With spring break right around the corner, I can’t help but remember my days as a middle school teacher. Did you know teachers spend roughly 1,300 hours with your child over the course of a school year? Most of them truly love it, because if they didn’t, they would be fit for an insane asylum by Thanksgiving. Indeed, it takes a special sort of person to sit in a cafeteria so loud the chairs vibrate and to explain the same concept forty-six times (in eight different ways) by 9:00 in the morning.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to take teachers for granted. We busy parents are thankful someone educates our kids in the same way we’re thankful the dishwasher cleans our dishes. It’s one less thing we have to do. But teachers do much more than just educate our children. They influence them.
Think about it this way. In a typical week, the average stay-at-home parent spends around forty-five waking hours with their child. Teachers spend thirty-five hours with them. That means that besides you, it’s likely that your child’s teacher is the most influential person in his or her life. Perhaps it’s time we invest a little more energy into understanding the people shaping our children. As a former teacher, I can think of three ways I often wished parents understood teachers.
Time Is a Precious Commodity for Teachers
You know how moms love nap time? We long for that one sacred hour when our toddler is unconscious and we can finally hear ourselves think. Teachers have the same thing. It’s called “planning period,” and just like nap time, it has the uncanny ability to vanish in what feels like seconds. One practical way to love your kid’s teacher is to be considerate of her time. Choose your battles. Don’t call if an email will suffice. Don’t ask a question if you can find the answer in the student handbook.
Philippians 2:4 urges, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” In their limited window of time, teachers have to plan lessons, input grades, update web pages, respond to emails, collaborate with other teachers, decorate bulletin boards . . . the list goes on and on.
The more considerate we are of their time, the more teachers can invest their energy into preparing adequately for our children. (And by the way, having to respond to an angry parent email during planning period is like having to clean up toddler barf during nap time. It’s just plain disappointing.)
Teachers Really Do Love Their Students
Everyone knows parents invest a ton of time, energy, and resources into their children. Such a major investment makes moms and dads deeply committed to their little ones. But did you know teachers feel similarly toward their students?
You can’t spend 1,300 hours with a group of ten-year-olds and not wind up feeling like family. You can’t explain subtraction to Bobby for five weeks in a row and not want to jump on your desk and cheer when he finally gets it. Teachers love their students, because they’re invested in them.
I’m Facebook friends with many of my old students (who are now in college!), and I still want to stand on my desk and cheer when I see their accomplishments. I am so proud to have played a tiny role in their beautiful lives . . . even if that role sometimes involved sending them to the principal’s office!
So why not give teachers the benefit of the doubt? First Corinthians 13:7 characterizes love as being hopeful and positive, eager to believe the best about others. Unless proven otherwise, let’s start by assuming that Ms. Johnson has our kid’s best interests at heart. Let’s trust that if Mr. Smith dedicated many years and dollars toward earning a Master’s degree in education, he really is passionate about helping Bobby succeed. Then if we have grounds to believe otherwise and God leads us to confront them, let’s do it with grace and humility.
Teachers Need Affirmation and Appreciation
Do you know what makes a homemade apple ornament even nicer? Attaching it to a gift card. First John 3:18 says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” One of the simplest ways to “actively” love a teacher is to put a little money where your mouth is. Even if it’s fifty cents toward an unexpected Snickers bar—at 3:00 p.m. that little bar will taste like chocolate-flavored love. But teachers don’t just need acts of appreciation. Like all people, they long for affirmation as well.
As moms, it’s natural to pray that our children find favor in the eyes of their teachers. But why not take it one step further and pray that teachers also find favor in the eyes of our children? Pray little Lucy adores Ms. Johnson. Pray she loves and affirms her teacher regularly. Pray God would use Bobby as a source of encouragement to refresh and sustain Mr. Smith. The blessings will be manifold, because emotionally nourished teachers create positive classroom environments. And children will always learn more from those they love.
Just as great teachers are a blessing to parents, great parents are a blessing to teachers. I still remember the faces of parents who popped in my door to tell me I was making a difference in their children’s lives. Or parents who had every right to bicker about a mistake I made but instead graciously ignored it. These parents spread the aroma of Christ straight into my classroom (2 Cor. 2:15). And let me tell you, a middle school classroom can be one stinky place! But that only makes the fragrance of Christ all the more refreshing.
This spring, how might you be the aroma of Christ to a teacher in your life?