Example #47 Teaching and Gratitude

What if teaching were fuelled by gratitude?

It was the end of the school day. Liz dragged herself into the staffroom and flopped down in an armchair, sighing loudly. A colleague asked, “Tough day?” Liz relates:

"'I’ve had enough,' I repled. 'It’s just so hard. There must be an easier way to earn an income.' My colleague responded: 'What drew you into teaching as a career?' I didn’t have to think long about the answer. 'The idea of teaching really excited me … plus I do genuinely like working with children. But I just don’t have that spark I used to have and I know this is carrying over into my teaching.'

"My colleague looked at me and said, 'What were the first words you said to your students this morning?'

"'John, tuck your shirt in please! And everyone get into two straight lines!'

"This conversation was a personal watershed moment. I realised I should be grateful for my health and my job, which are a gift of grace, and demonstrate this to my students. I could be organised enough to be at the door when my class arrive, so I can greet them. I could hold the door open and smile as they come through. I could stop making negative comments to my pupils about how tough teaching is. This would let my students know they are valued and that I value working with them."

What’s going on here?

Liz had begun to see teaching mainly as day-to-day ‘drudgery’ and needed to recover seeing it with gratitude and in terms of grace and hope so that she could offer encouragement to her students.

She engaged with pupils in a more intentional way by changing her attitude and the way she spoke to them so that they experienced her teaching differently.

She reshaped her practice by changing her habits and being intentional about the image of teaching and learning that she was presenting to students through her choice and timing of words.

How do I do this myself? (Primary) How do I do this myself? (Secondary)

What does this have to do with faith, hope and love?

To have faith in God means to live it out in everyday life – the exciting and the humdrum, the good and the bad. For Christian teachers, teaching is a vocation and not just a job. Living out a vocation is reflecting God in the area of life to which you may be called: reflecting his love and justice, peace and holiness.

What difference does it make?

A change in attitude can make all the difference. Work does not become less challenging, but gratitude can make it feel less difficult for everybody involved. Small choices in how we use words and gestures and how we start the day can have a knock-on effect. Showing students that we value them and their learning can help them to find worth in themselves and their studies too.

Where could we go from here?

There are various ways of communicating worth and gratitude. One school head greets each child every morning at the school gate with a handshake, eye contact, and encouraging words. Liz notes: "This re-alignment of my outlook is just the tip of the iceberg with so much more that I will need to work through, but I am excited to have come this far. I know that teaching will still be a challenge, but focusing on God’s blessings is a good place to start. Time for reflecting on our teaching practices is precious enough, but taking time to reflect on who we are, and who our students are, before Christ is something we need to be doing regularly."

Digging deeper

The primary calling for Christians is our relationship with God and fulfilling the responsibility that derives from that relationship to be his co-workers in the world. A person’s secondary callings are the different ways in life that we do that. These include our family life and the various jobs that we do through our life. As we change jobs and roles our primary calling continues to be expressed. To be a Christian is to be on the journey through life that results from seeking to fulfil one’s vocation. A vocation for life is not the same as a job for life. We may not be in a classroom all our lives but we may still be called to teach in other ways.

God calls according to the gifts and passions he has given us, though God can often see things in us long before we can (Jeremiah 1:5-6; Exodus 3:10-11). Our duty is to develop those gifts but often we get swamped with the details and drudgery of work as Liz did. St Paul advises reflecting on the things that really matter (Philippians 4:8-9) and giving thanks in all that we do (Colossians 3:17).

Living out our vocation is about transforming the place where we are and bringing God’s grace into a situation. It starts by living differently in a situation as Jesus did, making a difference to people’s lives. It is standing shoulder to shoulder and identifying with the people we live and work with. Lack of thankfulness can, however, allow it to descend into drudgery.

We are apt to mistake our vocation in looking out of the way for occasions to exercise great and rare virtues, and stepping over the ordinary ones which lie directly in the road before us. Hannah More

Explore similar examples:

What if meetings with parents fostered hope?
What if a teacher’s posture in the classroom helped build respect?
What if perseverance were acknowledged, not just perfection?

