Precious Time

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My husband has been reading the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis to our children for the last few weeks. I had forgotten the depth and details layered within the beautifully crafted tale, which lights up the story of Christ in all its glory and pain. My son came to me this morning and said,

“I think I know who Aslan is like. He is like God when he creates Narnia in the beginning, and then he is like Jesus when he is killed by the witch. I think he might come back to life, like Jesus did.” (We haven’t read that bit yet).

The ability C.S. Lewis had, as a writer, for my son to decode the message hidden within this classic fantasy novel, is quite remarkable. But then, I suppose we can presume he had a little heavenly help with his story.

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What do we do with the time we are given? There’s no doubt that C.S. Lewis was a willing vessel ready to be used by God in the time that he spent here on this earth. I am not sure if he even thought about the fact that children would be reading his books and watching movies based on his books 50 years after his death. He was just ready to be used. And God used him. He had a purpose, and in the precious 65 years he spent on this earth, he was ready and willing for God to work through his writing. God is still working through his writing, long after his death.

Does that idea excite you? That perhaps God has a purpose that only you can fulfil? We may not all be a C.S. Lewis – one whom can reach millions with his words, but it means just as much if we can reach the one, that perhaps no one else can reach.

“The whole castle stood empty with every door and window open and the light and the sweet spring air flooding into all the dark and evil places which needed them so badly.” – C. S. Lewis, (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).

We are all called to be lights here in this dark and broken world – lights that will shed light and air into the dark and evil places. How brightly we shine is up to us, in the time that we have left.

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Taking Responsible Risks

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When Noah started building his boat, because God asked him to, the people around him would have thought he was crazy. Yet he faithfully continued on. When his vessel was complete and he loaded it up with animals, because God asked him to, people would have questioned his actions. When Noah’s family boarded the ark as the rain started, because God asked him to, people most likely would have scoffed at what he was doing. But with each and every command, Noah faithfully obeyed God as Genesis 6-9 recounts.

We know the end of the story. We know that Noah was right to obey God as it all ended happily with a rainbow  (for that time at least). The question is would we, if faced with taking a similar risk, step out in faith to follow God’s guidance?

Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick created the theory of the 16 Habits of Mind, one of which is ‘Taking Responsible Risks.’ These Habits of Mind can be applied to the way children (and adults) learn and they are a wonderful tool for planning in the classroom. When reflecting upon the apparent ‘risks’ Noah took, from the eyes of the outsiders, I really even wonder if his family trusted in what he was doing. To spend all that time and all those resources, with no sign of rain or flooding to come, was really taking a huge risk. I believe however that to Noah, it was a ‘responsible’ one. Why? Because the responsibility lay with God. God ordained it, God gave the commands, and Noah just followed His guidance, step by step.

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When Peter, stepped out to walk on the water with Jesus in Matthew 14:22-36, the risk seemed enormous. The disciples already were in shock that they had even witnessed Jesus himself walking on the waters, let alone one of their own attempting it. Peter took that leap of faith, and for a moment, the risk was worth it. He had his eyes fixed on his Lord and he was indeed following in his footsteps. Yet all of a sudden he focussed on the risk. He became afraid and then doubted as verse 30 states. If Peter had continued to focus his eyes on Jesus, he would have been safe. He would have succeeded in taking that responsible risk and it would have paid off.

The Bible is full of accounts of those who took great risks because of God’s prompting…  Moses, Abraham, Rahab.. the list goes on. Hebrews 11 is a good summary of these accounts.

We want to equip our students to take responsible risks when the time is right. In their learning, some students face this every day, especially those who have a paralysing fear of failure. As a teacher in a Christian school, I want my students to know they can step out on the waters in faith, if they keep their eyes fixed on Jesus and His Word. I want them to realise that the opportunity to take responsible risks will be there for the rest of their lives, through school, work, study, life choices, family and more. Whilst there can be fear involved when taking a risk, we are reminded that if we are following God’s will, we need not fear. Jesus said to Peter “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27).

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The risk can be a responsible one if it is taken with full faith of Christ. Yes, the dangers are still there. We may be in the midst of an ongoing storm, but if Jesus calls us out onto the waters, we need not fear, because He promises never to leave us.

Reason & Purpose

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“There’s a reason for the journey.

There is purpose in the learning. 

Not everything in life comes naturally.”

– Steffany Gretzinger

Some kids just need to know why they have to do something. Why are we learning Science? Why are we doing Mathematics? Why are we drawing pictures?

