A currency of love

handful berries

Imogen church yard

We went to a wedding last weekend and after the ceremony my daughter wanted to wander around the gravestones. Being an old church, many of the graves were worn and crumpled. It was almost as if they had been left abandoned. Trying to explain the idea of death and burial to a child is always tricky, but believing in a loving God will at least give them hope beyond the reality of the death that lies beneath the ground.

Despite being a place that signified the ending of life, there were still symbols of new life within it. The golden rays of light from the setting sun streamed down through the branches of the established trees, and the bright red berries hung happily off the healthy, growing vines. It struck me that the memories of those who died were not to be found in this place. Nor were their spirits. How can you fit a whole life on a gravestone? Their name, date of birth, date of death, along with a “dearly beloved” or a Bible verse engraved on the stone was all that was left of a life. The memories of a life lie with the people who were touched by that life. The child, the spouse, the neighbour, or the stranger down the street.

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We have so many opportunities to touch the lives of others and leave the mark of Jesus’ love and light, but how often do we think of this in the day-to-day? Some people are given more time than others, some are given more opportunity. As teachers, we have this opportunity every day in the classroom. Those children will remember more of you than your Maths lesson or Science lesson. They will remember you, either for good or bad, or they will forget you, if you fail to leave a positive impression, or any impression at all. In what little time we have, we need to impact the lives of others for the better. We need to show love by caring, being positive with our words, by encouraging, strengthening, equipping, enabling and helping others. We need to teach our students to go out to do the same.

The reality of our broken world is that there will be death, and our lives will be impacted by this at some point. Every death however should serve as a reminder of the precious time we do have to actually make a difference in this world. What has God called you to do in your time here? What is your purpose? If you don’t know yet, then pray that He will reveal this to you. Pray He will give you the wisdom you need to discern your next steps in this life.

As Corrie Ten Boom said,

“The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.”

And as Christ reminds us also in John 10:10,

“…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

He came so that we could live this life to the fullest, despite the death, despite the pain, despite the struggles. To live this life to the fullest we need to give love as Christ demonstrated, to donate love as Corrie Ten Boom reminds us. In the end, it doesn’t matter what we owned, where we lived, what we saved… it matters what we gave away, in the currency of love.

Imogen handful berries

Stand in awe

reflection sunrise

School holidays is now upon us and minutes after my class was dismissed on the last day of term, I was busy packing up my desk and classroom to head down south with my family. Sometimes the best holidays are just the ones where you just get to rest, reflect and stand in awe of God’s wonders. This holiday away from home may have been a short one, but thankfully, it was one where rest, relaxation and reflection filled most of my time.

sunrise boat

The morning of my birthday we rose early and walked up the headland to watch the sunrise. This is something I haven’t done in a very, very long time. Given that we are currently in the middle of winter, it was certainly crisp and cold. The dewy and slightly frosted grass seemed to penetrate through to our toes as we climbed the beautiful, green headland up above the beach in the dim light. At the top, the view was spectacular and the skies changed so rapidly I struggled to take enough photos to adequately capture the moment. Then I realised I probably had to spend some of that time just being in the moment.

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Standing in awe of God’s creation is something we hardly have time for in our busy world, and as teachers we may find it even harder to slow down and breathe due to the ever-increasing demands upon our time. Even now, on my holidays, I know there is a huge list of to-dos waiting for me, many of which I will struggle to complete by the end of the term break. Yet I cannot allow this thought to overwhelm me and ruin what time I do have left to spend with my family. Every moment in this life is precious. And every moment is fleeting. Just like the sunrise that swiftly turned into daylight, so too do our days slip away into weeks, months and years. If we don’t stop to stand in awe, we will look back and regret, rather than look back and celebrate the moments that were.

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In that sunrise moment, there were thousands of colours. There was the cold damp beneath our feet and the wedge of swans flying through the golden glow of the sun. There were the pinks and purples flickering off the waves as they rippled towards the water’s edge. It was as if the breath of God had settled above the waters as the waves gently crashed onto the rocks and sand. Our silhouettes against the light spoke powerfully of our small place in such a magnificent world. To imagine, that Adam and Eve really did have it all. To find a touch of Eden despite the brokenness that exists today, just might be the thing that brings us through the brokenness.

