As far back as I can remember, I wanted to become a teacher. I remember playing with the younger students even when I was in elementary school, and even as young as I was, it made me happy to see how much they liked the extra attention.
When I began university, I briefly strayed from my childhood-given goal of becoming a teacher; but it didn’t take long for God to get me back on the right track. I soon found myself in Michigan, working on my MS in French and English with the intention of becoming a French and English teacher.
Of course, in order to become a teacher, I needed actual on-the-job training as a student teacher, and as I result, I found myself in front of my first two classrooms in a high school in Niles, Michigan. One of my classrooms was a French-as-a-second-language class; while the other was a normal high school English class.
Now this particular school wasn’t known for being an “easy” school. The kids were tough, and being from Europe, my English wasn’t perfect. It was, after all, my third language, and one of my greatest fears was that my classroom full of tough teenagers would laugh at my English; that they would find it hypocritical that I, a non-native English speaker who made lots of grammatical mistakes, would be teaching them, native-English speakers, English. I prayed about this, and this is what I was impressed to do:
On my first day of student teaching, I told my English students that English wasn’t my mother tongue, and that if they noticed that I made a mistake in English, they would just need to put a note in a jar on my desk, and I would give them extra points. Interestingly, that one act won the loyalty of that class. I think I received one note early on, and after that, nothing. And I’m pretty sure my English didn’t improve after that one note!
I was impressed to use music as a learning-means in both classrooms, and the students loved it. At the end of my semester as their student teacher, the students told me I should get the salary that was allotted to their regular teacher. They also told me they would miss me. I don’t know if they really did, but I know that I sure missed them!
Though those grade 10 and 11 students were known to be tough, I learned early on that showing them a little love and respect won them over; and as a result, I never had any problems with them. The experience taught me, right at the beginning of my career, that the more motivated I was for those kids to learn, the more creative I could be as their teacher; and the more creative I was, the more motivated they were to learn. And in the end, they did learn!
The experience left me feeling very excited about being a teacher, and I began to feel a sense of responsibility towards anyone with a desire to learn. It solidified in my heart the promise of Prov. 22:6: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (NIV). I would go on to carry this dedication with me right up to the very end of my career as a teacher.
This isn’t, however, only a lesson for teachers to learn. It is an important lesson for everyone who is involved with kids — be it parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, neighbors, big brothers or sisters, coaches, and even medical workers and all the other professions I didn’t mention! When we treat kids as human beings, when we are willingly to admit our own mistakes, when we show them love and respect, when we have a motivation and a dedication towards helping others, we are, in essence, doing our part to: “Start children off on the way they should go…” and we can be sure that God will keep His part of the bargain: “…and even whey they are old they will not turn from it”!
Want to make a difference for the upcoming generation? Respect them. Develop a feeling of responsibility towards them. Dedicate yourself to them. And above all, love them!
(To view the entire “Lessons From the Classroom” devotional series, please click here.)