Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cairns - Encouraging the Teacher

It's not easy being a teacher. We (I still think of myself as a teacher, a fatal flaw most of us have forever ...) pour ourselves into our students and often get very attached, spending much more than our 8 classroom hours in on-going education, preparation, evaluation, and communication. (We like "tion" words, too. :) We interface with administration and parents, and we try to intimately understand the needs, gifts, and learning styles of students who are in constant growth and change. All the while, they bring baggage from home, and we try to partner with all of those different homes and different parents, at the same time we try to satisfy government requirements made by some people who might've never been a teacher of ... anything. Then, when are hearts are full and we see growth we've agonized over, prayed for, and diligently worked for, they move on, and we get a whole new group. I loved being a teacher! Now I teach in new formats, and I still need encouragement.

When I first met tall, blonde, smiling Mrs. Payes at Laurel Ridge Elementary, my parents didn't consider any other approach to schooling me. I didn't know of anyone else who did anything else different than I did. I spent my first few years in "open classrooms," which were cutting edge and experimental for the time. That was big news, but today we have a range of options as long as the line was when my first graders laid me down on the floor and measured me. Lots of options.

Whether your child has a public school teacher, christian teacher, private school teacher, student teacher, experienced teacher, visiting teacher, co-op teacher, parent teacher, tutor, or Gym Teacher From the Black Lagoon (Have you read that book? It's a hilarious children's book read.) .... EVERY TEACHER NEEDS ENCOURAGEMENT! That's a challenge of home schooling ... someone has to recognize that we, the parent/teacher, needs to be encouraged (send them a link to this blog post). Especially at the beginning of the year, near the end of the year, and February (Why? I don't know, but it's true.), they need encouragement. Just think of all the potential pressure right now: organizing a room to teach in, ordering supplies, planning lessons, dealing with questions from right & left, helping crying or whining people to stop crying or whining, direct traffic in car line purgatory :), and ...... plan for Back to School Night. If you home school, then you have challenges unique to completely turning your schedule around to hinge on productivity in learning = priorities.

Teachers need encouragement before they need lots of angry questions, reluctance to volunteer (that applies to every school approach), detailed lists of how to care for your "very unique" child, and a request to visit and observe in the classroom. First, encourage. It's the groundwork for your child's learning and your ministry in the life of that teacher. That's right: ministry in the life of the teacher. If you didn't follow Jesus you wouldn't get that "assignment", but being a follower of the Master means your relationship with a teacher is a divine appointment. Here are some ideas for how to do it:

1. Speak to the teacher when it's convenient for them. Keep it short; keep it kind. It's the "welcome" you extend on behalf of the Savior. Graciously remind them of your name and which student is yours; their brains are on information overload, and they want to know you.
2. Don't ask yet how you can help, just help. Send in the supplies requested. Send extra of the thing no one wants to send. Send a note asking if there's anything still lacking.
3. At the end of the first week, find something positive to thank the teacher for, and do it in a brief email or hand-written note. Teachers receive few words of affirmation. Your words "from home" will be welcome. Proverbs 25:25 "Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a distant land."
4. Speak well of teachers to your children. Resist the urge to make up nicknames. (Where did that come from? :) )
5. Teachers appreciate when their efforts are respected and appreciated. When you speak to the principal at Back to School Night or to the Head Master or Head Mom or whoever (the Dad?), speak well of the teacher's efforts. If you ARE the teacher, then speak well of your teaching, and help others glimpse the excitment and enthusiasm you have for teaching. You can always find something to be positive about.

Finally, pray for your teachers. Come back tomorrow to find out how a teacher needs to be prayed for.


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