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1My name is Jeremiah. I am a priest, and my father Hilkiah and everyone else in my family are from Anathoth in the territory of the Benjamin tribe. This book contains the things that the Lord told me to say. 2The Lord first spoke to me in the thirteenth year that Josiah was king of Judah, 3and he continued to speak to me during the rule of Josiah's son Jehoiakim. The last time the Lord spoke to me was in the fifth month of the eleventh year that Josiah's son Zedekiah was king. That was also when the people of Jerusalem were taken away as prisoners. The Lord chooses Jeremiah 4The Lord said: 5Jeremiah, I am your Creator, and before you were born, I chose you to speak for me to the nations. 6I replied, I'm not a good speaker, Lord , and I'm too young. 7Don't say you're too young, the Lord answered. If I tell you to go and speak to someone, then go! And when I tell you what to say, don't leave out a word! 8I promise to be with you and keep you safe, so don't be afraid. 9The Lord reached out his hand, then he touched my mouth and said, I am giving you the words to say, 10and I am sending you with authority to speak to the nations for me. You will tell them of doom and destruction, and of rising and rebuilding again. 11The Lord showed me something in a vision. Then he asked, What do you see, Jeremiah? I answered, A branch of almonds that ripen early. 12That's right, the Lord replied, and I always rise early to keep a promise. 13Then the Lord showed me something else and asked, What do you see now? I answered, I see a pot of boiling water in the north, and it's about to spill out towards us. 14The Lord said: I will pour out destruction all over the land. 15Just watch while I send for the kings of the north. They will attack and capture Jerusalem and other towns, then set up their thrones at the gates of Jerusalem. 16I will punish my people, because they are guilty of turning from me to worship idols. 17Jeremiah, get ready! Go and tell the people what I command you to say. Don't be frightened by them, or I will make you terrified while they watch. 18My power will make you strong like a fortress or a column of iron or a wall of bronze. You will oppose all of Judah, including its kings and leaders, its priests and people. 19They will fight back, but they won't win. I, the Lord , give my word I won't let them harm you. Israel's unfaithfulness
1One day, Moses was taking care of the sheep and goats of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, and Moses decided to lead them across the desert to Sinai, the holy mountain. 2There an angel of the Lord appeared to him from a burning bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire, but it was not burning up. 3This is strange! he said to himself. I'll go over and see why the bush isn't burning up. 4When the Lord saw Moses coming near the bush, he called him by name, and Moses answered, Here I am. 5God replied, Don't come any closer. Take off your sandalsthe ground where you are standing is holy. 6I am the God who was worshipped by your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses was afraid to look at God, and so he hid his face. 7The Lord said: I have seen how my people are suffering as slaves in Egypt, and I have heard them beg for my help because of the way they are being ill-treated. I feel sorry for them, 8and I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians. I will bring my people out of Egypt into a country where there is good land, rich with milk and honey. I will give them the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. 9My people have begged for my help, and I have seen how cruel the Egyptians are to them. 10Now go to the king! I am sending you to lead my people out of his country. 11But Moses said, Who am I to go to the king and lead your people out of Egypt? 12God replied, I will be with you. And you will know that I am the one who sent you, when you worship me on this mountain after you have led my people out of Egypt. 13Moses answered, I will tell the people of Israel that the God their ancestors worshipped has sent me to them. But what should I say, if they ask me your name? 14God said to Moses: I am the eternal God. So tell them that the Lord , whose name is I Am, has sent you. This is my name for ever, and it is the name that people must use from now on. 16Call together the leaders of Israel and tell them that the God who was worshipped by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has appeared to you. Tell them I have seen how terribly they are being treated in Egypt, 17and I promise to lead them out of their troubles. I will give them a land rich with milk and honey, where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. 18The leaders of Israel will listen to you. Then you must take them to the king of Egypt and say, The Lord God of the Hebrews has appeared to us. Let us walk three days into the desert, where we can offer a sacrifice to him. 19But I know that the king of Egypt won't let you go unless something forces him to. 20So I will use my mighty power to perform all kinds of miracles and strike down the Egyptians. Then the king will send you away. 21After I punish the Egyptians, they will be so afraid of you that they will give you anything you want. You are my people, and I will let you take many things with you when you leave the land of Egypt. 22Every Israelite woman will go to her Egyptian neighbours or to any Egyptian woman living in her house. She will ask them for gold and silver jewellery and for their finest clothes. The Egyptians will give them to you, and you will put these fine things on your sons and daughters. You will carry all this away when you leave Egypt. The Lord gives great power to Moses