Immy Age sunrise 2 walking headland 2

Psalm 65:8 (NLT) says,

Those who live at the ends of the earth
    stand in awe of your wonders.
From where the sun rises to where it sets,
    you inspire shouts of joy.

We cannot stand in awe if we do not choose to stop and be still long enough to notice the gifts God gives us every day. Why is it that the sunrise is such a beautiful thing that happens every single day? Perhaps God knows, for those who are willing to rise with it, that it will inspire enough joy to equip us to make it through our day, no matter what that day may bring.

mist waves goldmist waves crashingreflection sunrise

No matter what our days may bring, it is important to teach our kids to stop and look for the wonder and awe in life and in creation. For it is in those moments, the wonder and awe moments, that we can be refreshed, revived and ready to do His will once more.  What better way to let that light come flooding in, than by the rays of the sunrise, which by His grace, can be freely found each morning… no matter who you are, no matter where you are.

AJ water

To be still

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This afternoon God sent me a gentle, small, but significant reminder to “be still” in His presence. A little sparrow took rest on our outdoor table and I noticed it as I glanced out our kitchen window. Realising it did not seem disturbed by the noise, like these little birds normally are around our place, I crept out with my camera to capture it.

When I began to take the photos, I felt as if it turned and looked me straight in the eye, not at all worried about my presence. While we often have many types of birds flittering in and out of our backyard, I knew there was something different about this one. It had a message, though at the time I did not know what it was trying to tell me.

sleeping sparrow 2 sleeping sparrow 3  sleeping sparrow

Usually when the sparrows fly around, I immediately make the connection with Matthew 10:31, which says,

“So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

This time though, I felt like there was more to this visit than just a simple reminder that God was watching out for us.

Despite the end of the school term drawing near, I have been very busy. School demands are still present with many events planned for the last week before our holidays. At home, we have been considering selling our house and buying land to build on… all of which causes worry to some level due to the inevitable amount of unpredictability that comes with that situation. We have been spending much of our time planning, thinking, dreaming, wondering and while it is an important decision, it is just as important to let God in on that planning process. And what is one of the best ways to let God in? To just… be still.

Psalm 46:10 was one of my grandparents’ favourite verses. I remember it stitched onto a wall hanging in their house as a child.

“Be still, and know that I am God…”

My grandfather also used to have little birds visit his garden while he was tending to it, and I often wonder if God spoke to him as He has spoken to me through these beautiful little creatures, on many occasions.

This afternoon was no exception. As I took photographs of the little sparrow, I noticed it often had its eyes closed, as though it was resting briefly. When I returned home from church later this evening, I finally felt God open my eyes to its message. I had to be still… just be still and let God be God, and trust in Him.

At church we had played a clip of a song by Steffany Gretzinger called, Be Still. 

The lyrics struck my heart deeply tonight…

“Be still my heart and know, You are God alone. Stop thinking so much and just let go.

Be still my soul and rest, humbly I confess, in my weakness, Your strength is perfect.”

 

I have always loved the Bible passage, 2 Corinthians 12:9,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

As human beings we will always be weak. Some of us in different areas to others and some of us in different seasons of our lives. The one thing we can count on, is that Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness.  In the very acknowledgement of our own failings, His power can work and be made perfect in us. As teachers, we may strive for perfection in many areas… the perfect classroom, the perfect lesson plan, the perfect class, yet that sort of perfection will always be out of our reach. Without Christ, there is no perfection, and to experience His perfect, unconditional love, we need to first be still to receive His presence.

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The message from my little visitor this afternoon was reinforced when it flew up into the tree that was filled with many more sparrows, all sitting still and waiting. As  I captured them in the beauty of the setting sun, I felt a peace fall upon me. A reminder that God was with me, even though I had forgotten to be still and seek Him out in the midst of my busy life.

So tonight, I pray that Christ will work in me, that in my stopping to acknowledge my weakness, of not trusting enough, of not letting go and letting God in, that through this recognition of my weakness, that He will work in mighty and wondrous ways… in all areas of my teaching and my life. As I lay my head down to rest, I know that I rest in His love and His grace, and that this is enough.

