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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Authority Figures: Teachers, Reflections

     “C’mon, Sojourner, can’t you be a bit more creative with the names of your teachers? Miss A, Mr. B, and Mrs. C! Even one of each title.” Uh-huh, well, yes I could but, as it turns out, these are the real first letters of their last names and were, also, their particular status at the time. At least you noticed, which means you are reading my blog, right? Great!

     When thinking back over the year spent in Miss A’s Sixth Grade class, I was impressed with two facts. The first of which I am not especially proud but “facts are facts.” Kids that age in any culture are usually fairly competitive. This “detention competition” I had with myself goes to show just how I loved competition. If there was no competition going on with others, I would come up with one for myself! What I had never taken into account was just how selfish such a request was. If I was staying in the room, making up my detention minutes/hours, my teacher had to be in that room, too. It was school policy. As an adult now, I am appalled that I did that to my beloved Miss A without a single thought.

     Reading the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:17) where he says, “But even if I am being poured out…,” makes me think of Miss A. She was, indeed, being poured out for us each and every day of the school year. She never once said to me, “Well, do you have any idea just what your little competition with yourself will mean to my own break times?” She didn’t ask and I didn’t consider it at all.

     The second point is one that I think applies to all of our dedicated teachers both then and now. The issue is sacrifice. The Apostle Paul encourages the folks reading his letters to the Romans with these words: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Rom. 12:1) Of course, Paul means all of us, not just the teachers. Nevertheless, I know of several teachers who have really worshipped God with their service to Him through the educating of children. Miss A was, definitely, one of those worshippers!

     Mr. B was an exceptional teacher because he was self-confident enough to not wield his authority the way he whipped his conductor’s baton through “The Grand Canyon Suite.” He did not exert autocratic rule over us. This was such a blessing for me during this phase of exploration. He could have just said I had chosen to play the trombone and the band needed me to stay there. Or, he could have pointed out that I had already changed to the trumpet from the trombone and one change was enough. Didn’t I realize the other kids were not changing all around the band but were concentrating on perfecting their performance on the one instrument? He could have so advised me/ordered me; but, instead, Mr. B encouraged me to “go for it.” Little wonder my eighth grade “Career Term Paper” declared that I would grow up to be a band director like Mr. B! I didn’t, of course, since band left my life at the same time as Mr. B transferred to another school district.

     Did the Apostle Paul have any Scripture verses that addressed my time in Mrs. C’s class? Well, as a matter of fact, I did run across one that speaks to the very incident just recorded here Monday and Tuesday. You can find it in Paul’s letter to the Romans, the last half of verse 3 of Chapter 15: “… the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” Okay, okay, yes, I have taken it a bit out of context! Still, at 11 years old, that is exactly how it felt to have Mrs. C and my classmates laughing about how my Australian-born mother had taught me to speak.

     For the rest of that year, I was stressed every time we had to go into English class. I was very sad to have to leave Miss A when the school year ended but, equally relieved, Mrs. C would never have the authority to do that to me again. Years later I realized that Mrs. C was not at all out to humiliate me nor bring negative, demeaning feelings about my mother before the class. She was just insensitive as to how I might take her comments and laughter. She had spoken without thinking and, of course, did not know that my mother had obtained citizenship many years before her remarks. While I do recall this day in Mrs. C’s English class and, still, don’t like to read out loud, I was not really permanently damaged by the event. I have known of other children who have been seriously hurt by comments from a teacher during elementary school and it did change them for the rest of their lives.

    We read in James 3:1“…Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

     Though James was speaking more of teaching the Word of God when he penned these words, there may also be some truth in them for academic teachers, since Jesus was very clear about his love for the children. Not everybody should be an elementary school teacher. Teaching is not a job, it is a calling. Can there be a more important ministry to children?

****Authority Figures: Pastors… Coming Tomorrow

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