The day is approaching quickly. Diapers, bibs, and first steps were a part of your child’s life only a short time ago. However, as we soak in the last days of summer, the purchase of pacifiers is being replaced by the purchase of paint and number 2 pencils. How could this have happened so quickly? Yes, the school year is about to begin, and inevitably, on the first day of school, after you help your firstborn line up and manage a backpack that seems more fit for Goliath, you will experience the “turn.”
You will fight it like mad, forcing yourself not to look back as your child waddles into the school building, but you can’t help it. After all, this is your most precious possession, a gift from God that is most fearfully and wonderfully made. As you turn back one last time to watch your child waddle through the school doors for the first time, several questions and possibly fears travel through your mind. These fears can often be summarized into two basic questions you have for your child’s school and those you have entrusted for their care.
Psalm 139 teaches us that God highly values our children and their physical and intellectual development. God is the one who, in His omniscience, had a design and shape in mind specifically for your child from the beginning of time. He knew your child by name long before you did. As parents, we sense this as we watch our child develop. We want our children to be valued for their unique God-given shape. Will your child’s teacher recognize your child’s distinct abilities and interests?
I think we can all remember a teacher who made us feel less than unique. However, as a general rule, teachers choose the profession of education because they have a God-given desire to bring out, develop, and celebrate the design God has woven into their students. Education is a unique profession because of how personal it is. The relationship between a child and teacher is a very intimate one. Naturally, teachers want to connect with your child, help them identify the unique contributions they can make in building God’s kingdom, and at the same time create opportunities for them to see the importance of recognizing the unique abilities and interests God has given all of us. Do you know what the best part of this is? The fact that, generally speaking, teachers work towards these ends to serve your family. Considering all the forces in our fallen world that actually try to work against the strengthening of your family, in a teacher you have an advocate and servant in this endeavor. How exciting and dynamic is that!
Christian schools have the unique responsibility of nurturing students’ faith in the context of learning. However, Christian schools are not the home nor the church. As a parent you must have a vision for your child’s faith formation in the church and home as a primary base to nurture their Christian upbringing. However, since education at its core is the study of God’s world, Christian schools can make a significant contribution towards the faith formation of your child. Christian schools, if they are focused on faith formation in the context of learning, can serve as a significant support to you as you raise your child to understand that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). Will your child’s teacher capitalize on their unique role in nurturing your child’s faith?
Generally, teachers take this aspect of their profession extremely seriously. Once again, there are always exceptions; however, Christian teachers are focused on the eternal ramifications of their instruction and they seek genuine opportunities to engage your child’s heart and mind for Christ throughout their school day. When Christian teachers witness their pupils living for Christ as they mature in years, it is a cause of celebration for them as they know that God allowed them to play a part in their spiritual maturity. However, when they see one of their pupils fall away from Christ, they genuinely mourn and can’t help but question whether they missed opportunities to engage them spiritually as they should have. The formation of your child’s faith weighs heavily on the heart of your child’s teacher; in them you have a partner for life as you seek to raise your child to live for Him.
So as you mentally prepare for the “turn” back to take one last look toward your child as he or she is directed into a classroom on the first day of school, I also invite you to consider three practices during this first year and throughout your child’s schooling career that are critical to the growth of your child:
1. Pray for your child’s teacher, by name, every day. Prayer, as James 5:16 reminds us, “availeth much”. Pray that God will equip your child’s teacher to appropriately connect and motivate your child to learn as God has equipped him or her to learn. Also pray that God works in your child’s teacher’s heart to adequately reveal God’s story throughout the school day in exciting and genuine ways. Direct supplication on behalf of your child’s teacher is a critical aspect of the parent/teacher partnership.
2. Pray for your child’s school as an organization every day. Consolidated prayer by school constituency allows the Holy Spirit to keep the school as an organization humble and attuned to His will. Nothing is more important for your child’s school as a cooperate body than consolidated prayer by its parental body.
3. Encourage your child’s teacher once a month. Do something tangible once a month to spur on and build up your child’s teacher. Teaching done well is one of the most demanding professions there is. I understand that sounds cliché, but I humbly ask that you trust and believe me when I make that statement. I don’t make that statement lightly, because much is at stake when children are at school 7 hours a day for over 175 days a year. Your child’s teacher needs encouragement from you, directly and often. As an encourager, you will become a tremendous blessing as part of this dynamic relationship. As you begin this first school year, be encouraged. Your child is in a place where he or she will be loved, respected, and taught to love the Lord with all he or she has. Enjoy every school day with your child this first year. You are about to bless and be blessed!