Well, it’s spring once more. God has faithfully sustained the renewal and hope of new life. I would offer that we need similar seasons in our teaching, and more than once every year. We all know life happens, students have (and cause) difficulties, and grading piles up. On the other hand, lights come on, aspirations are realized, students surprise you, and hope is restored. This roller coaster, or too much of “the valley” can wear on even the greatest teachers. Can you imagine, or even feel, the excitement and hope during your first class, or the last time you had the similar exhilaration? You wouldn’t be a lasting teacher if you haven’t experienced it. Can you summon it from memory? The ability to do that may help combat having “those days” where you feel like throwing in the towel. With spring comes the promise of new life. Can we get new life in our teaching? I think we can.
Snow White never has a bad day. At least that’s what I read in a Disney U written from training people for work at their prominent theme parks. The gist was this: when people come to that park, there is a wave of history leading to that moment when children sees their favorite storybook or movie character in real life (even if it is just an employee in a costume). Some families will only make it to the park one time in their lives. Some kids only get this one experience. There have been sacrifices in saving for this. There may have been previous attempts thwarted by life’s disappointing twists and turns. For many, this is the vacation of a lifetime, and we have one shot at making it wonderful, if not magical. Employees playing parts like Snow White are told they do not have bad days – period. If your life is falling apart, it isn’t when you’re “on stage” in costume. Your life has to wait; Snow White’s can’t, those kids’ lives can’t. On stage, it isn’t “really” your life; it’s Snow White’s life, and Snow White never has a bad day. So, can this help us? I think it can. But one more thing first.
If you study about methodical or inductive Bible study long enough, you will come across the idea of reading the Text as if you are reading it for the first time. Reading Scripture “again for the first time” can allow for new insight, fresh perspective, new observations. A mental shift from previous experience helps to clear the way for new light untainted by previous conclusions. In Scripture, Jesus mention new and old wineskins (Matt 9:17, Mk 2:22). There are two words for “new” He uses in the account. New wine is that which is new in time. The new wineskins are they that have been refreshed or “as good as new.” Why does this matter? Well, the old wineskins were dry and rigid. New wine would need to breathe as it further ferments. That process would the stretch inflexible old skins and tearing them and losing the wine. However, renewed skins would be a supple as new skins and grow with the maturing of the wine. Our mindset in teaching is similar. Earlier I asked you to remember previous excitement and enthusiasm. Refreshing that mindset untainted by what happened yesterday or with the previous student(s) can allow for a more hopeful and helpful engagement with the next student or course, or whatever. Though fragile, there is something about a fresh hope. A fresh hope brings about a renewed flexibility, patience, and willingness.
So, if we can realize that when we are teaching, we are “on stage.” And, like Snow White, teachers should not have “bad days.” There are likely students of yours that are battling all sorts of things just to be in class…to finally be in class…to try just one final class… etc. Like children at a theme park, your students too have hope. They too might be living a dream for themselves or of their family. They too might be hoping to even catch a glimpse of the great things you have to offer. They too are excited and encouraged when their professor is happy to see them and believes they are great. Now, don’t just give grades away or overlook policy violations or substandard work or participation. But, if students know you are FOR them, the corrections will carry even that much more weight. If we engage as if it’s our first class, as if we never have a bad day…or even aim at that, we may be surprised at the new life in our students (and ourselves).