Let's Ditch the Details
“Good Morning, teachers, we are at the start of another school year and we’ll try this week to give helpful guidelines for everyone. I believe that this term will be successful if we know from the beginning the expectations. Teachers, you need to be sure to prepare lesson plans for each week. Bulletin boards are to be changed each month so that the room maintains a good learning environment. We will have scheduled faculty meetings every Monday after school.”
The beginning of school is perhaps one of the busiest times during the nine month period when students and teachers both acclimate to the coming school year. Teachers and administrative staff begin the school year with a week of in-service training so everyone has time to prepare individually for classes that will be taught. There are grade books to set up, seating arrangements to be determined, text books to count and careful lesson planning. Students need to know expectations and have respect for the position of a teacher.
The first six to nine weeks sets the tone for the school year. Teachers learn about their students and the students get used to each faculty member and his method of teaching. Keeping the school environment quiet as the students change from class to class is important. Without guidelines students can become noisy. Rules and expectations are integral parts of the first few weeks of school.
I was a teacher for about five years in a small Christian school and enjoyed teaching students the material for each class. I didn’t seem to mind all the details hidden away in the “rule book” until I started working with my own boys at home. Supervising homework and learning some of the classroom rules helped me to question exactly what was happening.
It seemed at first that the rules were just a way to keep order in the school. I didn’t agree with everything but I guess I felt that the system would probably work. As my own children progressed from grade to grade I could see the flaws in the system. My children began to change their attitude and it seemed that things became a little more unreasonable.
One of my boys was so stressed in writing class that he literally made holes in the sheet of paper. Erasures were not permitted and any letters that were not done correctly had to be crossed out. The stress of wanting to do his best but fearing that he would make a mistake frustrated him. I checked with his previous teacher to see if she had noticed any problems that could explain his behavior. He had always been a good student but he usually talked when he was lined up in the hall. That infraction cost him a slap on the hand with a ruler. I discovered this was a daily problem. No wonder he was scared of making a mistake.
Another of my boys was taking a test in a second grade class. He was a gifted student and finished the test way before the rest of the class. He made the fatal mistake of looking at the back of the classroom to check the time and for that error, he received an F.
Homework normally took at least one hour or more to complete. This included early all grade levels. Learning is important but there has to be a balance. On one occasion one of my boys developed severe headaches. I made an appointment with the physician and he ran a series of medical tests. He couldn’t find anything medically wrong, but he questioned, “Is he under any stress that may be causing the headache?” The demands of school along with the hormonal changes that come with being a teen had caused him to be overwhelmed. I decided to let him change schools and once the changes were made, the headaches disappeared.
As a faculty member I had my own share of frustrations. On one occasion I assigned homework on the night of a football game. The homework was suspended by the principal without even consulting me. That gave the students a way to avoid homework. All they had to do was complain to the administration and the homework was eliminated.
Also, giving an account of the grade distribution for all tests was required. Usually this was not a problem for me, but on one particular occasion the grades were lower than normal. The course was an upper level high school class where the students were capable of doing the work. They just didn’t want to apply themselves and wanted the tests to be easy. Although no one observed my classroom I was told to teach the unit again and retest. Repeating the unit was to increase the number of A’s and B’s in the class. My goal had been to motivate the students to put forth a little more effort.
One day I was one minute late arriving at school and the principal was there to meet me. One minute late??? I had four children and a host of other things to do just to get out of the house. I got up at 5:30 am to start my day and left around 8:00 to complete a 20 minute drive to the church. To think that someone mentioned that I was one minute late is somewhat absurd. Yes, I was technically late but that fault was not acceptable. The rule seemed to be more important than the human factor.
Yes, I loved teaching and it had its rewards. I know that God had me there for a reason and it did help to shape my personality. It gave me insights into the methods of teaching and enabled me to better help my boys in their later years in school. But the focus on the tiny details wore me down emotionally. My focus changed and I started doing things for the wrong reason. I went because I had a commitment. I started making a list of things that had to be done and discovered that the joy of teaching had disappeared. I eventually quit and went home exhausted and burned out.
I discovered that I had forgotten God’s salvation which is given freely. Since I didn’t measure up to the rules set up by man I tried even harder. Depression set in and I even felt that God would punish me because I couldn’t follow all the rules. It took me years to recover from this. I had to find my way back to the God who loved me and accepted me for who I was.
A friend of mine was in a similar church. She slowly noticed the same things I had experienced. She decided to join the choir and on her first night of practice she received a list of things that were expected of all choir members. At the very bottom of the list was this comment: Enjoy singing and lift your praises to the Lord. What? This was the last thing on the list?? I think it should have been at the top of the list.
She discovered the longer same restrictive rules but she wasn’t as readily to follow them. She planned on leaving the church. It wasn’t until she faced a problem with one of her children that she found other Christians to give her advice according to God’s word. She was able to discuss the issue with Christians who were not judgmental. Long hours were spent in prayer and she finally had peace about God’s guidance. She decided to move her membership and found the love of God return to her life. She became one of my closest friends and together we studied fellowship with God.
Although many people would use this excuse as a reason to stop attending church, I had to find my way back to God. When I was able to emotionally separate from all the rules, I began to see Christ from a different perspective. Christ became real to me and I could rejoice in the gift of salvation. I allowed God to guide me with His hand into a fellowship with Him. The rules had clouded the actual expression of God’s love and I realized that God wasn’t a God who punished people. He wants me to come to Him and teach me His way.
Exactly where do I stand now? I want to think that I have matured in Christ and have learned to accept others for who they are. I have more peace in my life and have joy from serving Him. Living with Christ no longer requires all the laws and regulations of the Old Testament. The experience at Calvary changed everything.
A Christian is one who believes the Word of God and has faith in Him. He understands that he is a sinner and needs the Lord. God loves us and accepts us just as we are. God is not a God who punishes us if we don’t follow every letter of the law. God guides us along the pathway with a gentle but firm hand and shows us love. Faith is learning to turn the problems over to God. I am saved by grace and it is a gift I receive from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). John 3:16 gives me assurance that believing in God is the only requirement of God for salvation. Walking daily with Him gives me the right focus. The details and rules set down by man are overshadowed by His love and I am free to serve God with love and joy. That is the way to see His face and experience peace in my Christian walk.
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