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Listen to your heart

pink purple sunset

drawing girl

The other day, one of my beautiful little Kindergarten girls stood up at her table while all the other students were busy working away in their books. There was worship music playing in the background and a good amount of conversation happening at the time. She put her hand over her heart and raised her other hand in the air to poignantly proclaim:

“Listen to your heart! You have it in you!”

While the others at the table stopped work momentarily to discuss and argue about the precise location of the heart within the body, she continued on with more determination…

“Listen to me! You need to listen to your heart and try harder and use what you have!”

In witnessing this young girl’s enthusiasm for her cause, I suddenly realised how many grown-ups (myself included) needed to hear what she was saying, just as much as the peers who had a front row seat to her heart-felt and inspirational speech.

What she was saying had so many layers of truth within it. If Jesus’ Holy Spirit resides within our hearts, should we not be listening to that voice within our hearts more often? Do we not need to try harder to do what Christ has called us to do? And should we not be using the resources He has provided for us, for His purpose and His glory?

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If Christ calls us into a place to serve Him, then he promises to provide all that we need. Sometimes we may already have the capabilities and resources inside us, but have never taken that step of faith out onto the waters to see what we can do in His name.

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If this sounds like you, then I encourage you to listen to the voice of God within your heart and try harder to do what He has called you to do, remembering that we do not have to rely on our own strength, but His. Never forget that you have the power of Christ within your reach, if you are believing in Him and following in His ways.

As Psalm 73:26 (NIV) reminds us,

My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

pink purple sunset

If you want to apply the words of my dear, little Kinder student to your life, then all you need do is follow these three steps:

1. Listen to God working in your heart

2. Try harder, especially when you do not feel like it. 

3. Use what you have.

God has given each of us different gifts for different purposes. In order to honour God in our lives, we need to use those gifts and never let them go to waste.

Empty again

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What do you do when reports are done and the term is slowly (yet somehow rapidly) drawing to a close? What do you do when you forget to stop and be still with our Creator?

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After a much awaited long weekend, I suddenly realised I had been focussing on significantly less-meaningful things than God. I had neglected my precious time with Him, and in doing so, did not feel equipped to enter this teaching week ready to spread His love and passionately teach the eager little hearts in my care. Sometimes we need that wake-up call… something to remind us to go back to Him and His Word. My wake-up call was the realisation that I did not feel contented in my situation. I somehow felt that I needed to do something drastic, like move house, buy acreage, or go on a longer holiday in order to feel right again.

While these enormous self-created holes in my life kept enlarging, I suddenly, and thankfully, realised that I had simply become lost. I had wandered off His path yet again… and I just needed to seek His light to find my way home once more.

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While I am usually an avid reader of Ann Voskamp’s blog, A Holy Experience, I had even let that slip to the wayside in the midst of reporting season (and then the recovering from reporting season!). This morning I felt led to read a recent post entitled: How You Can Do A Reset in the Middle of the Year: June’s The New January. There was something in the very title I identified with. I knew I needed to change my habits and allow God to help me form better ones. There were a few statements by Ann in this post that very much hit home for me.

1. When you work faithfully, creativity comes faithfully.”

Each and every day as teachers we need to work faithfully. And some days more than others. When the deadlines are looming, when the parent queries are constant, when the students are pushing the boundaries, you need faith. Faith that the moment will pass. Faith that you are growing through the experience. Faith that there is a greater purpose to all that you are doing, and at the end of the day, you will make a difference in the life of a child.

2. “Keep showing up – because this is how you never, ever give up.”

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Sometimes, to be faithful you need to step out, even when you are not even sure where you will land. When I was about to begin teaching full-time after having my own children, a dear friend sent me this quote:

“When God leads you to the edge of a cliff, trust Him fully, and let go. One of two things will happen. Either He will catch you when you fall, or He will teach you how to fly.”  - unknown.

I can say without a doubt, over the last three or so years, I have done a great deal of both falling and flying. I could not however, have taken a single step without God beside me, gently and sometimes firmly, pulling me through. Teaching is not an easy job, but if you love it, the hard work will always be worth it. And one thing I’ve realised is, I could not even contemplate my role without God’s help.

