“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” II Peter 1:5-7 (NIV)
I grew up surrounded by teachers. Since becoming an adult, lots of my friends are teachers and I’m privileged to be friends with many of my kids’ teachers. My mom is a teacher and I was blessed to be raised by someone with the gift of bringing out the best in others, presenting ideas in ways that are easily understood, and an ease with which she presented them. I followed in their footsteps to the degree that I’m drawn to working with children and most of my careers have centered around helping children in one form or another. I naively assumed with the wonderful examples that surrounded me, I too would just naturally step up and be a great teacher.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. Anyone can teach, but not everyone can inspire. Anyone can present ideas and concepts, not everyone has the ability to help another grasp those concepts and claim them for themselves. The older I get the more I realize the “teaching gene” passed me by. I do have a natural ease with children. I’m comfortable around children, and I have the gift of helping children feel loved, special, and safe while giving them the gift of belonging, whether they were born from my womb or live in my heart. However, I don’t hold the gift of teaching independence or certain skills in a way where both the child and I leave the encounter peaceful and wanting to try again.
If I were completely honest, I would have to admit I’ve known this to a certain degree my whole life. I have always joked (with more seriousness in there than people realize) when it came time for potty training, training wheels, tying shoes, and driver’s training – I gladly hand the reins over to my husband and go sit down and read a good book. I don’t have the patience (or the confidence in my own skills) to break down the task into manageable pieces and present it in a way that is fun, natural, and a pleasant experience for all. However, I have to say – with three children under our belt, I’m holding firm with the rest of the above-mentioned skills being assigned to my husband’s capable hands, but I have learned how to potty train with fewer tears (from me) and many more smiles, so there is hope for me yet.
Having said all that, I was willing to resign myself to the fact that I’m not a good teacher and leave it to those who excel at it. But, God spoke to my heart and reminded me when I chose to be a parent, I chose to be a teacher. And, do I want to be one who inspires or do I want to just get by until summer vacation?
While I may not have the gift to sit down and clearly present math or reading or science concepts so I don’t need a timeout when I’m done, I’m a teacher when it comes to the really important areas in life – values, morals, daily habits, self- discipline, balance, and moderation. That really hit home. Every morning when I wake up, I’m making a choice of what I’m going to teach my children that day. Is it going to be that a soft answer turns away wrath, that my body is a temple of Christ and I need to take care of it by fueling it well and exercising to stay strong, or am I going to teach my kids that those rules apply to other people and other circumstances and they don’t have to make good choices either.
Wow – When I thought about it that way, I realized I have been a worse teacher than I realized. But…just because teaching doesn’t come naturally to me doesn’t mean I get a free pass. Instead, it made me realize I have to try harder at something that came naturally to my mom, to my friends, and to my other relatives. Teaching is just a way of life for them and they’re terrific at it, but it’s something that I need to keep working on in my life so my children can reap the benefits I did while growing up.
When my kids grow up and leave our house, I want to make sure they’ve been introduced to and had plenty of time to practice the life skills that are important to God. Therefore, I want to be the best teacher possible in areas such as II Peter 1:5-7, teaching my kids the necessary skills of faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, etc., as well as introducing them to and giving plenty of time to practice the fruits of Spirit found in Galatians 5:22 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), not to mention how to wear the full armor of God found in Ephesians 6:10-18.
Just like with all teachers, though, it’s one thing to present the ideas and then test their basic “memory skills” with a test, but completely another when the teacher gives examples and makes the lessons come to life. Those were always the teachers I admired, the kind of teachers that I’m friends with, and the kind of teacher I want to be. It’s one thing for me to lecture my kids about self-control while stuffing my face with a donut on our weekly shopping trip, but completely another example to explain that I struggle with self-control and then resist the donut aisle completely.
That’s how I found myself gently challenged by God about a month ago, when I was trying to help my older kids with their homework and ended up more frustrated than they were. I realized I need to leave the academics in the hands of those I trust, their teachers, but shine in the areas that God has for me – teaching them how to have a true relationship with God, a friendship with their Creator, to obey out of love and devotion, not out of fear, to know the basics of how to have a happier and more peaceful life and the rules and boundaries from which that happiness can burst forth, as well as knowing the why behind it. For example, when I’m practicing self-control in all areas of my life (food, finances, exercise, work), then naturally I’ll be more peaceful because my clothes will fit, our bills will get paid, I’ll have the necessary energy to complete the work God has for me, and I’ll find satisfaction in a job well done. The best part is my kids will see that example lived out in front of them, hopefully inspiring them to want peace and happiness in their life as well. I’ll still have bad days, but hopefully those will be the exception instead of the rule.
I guess, bottom line, I am a teacher, whether I realize it or not. Now, the question is, what kind of teacher do I want to be?
Copyright: 2013 Cheri Swalwell