1Dear friends, I love you and long to see you. Please keep on being faithful to the Lord. You are my pride and joy. Paul encourages the Lord's followers 2Euodia and Syntyche, you belong to the Lord, so I beg you to stop arguing with each other. 3And, my true partner, I ask you to help them. These women have worked together with me and with Clement and with the others in spreading the good news. Their names are now written in the book of life. 4Always be glad because of the Lord! I will say it again: be glad. 5Always be gentle with others. The Lord will soon be here. 6Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. 7Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. 8Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don't ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise. 9You know the teachings I gave you, and you know what you heard me say and saw me do. So follow my example. And God, who gives peace, will be with you. 10The Lord has made me very grateful that at last you have thought about me once again. Actually, you were thinking about me all along, but you didn't have any chance to show it. 11I am not complaining about having too little. I have learnt to be satisfied with whatever I have. 12I know what it is to be poor or to have plenty, and I have lived under all kinds of conditions. I know what it means to be full or to be hungry, to have too much or too little. 13Christ gives me the strength to face anything. 14It was good of you to help me when I was having such a hard time. 15My friends at Philippi, you remember what it was like when I started preaching the good news in Macedonia. After I left there, you were the only church that became my partner by giving blessings and by receiving them in return. 16Even when I was in Thessalonica, you helped me more than once. 17I am not trying to get something from you, but I want you to receive the blessings that come from giving. 18I have been paid back everything, and with interest. I am completely satisfied with the gifts that you asked Epaphroditus to bring me. They are like a sweet-smelling offering or like the right kind of sacrifice that pleases God. 19I pray that God will take care of all your needs with the wonderful blessings that come from Christ Jesus! 20May God our Father be praised for ever and ever. Amen. 21Give my greetings to all who are God's people because of Christ Jesus. The Lord's followers here with me send you their greetings. 22All God's people send their greetings, especially those in the service of the Emperor. 23I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless your life!
1You have been raised to life with Christ. Now set your heart on what is in heaven, where Christ rules at God's right side. 2Think about what is up there, not about what is here on earth. 3You died, which means that your life is hidden with Christ, who sits beside God. 4Christ gives meaning to your life, and when he appears, you will also appear with him in glory. 5Don't be controlled by your body. Kill every desire for the wrong kind of sex. Don't be immoral or indecent or have evil thoughts. Don't be greedy, which is the same as worshipping idols. 6God is angry with people who disobey him by doing these things. 7And that is exactly what you did, when you lived among people who behaved in this way. 8But now you must stop doing such things. You must stop being angry, hateful, and evil. You must no longer say insulting or cruel things about others. 9And stop lying to each other. You have given up your old way of life with its habits. 10Each of you is now a new person. You are becoming more and more like your Creator, and you will understand him better. 11It doesn't matter if you are a Greek or a Jew, or if you are circumcised or not. You may even be a barbarian or a Scythian, and you may be a slave or a free person. Yet Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. 12God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. 13Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. 14Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together. 15Each one of you is part of the body of Christ, and you were chosen to live together in peace. So let the peace that comes from Christ control your thoughts. And be grateful. 16Let the message about Christ completely fill your lives, while you use all your wisdom to teach and instruct each other. With thankful hearts, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17Whatever you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks to God the Father because of him. Some rules for Christian living 18A wife must put her husband first. This is her duty as a follower of the Lord. 19A husband must love his wife and not abuse her. 20Children must always obey their parents. This pleases the Lord. 21Parents, don't be hard on your children. If you are, they might give up. 22Slaves, you must always obey your earthly masters. Try to please them at all times, and not just when you think they are watching. Honour the Lord and serve your masters with your whole heart. 23Do your work willingly, as though you were serving the Lord himself, and not just your earthly master. 24In fact, the Lord Christ is the one you are really serving, and you know that he will reward you. 25But Christ has no favourites! He will punish evil people, just as they deserve.