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While the statistics on teacher burn-out grow higher and higher worldwide, it is not surprising that so many teachers are leaving the profession disillusioned. The thing we teachers need to understand is, the job will drain you. It will empty you, but you are not meant to remain empty. If you are working faithfully, always starting your day with God, then He will refill you. He promises to do so.

2 Corinthians 12:9 from The Message says,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Acknowledge our emptiness and acknowledge our weakness, so He can restore us (His broken vessels) into something to be used for His Glory.

 thank you for the things I have learned

My remedy for a difficult start to a teaching week? An entry in our class prayer journals…

Dear Lord, thank you for this day.

Teaching Resilience

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If you are a teacher, you have probably had to learn resilience very early into your job. Either that, or you will have very quickly moved into a totally different profession. Lately our school has placed a greater focus upon teacher well being, knowing that ultimately, our students are going to be better off if they have a teacher who is well-rested and able to cope with the demands of the job. Mental illness impacts more lives than we may even realise and children often fall victim to its presence, whether it be through the life of a family member who is struggling, or their own feelings of inadequacy.

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While a great deal of learning will naturally happen through modelled teaching, how else do we teach and equip students with the skills to cope when the world around them causes them pain or stress? How do we help them to even identify the warning signs? With very little time allowed for Personal Health and Development in the school curriculum, how do we embed this sort of teaching into our day-to-day routine? As much as students are in our class to receive an academic education, they will walk away with more social and life skills than we will ever realise. Every moment of the day is opportunity for them to learn a life lesson. And this will often occur, whether you plan it into your schedule or not.

The first thing I believe we can do to teach students resilience, is to encourage thankful hearts. This process of thanking God for the little things each day, will eventually assist them to focus more on the positives than the negatives within a situation. Even if you do not work within a Christian school, you can still draw students attention to the blessings in their lives and make them aware of the things they may naturally take for granted, such as hot running water or an education.

Another important question to ask is, ‘What should we do when we feel sad or afraid?’ While I would suggest first and foremost that we pray to God when we are feeling upset, we can also encourage students to talk to someone special in their lives. It may be their mum, dad, a school friend or even you, their teacher. Whoever it may be, the vital part is that when they are feeling overwhelmed, they know there is someone they can go to to share their worries with. Often, this someone will offer them just the right amount of comfort, support and encouragement, to lift them out of the place of darkness they may have stumbled into.

Children also need to realise that one way of increasing their resilience is to do something kind for the sake of another. God made us to love others and share His love with the world. The simple act of caring for another human being, by doing something nice for them, blesses us as much as it blesses them. It is almost a form of healing. Some of the most beautiful and giving people I know have experienced a lot of pain in their lives. Yet despite this, they have moved through it, loving and blessing others as they go.

I once had a class who were frequently involved in a high level of social incidents to do with unkindness. In my frustration in dealing with what seemed like the same incidents every day, I created a ‘kind-o-meter’ to measure the level of kindness in my class. While it was nothing fancy, starting purely as a drawing of an empty vase on my whiteboard, it became a focus point for the class very quickly. Whenever I noticed someone saying or doing something kind, I would begin to fill the vase with small amounts of water. Once the vase reached water capacity, flowers would then begin to appear with each kind deed I saw or heard about. Students were encouraged to tell me if someone in the class did something kind for them in the playground and if so, this would be added to my vase. It was a matter of creating new habits, and it significantly reduced the amount of negative social incidents I was battling with at the time.

vase yellow flowers

Speaking of nature, being outside in God’s creation is a wonderful way of coping when you feel overwhelmed. Having suffered with depression myself, I know that I am a better, healthier person when I have spent some time outside in a field, a park or even just the school grounds reflecting upon the wonder of God’s beautiful world. Every sunrise and sunset is a gift freely given to us by God. Often just taking your students outside for an art lesson can be a truly rewarding experience which can teach them to step outside more often.

sunset

Children also need to be reminded that they are unique, loved and of value. They need to feel that there is a reason for their life on this earth, even if they have not uncovered their specific purpose yet. Hope will keep you more grounded than you could imagine if you believe there is something special that God intends for you to do, even if you are not exactly sure of what that me be. Children who are regularly reminded to trust and believe in this, will hopefully turn into adults who will remain calm in the midst of the inevitable storms of life and keep pressing on towards their goals.

