from the One who we owe the ultimate respect to.
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