Core scripture: “Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest. But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side. Then he said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest’” (Luke 9: 46-48).
Message: We had just finished two days of Rules and Procedures Boot Camp. That’s right, I actually spent two entire class periods practicing my class rules. And I hired a guest speaker to fire the kids up too. My evil twin brother, Captain Daniels, donning his patented authentic West Point camouflage cap, whipped the kids into shape, practicing everything from the correct way to pass papers in all the way to walking the kids outside for a practice fire drill. We practiced how to do pair/share activities, the process of how to leave my class to use the restroom, and the correct way to enter my class, looking directly at the bell work. By the end, Captain Daniels’ voice was hoarse, and his soldiers were ready for battle! Or so I thought.
It was no more than a day later that my 3rd hour was put to the test. They were a wise group! A little chatty, but bearable, and I was attempting to squeeze in one final activity in the last ten minutes of class to practice what makes a complete sentence. (Don’t get me started. If you don’t begin with the basics, teaching them to dribble a basketball, they fall right back into nasty habits, and the remainder of your year is a nightmare.) Of course amidst the chaos of the activity, I realized I forgot to have them pass in their notes. The clock was ticking. Seven minutes till the bell. My para was doing his part, handing out the new complete sentence game pieces, but then it happened. Disaster!
You see, I want papers passed in a specific way. Back to front, your sheet atop your neighbor’s sheet, all facing the same direction, so that when I grade and pass back papers it runs smoother than silk. What I saw was an absolute cluster of papers being haphazardly tossed forwards, backwards, upside down, sideways, you name it! I think a few piles were even tossed into the air like confetti, and the atmosphere of the class resembled that of a Chinese fire drill. I attempted to correct the madness. Tick tock, tick tock … Down to five minutes now. The papers somehow made it to the ends of the tables, disheveled and crinkled into a heaping mess of cow dung in Captain Daniels’ eyes.
The choice thrown down before me was a no-brainer: accept sloppiness and rush through curriculum or polish to perfection. God calls the Christian teacher to have high expectations for their students, and if those students fail to meet those expectations early on, you had best well revisit them. Giving students ANY leeway now will result in a chaotic, ill-managed, frazzling, funky school year that is sure to make you go gray early. And what better teacher to look to than Christ to epitomize this! Think about it. Christ laid down the gauntlet for his disciples, and if they faltered, He let them know about it in a loving yet challenging way. I can’t help but think of the disciples arguing about who was the greatest.
How did Christ respond? He rebuked, then He modeled humility. He calls them out in a loving way and uses a little child to prove his point. A sweet, innocent child. Children may be thought of as unimportant to some, but not to God. God loves us all! No one is more important than the other, and if we get bogged down measuring ourselves against one another, we lose that humility that Christ lived out. Do you notice the love behind His voice in the scripture above? Loving yet firm, heartfelt yet demanding, Christ called His disciples to a higher cause. A Godly cause. A cause that forced them out of their comfort zone, stretching them to their limits. And it worked!
Back to the paper-passing-in debacle. I immediately told the para to collect the game while I collected the mess of papers. For the last five minutes, we practiced the CORRECT way to pass in papers. I took one row, modeling it for all to see. A few kids across the room were already checking out, putting their stuff away. I rebuked them in a loving yet firm way, calling for ALL eyes to see this. And they did it! Well, almost. The back row still found a way to jack it up—which actually made me chuckle—but you had better believe I found that back row the NEXT time we passed in papers to get them to do it right. They looked at me with awestruck eyes of wonderment, and you could see their brains ticking. He’s on to us!
What do you expect from your kids? Are they going to be seated at the bell? Get them there! Are you going to give out detentions for tardies? Make an example of someone! Even if it is the most efficient kid out there. Do you want all chairs pushed in upon leaving? Demand it! Practice it. Polish these rules and procedures until your class is a well-oiled machine. I will never forget my old high school football coach, Scott Wright, preaching to me to catch the ball and tuck it away. Catch and tuck. Catch and tuck. He drilled us, every day that first month of practice until ALL we did was catch and tuck. To this very day I still catch and tuck!
The biggest compliment to an educator would be for your students to be pushing in their chairs at the dinner table when they are 40, preaching that to their future children, telling stories about Captain Daniels demanding that way back in the dinosaur age. Rock the rules these first weeks of school. Polish them to perfection, and watch God do amazing things in your classroom.
Challenge: What rule is holding you back right now? Where are your students falling short of your expectations? For me, toward the middle and end of my day it is being seated at the bell. The whip is going to be cracked today. I don’t care if it is little Miss Perfect wandering to her seat after the bell. I will mark the tardy, rebuke her in a loving yet firm way, and move on with my day. Find your biggest obstacle in rule-breaking and make it your goal to have it refined by the week’s end. Polish it now or regret it later!
Song to bring it home: Normally this is easy for me, but this morning? I aint got no clue what song relates to this! But hey, if you want to energize your day with one of my latest favorites, listen to the Newsboys “Live With Abandon” to put a little pep in your step! J
Prayer: Father, allow me to be firm yet loving with my expectations. Help me practice rules and procedures with my students, and let me do it with a forgiving heart when my students may fall short. Through it all, let Your love be seen in my classroom this year. Amen.