As Matthew 6:25-26 reminds us,

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

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If students feel they matter, that their thoughts, their words and their work matters, then they will better equipped to face the unexpected hurdles of life head on.

The other thing to remember is that when you open up your heart, children will listen. When you admit that you are human and vulnerable by sharing the ways you have made it through hard times, these moments will remain in their minds for a long time to come. The advice you give today, could be the very advice they draw upon to help them get through the stress that their adult life (or even childhood life) will bring them. If we realise and embrace the fact that teaching is not just about academics but also about teaching life skills such as resilience, then hopefully we stand a better chance of impacting more hearts in a positive and life-changing way.

drawing hearts

Dare to dream

Imogen fairy

Imogen fairydrawing class

Sometimes children need to dream. Actually, often. And no, I’m not talking about a daydream in the middle of the Mathematics lesson you have worked long and hard to prepare for, but a real-life goal or vision of something that they feel they have been called to pursue. I believe that most children, up to a particular age, will instinctively feel like they can dream big – like almost anything is a possibility for them. When is it that those dreams begin to fall away under the weight of what appears to be a harsher reality? Do we as teachers unknowingly contribute to the crushing of children’s dreams in the way we present a lesson, or in a casual comment, which may somehow imply to them that their dreams are not worthy of pursuit?

Sir Ken Robinson is an inspirational writer, researcher, adviser, teacher and speaker. He seeks to transform the way we run education today by moving away from the traditional methods and pushing for more creativity in the classroom. And by creativity, he isn’t necessarily talking about the teacher’s delivery of a lesson plan. He states that it is crucial to “inspire creativity in students.” He is talking about teaching students to be creative. To think creatively. To act creatively.  He also states, “creativity is as important now in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” Words, which I believe, some teachers would struggle to come to grips with.

God, our Creator, who made us in His image, has given us gifts and talents to use for His glory if we choose to submit to His will for our lives. For us to find out what that will is, I believe we first need to find our passion, which will inevitably lead us to our purpose. None of this happens overnight. The journey is often long, and sometimes those seeds are planted in childhood by persons of significance in the life of the child, i.e. family members or teachers.

I will always remember the impact my grade 5 teacher had on my life. She was kind, creative and caring. What I did mattered to her. I was not just a fish in the sea of the class (which was more like a pond at the small school I attended). I mattered, and my interests mattered. She encouraged me in my passions (particularly in drawing), to the point I can still clearly recollect what it felt like to receive her encouragement back in my primary school days. Thanks to her positive affirmation (along with that of my parents) I was able to place a lasting value on my interest in the arts, even when I entered high school, where suddenly (and unfortunately) creativity was not nearly as important.

Despite this setback, which caused me to put aside my interests for a time to concentrate on the “more important” school work, I eventually came back to it. That seed had been growing there all along. The seed that I believe God placed there, and others (such as my grade 5 teacher) watered and nurtured. I now feel that art and writing are part of the greater purpose God has called me to, and that these gifts He has given me will hopefully inspire others to uncover their passions.

It’s not unlike the feeding of the 5,000. Share what you have, no matter how insignificant some people may think it may be. Our job is to turn up. God’s job is to turn our fishes and loaves into something that will meet the needs of thousands.

If we can share our passion and inspire our students to embrace their own, we don’t know how far that ripple will go. It is never our job to tell a student they are not capable of something, or that their dream is an unrealistic one. If we believe in a God of miracles, then perhaps we need to prove it by daring students to dream big and entrusting those dreams into God’s hands.

ollie sunflowerssunflower

Sir Ken Robinson said, in response to a poem by William B Yeats, “…every day, everywhere, our children spread their dreams under our feet. And we should tread softly.”

Let us not trample the dreams of the students in our care. Let us water the seed of their passion, to help it grow into the plant of their purpose.

