Years ago, a friend said, “A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in a little thing is a big thing.” It still echoes in my mind at times. She was right. I’m sure you have heard, if not sung, the fruit of the Spirit. I have heard it considered that there is only one fruit: love, and that the following words are descriptors of that single fruit of love. Whether or not that was God’s intent, around Valentine’s Day, I thought it appropriate to consider faithfulness as an expression of love in the context of the classroom. What are some ways faithfulness is needed from teachers in the classroom? What impact can it have? More than you might think. I’ll share a bit later about a surprising text I received this semester.
Recently, I have heard grateful praises from students who very much appreciate your timely responses and good, useful feedback. Keep up your great work! Such faithfulness displays to students the value you have for them and helps in ways you may not imagine. You have put them at ease, spurred them to grow in greater ways, inspired them to dig deeper, and not only given hope that they can do this, but helped to instill the expectation that they will. If you are one of these teachers, nice going! Let the remainder of this article encourage you to continue doing so as you read about the impact you are having. If you struggle in this area, hopefully this adds some inspiration and fuel to the fire in helping you be more of what you want to be. You’re already awesome or you wouldn’t be here.
Unfortunately, also in recent conversations (not to sound like a broken record –or CD, as it were— in echoing past articles), I still hear students frustrated with slow or no feedback from teachers. What activity in that scenario would better show the love good teachers have for students and learning? As in the past, I would offer that new assignments that repeat in kind need to have feedback within a few days of the due date so students can implement any changes into their next assignment due by that week’s end. Otherwise, that’s the first two assignments with no feedback in a 5-week course. That’s 40% of the course with zero feedback. Think about that for a second or three. Imagine being in a typical 15-week course and getting no feedback for the first 6 weeks. How would you do in that class? Would you be frustrated? Now imagine getting feedback a few days from the due date. Would you likely appreciate the sacrifice of your teacher and his or her faithfulness to you? That’s all I’m saying,
Timely communication whether grades or emails and texts communicate both a love for students and learning, as well as faithfulness to our position. I know it’s difficult; I know life happens –I live one too. But, here’s the thing: students need our faithfulness to them –who else are they going to go to for help in your class, or encouragement, or advise, or whatever when it comes to your class? You are far more important to your students than you likely can imagine. You should see the eyes of students light up at the possibility of having extra time with their teachers outside the scheduled class. And, even when we fail them, they still have a difficult time not believing in us. Reportedly, John Wesley’s favorite verse was, “…faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). Helpful and timely communication is a major way teachers manifest faith working through love. You can do this!
This semester, I received a lengthy and overwhelming text overflowing with gratitude and encouragement at the unimaginable difference and eternal weight my teaching has made. In the text was also a significant statement about students finding no answers in the church, a largely abandoned attempt to try finding real-life answers there, and the honest confession that without someone from whom to get good answers and feedback, they would very likely leave the church and Christianity. Though humbled that I could have such an impact and honored to be part of a student’s growth, I was also staggered a bit regarding what is on the line as students look to us for guidance, answers, and someone who counts them worthwhile. I wonder how many have already left. Whether you have thought about it or not, as the student’s confession reveals, you teachers are vital to the Church (Eph 4). I don’t want to let students down. I want to be faithful –to them and to God in my calling as a teacher. I seek for every student of mine to leave my classes being better equipped for working in their field and for walking with Jesus. I seek faithfulness. I seek to express faith working through love. If that means a few late hours earlier than I’m used to, so be it; students are worth it, aren’t they?