Core scripture: “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Romans 12: 3).
Message: Three more days. Quarter one is almost done! Did it fly by for you as fast as it did for me? It is hard to believe I will be powering through parent/teacher conferences next week, letting parents know how their children are performing. It is a great time to have your students reflect back on first quarter, evaluate where they are, and set goals for where they want to be. I plan on doing that next week. Besides student self-evaluation, it is likewise a perfect time to evaluate yourself as a teacher. How did YOU perform? What went right? What needs improvement? Where do you want to be?
Last spring I attended Olathe’s Summer Conference for teachers, a three-day workshop for teachers. One of the most riveting sessions I attended was from Dr. Zachary Walker. His session came at the perfect time, right after the 2015-2016 school year culminated. It gave me time to process his questions, all of which revolved around self-reflection. A few hours later, after straining my mind and scribbling three pages worth of notes, I was spent! Now is the time to ask myself those same questions—sharing them with you as well, of course—so we can push ourselves to be the Christian teachers God called us to be.
Let’s start with the person you are. What do you look like when you walk down the halls? Is your brow furrowed in worry and stress, racing to the next thing on your agenda? Do you have a pleasant smile on your face, welcoming others, greeting them by name? If you worked on the same team, would you want to work alongside yourself? What three adjectives would best describe your personality while you teach? What do you look like in faculty meetings? Are you engaged? Connected? Distant? Lost in your own world? Would you want to be a student in your own class? If you were a student, would the conversation at the dinner table at home ever revolve around what you were taught in your class? That is a huge compliment by the way if you ARE talked about—for the right reasons.
Whew! Not sure I have ever filled an entire paragraph full of questions on my blog. How did it feel going through those? (Sorry, another question!) I suppose now would be a convenient time to advise you the same thing Zachary told me the moment I walked into his session: some of these questions might sting. They might make you squirm. Or they certainly have the possibility of affirming you are doing the job right. Here’s the thing. Though we can try to give honest feedback about ourselves, some of these questions need to be given to our own students, colleagues, and administration to find out what THEY see in us. Want to really hold yourself accountable? Have a trusted colleague answer these questions about you.
Time to dig deeper. How are you engaging your students? What are you doing to reach out to the student that just doesn’t like your content area? Are your assignments too easy? Too difficult? Do they stretch the gifted and guide the needy? Are you integrating technology that will propel the kids to the next level? How about this one … If your students didn’t HAVE to be in your class, would they come anyway? Are you loving the kids that hate your class the most? How much do you talk verses the kids talking? Do you allow for adequate wait time? Are you getting the kids out of their seats for much needed movement breaks? Do you play music or allow your students to listen to music on earbuds? Is there any novelty in your class? Something that surprises the class with something new and fun? What about laughter? Is it present? Can you laugh with your students? Do you use humor in appropriate ways? Or does your sarcasm sting?
According to Zachary, five things should be present in every classroom: movement, music, social activity, novelty, and laughter. I happen to wholeheartedly agree with him on each one. Get your kids up and moving at least once per half hour. This can be done through a think/pair/share or even through a 30-second stretch break. Let music be a part of your class. Let a song be played as kids walk into class, and have that song revolve around a lesson theme. Let the kids get their earbuds out and listen to music while they crank out their homework. Allow your kids to be social, interacting with each other to further learning and check for understanding. Try something new you’ve never tried before! And all the while, keep laughing. The average 5-year-old laughs over 400 times a day. The average adult? Less than 50. It is time to bridge that gap!
One final paragraph of questions to go … What are you doing to grow professionally? Are you abrasive to new technology or new ideas, always stuck in the same old rut of the past? Or are you pushing yourself to catch up with the next generation? What is keeping you from trying something new? Are you willing to fail miserably at something only to grow from the experience and become better in the end? When was the last time you tried something that was difficult for you? Something that stretched you? Gotta end on something positive … What are you proud of? What have you done that is simply awesome? Be that awesome teacher this week! Use your strengths to make your students WANT to be in your class. And all the while be sure that you are an incredible witness for Christ in all that you do.
One parting thought … Upon reflecting on these questions the first time they were posed to me back in May, I sat down that night and sent an e-mail to Zachary. One question was burning inside me, and it was the last one above: what am I most proud of? It felt somewhat awkward to do it, but God nudged me to reach out to Zachary and share my blog with him. There was just something about him that told me he was on board. He epitomized Christianity in the way he presented, and I took a shot that he might actually benefit from connecting to another Christian teacher. It took all of two days for him to get back to me, thanking me for reaching out. He asked how to follow and still does to this day. In China of all places!
I smile now and wonder how many people he has influenced in a positive way. How many colleagues has he reached out to? How many students has he shown God’s love to? And all because I took a risk in sharing this with him. One final question (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) … who needs to hear these words today?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Reply to this blog below. Leave a question of your own, or if you are bold enough, answer some of the questions about yourself.
Challenge: It is reflection time! Think about any of the questions above. Evaluate where you are, discover where you want to be, and write some goals for yourself to achieve. The best thing about evaluating now is that you have three quarters to make it happen!
Song to bring it home: One word should encompass your entire teaching philosophy if you are a Christian teacher. That word is love. If you are showing love to students, colleagues, parents, administrators, or whomever, you are living out God’s Word. Listen to Jason Gray’s “With Every Act of Love” to inspire your teaching this week.
Prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139: 23-24).