Be still and be a blessing

flower petals

When life gets frantic, sometimes, as a teacher or a parent, we can forget why we are here. Reporting season for teachers is a prime example, when the workload becomes a little more hectic than normal. It is in these times we need to remember to nurture our own spiritual well being and look after ourselves. We should also realise that when we do this, we will often be a blessing to our students and our family. Jessica Turner states it perfectly:

Sometimes the job can overwhelm us, and if we focus on all the deadlines and all the to-dos, it can become a little disheartening. If we can just take one step at a time, remembering to take breaks to reflect on the blessings (no matter how small) then hopefully we will make it through relatively unscathed. We need to acknowledge we can only do it all with God’s help, not in our own strength.

We must never forget the passions He has placed in our hearts, no matter how insignificant it may seem in contrast to the pressing deadline of the moment. This season will pass, but His love, His Spirit, His grace and mercy goes on forever. It is all a matter of perspective. If we can rise above, to soar on wings like eagles, then perhaps the birds eye view will help to not feel overwhelmed by the workload. Often, the “soaring on wings like eagles” unknowingly happens, when we are pursuing our passion, and fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives.

If we can also take the time to “be still”, as He reminds us in Psalm 46:10, then the stronger we will be because of His presence and guidance within our hearts.

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Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)

…but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

How to decorate your classroom with fun, colour and love

class wall

In the school where I work, we are incredibly blessed to have access to beautiful, colourful furniture and classrooms with walls brightly painted in all the colours of the rainbow. I believe this makes an incredible difference to the feel of the teaching and learning environment, but I always remind my students that they are incredibly blessed to learn in such a school, as there are few schools in the area that have as much as we do.

When setting up a learning space, there are many things to consider. Students need to know where their belongings live. For Kindy students, we have a personal ‘hat hole’ which also holds their headphones, their daily piece of fruit for crunch ‘n sip time, along with news items, etc. We also have bag tags on the wall so students always know where their bag belongs, and everyone is encouraged to keep this neat and tidy.

A reading corner is an essential area, and students should be able to see where this is the minute they walk into the classroom. I like my area to encourage quiet reading as well as collaborative reading where appropriate and I have a mixture of relaxation chairs and a tent from Ikea (teacher’s paradise) for those students who on occasion may just need some time to themselves.

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I prefer students’ desks to be grouped together, to allow for collaborative work, but I also need students to be able to view our Interactive White Board when necessary. We also have an art/messy play area, where students will use everything from paint, to playdoh and kinetic sand.

What I love most about developing the feel of the classroom is displaying student work and filling the walls with images and words that reinforce love to the students. In order for them to learn at their fullest potential, they need to feel safe, valued and cared for. They need to get excited about their day as they enter the room and they need to know that the environment is one in which they are able to make mistakes without fear of condemnation.

proverbs poster

Albert Einstein once said,

“The only sure way to avoid making mistakes is to have no new ideas.”

I want my students to have the confidence to share new ideas with myself and the class. I do not want them to fear that their answer may be the wrong one. I regularly remind my students that I too make mistakes daily. As humans, we will never be perfect, and we can only strive to do our best in all things.

As 2 Corinthians 12:9 reminds us,

… “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Even as adults we can fear making mistakes to the point it can hinder our own ideas and growth. In everything we do, if we can learn to acknowledge our weakness and rest on Christ’s power, then we are sure to accomplish so much more than we ever could without him.

Children of all ages need to realise this too. They need to feel comfortable in acknowledging their failings and fears, without it controlling their actions. In the classroom, students need hope. They need the four walls around them, along with the teacher standing in it, to remind them that they are of value, their thoughts matter and that they have a unique purpose in the school, in their family and in the world. Their work on the wall affirms this, positive images speak this and encouraging words from their teacher declares this.

One of my Year 1 students once gave me a poster she had created, at the end of a school year. While it has been over 2 years since I taught her, it still hangs proudly on my wall as a reminder to myself and my class of the words it contains from Ephesians 4:25 (MSG).

ephesians poster

This verse reminds us, that we as teachers still need to have a certain level of transparency with our students. They need to know that we are real, that we often feel the same emotions they do, and that we too make mistakes. If your students see you as some kind of all powerful ruler, then you probably have the wrong relationship with them. Children learn more by watching us (parents and teachers alike) than we could ever hope to teach them from a textbook.

