Christians in the classroom by Kimshaw Aiken

This year has been a trying one. For many of us in education, we may still be worried about the dynamics surrounding the reopening of school, and whether there may be a threat of a second wave of the virus as lockdown eases. It is not that we do not love our students – I am actually still worried about one student, for instance, who has had to play the part of carer as her parent contracted the virus. 

Also, it is not that we do not miss our colleagues – I missed praying with one of my colleagues, and another is pregnant (I am so excited for her and would have loved to have organised her photo shoots!), and it is not that we do not miss teaching altogether – I have missed meeting my students and welcoming them at the door with a smile, prior to each lesson. There is a lot that I have missed and, if you are a teacher, or you know one, I suggest you encourage yourself or encourage the teacher you know. We should take being safe very seriously. After all, we have been assigned as stewards of our created bodies and minds, right? We have had to really adjust to the new normal, and we should continue to do so safely.

In addition to all this, there has been a significant shift in race relation talks, and tensions are high. As Christian educators, we need to be discerning here as well. It is worth noting that there is a distinction between saying, ‘Yes, Black lives do matter’ (which they definitely do), and the Black Lives Matter Movement itself. I suggest you do a quick online research of the actual manifesto that is behind this Movement.

I feel we need to also brace ourselves for potential reactions that may soon begin to manifest among Black boys, who no doubt may have been seriously affected by the overwhelming media coverage recently on the horrendous experiences of the Black man. (Black girls, and girls in general, do better academically and socially, and this could be due to them having more role models in their immediate spaces). Black boys could possibly adopt a posture of ‘What’s the point of trying? There are so many stacks set against us anyway.’ We need to remember these boys and pray for them. We need to ensure we incorporate lessons and discussions that engage them and reinforce a positive outlook among them, as well as good self-esteem.

We must admit, we are facing huge changes and challenges, and therefore we need to ‘Be alert and of sober mind.’ The Lord promises to take care of us, and we should believe Him. Anxiety is not of the Lord, and there are several Scriptures throughout the Bible that affirm this.

Think positively. Try to avoid gloomy perspectives.

I have found a few verses that never fail to lift me, whenever I feel the temptation to give in to that sense of despair that can so easily overwhelm us when we consider the present realities. Philippians 4:8 tells us: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

When you worry about the welfare of your vulnerable students.

We are told in Mark 9:42: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

More than ever, the job depends heavily on managing the safety of yourself, as well as that of several others.

Juggling theses demands can create anxiety, but we are told in Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

When we are tempted to lash out at something or someone, it is better to refocus.

I don’t think there is a single person who has escaped totally unscathed by the current tensions. As teachers, when we feel the pressures caving in on us, and we sense that mounting irritation leading us to a position of lashing out, we can temper it with the injunction in Philippians 2:14-15 to “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that [we] may become blameless and pure children of God, without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”

I am not saying that all this is easy but, with God’s help, we will show up, do our best to honour our Creator in our jobs, refuel, and go again. He takes care of His own. And never forget, teaching is an honourable ministry.

Kimshaw Aiken has recently written her first book: ‘How to Build Your Teaching Muscles: 10 Strategies to Boost the Engagement of Challenging Learners’. The book is available on Amazon. More teaching tips can also be found on her website at 

https://howtobuildyourteachingmuscles.com/

Email howtobuildyourteachingmuscles@gmail.com.

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