Core scripture: “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12)
Message: You have officially entered the Twilight Zone. May has long been known as Angry Teacher Month. Behavior students reach their all-time peak. They lure in the ones on the fence, and before you know it there is all out anarchy in the halls. Oh, yes, I have seen it, and it has overtaken our building.
The boys’ bathrooms have officially been locked … Cafeteria duty has become an art of sheer survival … The dress code is being pushed every single day as the boys wear their hoodies and the girls show their skin … Random fights are breaking out in the hallways … And as for our administrators, the lineup of kids outside their offices is quite the motley crue.
The floodgates have opened! As a teacher, you have two choices. You can either take a stance and fight the good fight, or you can quietly wave the white flag of surrender. It is time to take up your sword! Stand up for what is right. Focus your mind on the good. Teach as if you still crave to make a difference. Here are some tips to survive Angry Teacher Month.
- Be understanding: Show empathy to students. Remind yourself that you probably behaved the same way back in the day. If a kid is upset over the dress code, say something like, “Yes, that would make me upset, too.” And then watch the kid immediately lower their escalation. Colossians 4:6 states, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” When you validate their feelings, they know you understand.
- Be truthful: Once the kids are deescalated, you must express the truth. Let’s say a kid is ticked off about being dress coded. In a loving tone, express that you are simply the messenger, following the rule carved out by the school. Don’t let them get away with it. You give up the fight when you turn your head from blatant defiance. This might frustrate the kid again, but you know this is for their own good.
- Apply the rule: In a loving tone, explain to the kid that these rules are in place for a reason, and they will be following rules like this in the future. For example, most all workplaces have a dress code. Some have specific uniforms. You may not like the law, but you must abide by the policy to make your boss happy. And if you choose to not follow the rules, you get reprimanded. Or fired. That is just sad. And sad spelled backwards is das. And das not good! (I got that line from one of my students. Thanks, Jacob!)
- Provide consequences: Eek, this is the hard one. The truth is that if a kid realizes he can get away with a slap on the wrist, guess what? He’ll probably do it again! Once again, in a loving tone, tell that student they have a consequence to pay. Whether it is a detention over lunch or a trip to the office to put a sweatshirt on to cover up that midriff, be firm. Proverbs 13:24 states, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” We love our kids! Show them loving discipline. Follow through with consequences.
- Thank them: Finish off the reprimand by thanking the kid for abiding. Be sincere. Be empathetic. Give them a pat on the back for abiding by the rules. This is also a chance to apologize if you may have across too stern in your reprimand. It is okay to show a little humility and say, “I am sorry if I came across as too harsh earlier, and I appreciate you following direction.” Most kids will appreciate that.
So, let’s put all these together into one glorious scene. Class begins and Harold Hoddie Boy slides into his seat. You notice it immediately. You slide next to Harold and crouch down to his level to talk to him quietly.
“Hey, Harold, can I talk to you for a quick second? I know hoodies are comfy. They protect you from the cold and give you that warm fuzzy feeling inside. If I were a student, I would probably want to wear that hoodie, too, but our school rules say that hoodies are not allowed. You can wear them down, but just not over your head.”
Harold is frustrated and says, “This rule is STUPID!”
“I know, man, it must be hard, but as a teacher, I must uphold the school policy. I would not be doing my job if I didn’t tell you to put your hoodie down. Think about this … down the road when you get a job, your company will probably have a dress code you have to abide by.”
“I am going to work for myself!” Harold retorts. “I am going to wear a hoodie every day!”
“I hope you do get a job where you can be an entrepreneur and work for yourself. But typically, your first job to earn some money might be a cashier at Hy-Vee or McDonald’s. And those jobs all require uniforms. So, I am going to ask you again politely. Please take your hoodie down.”
Harold drops the hoodie down reluctantly with an eye roll and a huff.
“Harold, I appreciate you. I know that was not easy for you, but you pulled through. Come on, give me pound, man,” I say, extending a fist bump to him.
Harold pounds my fist, and life goes on. And there you have it! Sure, Harold might test the waters again in a different class, but he now knows that hoodies are not to be worn in your class. Do you know what we call this? We call it fighting the good fight!
Take up your sword. Protect yourself with the armor of God, and forge into the last few weeks of school. The battle is yours to fight, and the Lord will be at your side the entire time.
Challenge: What rules are being pushed right now? Take a loving stance and enforce them. Encourage your colleagues to do the same. It definitely takes a village!
Prayer points: Lift up the following areas to the Lord …
- Pray for the behavior of the students the last few weeks of school.
- Pray for patience and understanding on your part as well as loving discipline.
- Praise God for the opportunities He gives us to show we care.
Just for fun: I wonder what would happen if teachers rebelled against the dress code to prove a point? If I came to school with my favorite hoodie draped over my head, would that be awkward or what? Can you imagine the reaction of the kids? Who knows … it might prove a point! And it would definitely make wearing a hoodie up not cool.
Prayer: Lord, help me fight the good fight as we close off the school year. May my words and actions be pleasing to You. Amen.