Steffany Gretzinger has nailed it with the lyrics to her song, ‘Getting There’. There is a reason for the journey. There is a purpose in our learning and not everything that we learn does come naturally. Some learning is difficult. Some learning is painful. Some learning is complicated. But, through the learning, we can find hope. In the learning, we can find joy. As we learn, we can grow into the purpose which has been appointed for us.

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It can be hard to fully explain to students the value in their learning if they don’t see a purpose in it. Students in our ‘First World’ society sometimes struggle to value education as they have access to so much and rarely comprehend the worth of it. To give students a reason to learn, we, as teachers, need to engage with each individual on an interest level in order to give them a reason to learn. Because, most of the time, learning is hard, it requires discipline, and who really wants to engage in hard work unless it produces a worthwhile result?

I once had a student who was not progressing. Others were moving past her in reading and writing and she remained at the same point, no matter what I did with her. It was becoming frustrating. I had been in contact with her parents who had noted similar frustrations when working with her at home. I kept working with her with little to no results, whilst the other students who had been flagged with issues at the start of the year had made notable progress. Eventually, after a more serious discussion with her family, we realised that she had decided that she wanted to be a singer and dancer when she grew up – for which, she was adamant, that you did not need an education for. No need to read, no need to write if you are going to be a famous entertainer.

There lay the key. Once I explained to her that even famous performers need to know how to read and write in order to be great performers, things changed. I explained how the best singers often write their own songs. They often need to read the lyrics to others’ famous songs. The realisation sunk in swiftly and within a few weeks, we had progress. Without a reason for her journey, my student felt their was no purpose in her learning, and the hard work was therefore not worth it.

How many times do we miss identifying the motivating factors for those tricky students? How often do we ourselves walk away from a learning opportunity because it is too hard?

The truth is, in life, sometimes we will have no choice as to whether we are exposed to a learning opportunity from our Heavenly Father, because it is thrust upon us, however, we do have a choice as to whether we engage in it fully.

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As Philippians 4: 12 states,

12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

The key word is learn. It is never easy to learn to live on an empty stomach. It is never easy to learn to live with nothing. It requires patience and persistence.

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5: 3-4)

Students need hope in their own purpose if they are to persevere with their learning. At times we too may need our own hope if we are to do the same. Life lessons can be harder than school lessons, but just as rewarding… if we have hope in the outcome and God’s plan through the pain.

Thirsty Souls

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2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV) states,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

In all our troubles…

While teaching comes with many joys and rewards, it also comes with many troubles… multiple deadlines, concerned or worried parents, not to mention students who you may have worked with and worked with, and they are still not understanding. In isolation, these troubles can be manageable, however, when they all fall upon you at once (as is often the case for teachers) there comes a breaking point. Teachers need the support and comfort of fellow teachers and leaders at these times, to lift up and encourage.

Comfort can be a kind word, an encouraging word, a thank you, a hug, a shared duty, an offer to help, a card, flowers, a conversation, a Bible verse, a quote, a coffee break. How you comfort is likely to be unique to you. But perhaps you have never sought to comfort another on the job. Maybe you have always left that to somebody else, thinking, “their family will look after them, their spouse will support them, their friends will bring comfort.” Sadly, not everyone has supporting families, spouses or friends. Unfortunately not everyone has a support network or a church that is active in reaching out in love. For some, work may be an escape from the cold reality of their lives. For these people, if they suddenly find themselves drowning in a place that was meant to be their stronghold, then they are more likely to lose hope in life and their purpose.

The power of a drop of comfort can be life-saving to a thirsty soul.

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If we are to truly comfort those around us, we first need to seek comfort from our Heavenly Father. As Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 1, we can comfort others with the comfort we receive from God. For me, I receive comfort through nature first, and then music, devotionals, quotes, Bible passages. God often uses little birds to speak into my heart. On the last day of our Professional Development, a few of us walked past a little black bird that appeared to be injured, sitting on the steps to our music room. I came back to it and was able to capture it whilst we discussed whether it was in fact injured or just stunned. Eventually, it flew off in a fluster. We guessed it had flown into a window and was sitting on the step, stunned, attempting to recover.

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Sometimes we can become overwhelmed by the workload, or injured and stunned by a negative communication from a parent that seems to have come out of nowhere. We do not know what another teacher may be going through within the course of even one day, because the job can be so fast-paced. We need to look for ways to support and comfort those around us when we see the need,  and even perhaps when we don’t. Some faces hide things well. If we can offer those life-saving drops of comfort to all we come across, then those who need it most will hopefully receive it with open hands and hearts.

And don’t think someone else is handling it. Sometimes, the very person the comfort needs to come from, may be you.