My latest read is the book, “To Sir With Love.” You might remember the 1967 movie version starring Sydney Poitier. While a bit earthy, especially for a book of 1959 vintage, “To Sir With Love” provide great inspiration for teachers.
Rick Braithewaite, after being repeatedly rejected by potential employers because he is black, finds a job as a high school teacher in an East London slum. He struggles with how to teach the children self-respect and courtesy for others and how to inspire them to better themselves through education. He finally comes up with a strategy on how to manage his class – treat the children as the adults they will soon become and demand they treat him and each other in the same way. As he discusses his plans with the elderly couple who have offered him room and board, the man he has come to call Dad gives him this bit of advice:
“Teaching is like having a bank account. You can happily draw on it while it is well supplied with new funds; otherwise you’re in difficulties. Every teacher should have a ready fund of information on which to draw; he should keep that fund supplied regularly with new experiences, new thoughts and discoveries, by reading and moving around among people from whom he can acquire such things.”
That is sage advice for any teacher, particularly the children’s ministry worker. We teach children far more than content. We teach them values, wisdom, how to cope with life. My aunt told me once that college teaches you how to make a living; bible college taught you how to live. That’s what we are doing in Sunday School, youth groups, children’s church, VBS and backyard bible clubs; we’re teaching children how to live. You can’t teach them how to live if you don’t know how to live yourself.
Reflect for a moment. What are you doing to grow in your faith and walk with Christ? How are you serving the Lord other than in your teaching capacity? What challenges do you face in learning to do what is right and honorable before the Lord? What temptations do you face and how are you overcoming them? How are you worshiping God and what are you learning from your worship experiences? What new books are you reading and what are you learning from them? What are you learning from observing the lives of the people around you about life, life choices, and consequences from those choices?
You can’t share the Living Water with your students if your own cistern is empty. In order to give to your students, you have to have something to give. When you combine Bible content with life experiences, your message will be more credible and powerful because you will be able to say with confidence, “Hey, I know this works. I know God is real. I know it’s tough to be a Christian but I know that God is reliable and worth the effort.”
Where do you start? Look at your lesson for this next week. How can you apply the principles you will be teaching to your own life? What don’t you understand? What questions do you have? Where can you find answers to those questions?
Keep growing – and your students will grow with you.