So, my advice to you when setting up or refreshing the classroom for your students? Let them feel safe, let them see hope and let them know love. In whatever way you can best express this, then let it shine brightly in your room for all to see.

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Teaching thankful hearts

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In a world where some children are given so much, and others so little, it is hard to teach true thankfulness to those who constantly live with more than they require. Teaching in a private school will always bring the challenges of opening a student’s eyes to appreciate all they have been given and to recognise the blessings that they might frequently overlook. Some children will not even understand the idea of poverty, because the thought of them living, without knowing where the next meal is coming from is such a foreign concept to them. So many children today have so much more than they could really want or need, to the point that they cannot even genuinely appreciate the items that they own, or the experiences that they regularly partake in.

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So, how do teachers teach thankfulness? How do we teach students to appreciate time, gifts, food, nature, shelter and love? While at times I honestly feel that the task is near impossible, I know that with time and persistence, you can help open children’s eyes to the blessings around them, simply by drawing their attention to what they have, and imagining what life would be like without it. I have been personally encouraged and inspired by the book, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. The way she teaches us to be truly thankful in all things (including the small things), is so simple, yet such a daily challenge. When you change your perception of what a blessing is however, you start to appreciate more than you could ever have imagined.

one thousand gifts

In Kindergarten for the last two years, we have used prayer journals and when we begin writing in these journals, it is first and foremost with a ‘thank you.’

“Dear God, thank you for…”

“Dear Jesus, thank you for…”

“Dear Lord, thank you for…”

thank you for   prayer journals   school prayer

After about a term of thanking God for things we then introduce the idea of asking for something or praying for the needs of another. It has been beautiful to observe what students choose to write about and how they craft their prayers. Often they are so caught up in their list of ‘thank yous’ that when it comes to the ‘please’ time, they do not desire to ask God for anything. If my students are at this point, my heart is content, as I know that they are focusing more on praising and thanking God for the blessings that they themselves have identified around them.

Sometimes children need to be reminded that their mums and dads are blessings, that their siblings are blessings, that their school is a blessing, that the fresh, clean water they drink and the lunchbox packed full of food is a blessing. While I am sure some parents often try to remind their children of this at home, parents and teachers alike will realise, that for some reason, what the teacher says will often sink in more! In a Christian school, it is a blessing in itself to be able to freely discuss God and His love for us. Students are in a place where they can truly reflect upon those blessings during a Writing lesson or an Art lesson and can bounce ideas off their peers in discussions and also pray together.

thank you for friends

In Kindergarten, we have just introduced News Groups, a time for Speaking and Listening, where students sit in small groups to share their news, rather than just one person talking to the whole class. There are set topics each day, and this year, we decided to introduce a prayer group session, once a week. Students share their prayer points and then take turns of praying. This time has really been quite beautiful to watch. While some students are discovering their own prayer language, others are quite confident in expressing themselves through praying aloud. What students can learn and how they can grow from just sitting and interacting in this way together is really quite incredible.

For me, as a parent of a child who was a Kindergarten student last year, reading her journal full of prayers at the end of the year was such a special experience, and the journal itself will be a keepsake for years to come. While most of the entries were ‘thank yous’, I recently happened upon one entry written just after the Cross Country a year ago.

It said:

“God, please help me to ran fast.”

Despite the incorrect grammar, I believe God honoured her prayer. While she didn’t even place in the Cross Country last year, this year she actually came first, and by a long shot, much to the amazement of us all! While children need to learn that sometimes God says ‘no’, or ‘wait’, to our prayers, at other times we can celebrate the ‘yeses’. When He does say yes, it is important to celebrate this and remember it as a time when God heard our words and answered.

help me to ran fast

I believe if we can encourage and build up the habit of prayer in our children, it will help to bring forth amazing young men and women who will actually believe in the power of prayer, as we all should. As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 18:3, we need faith like a child if we are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If we can encourage and inspire God’s beloved little children to seek time with Him early in life, how much more will we enable them to live lives enriched by His presence and filled with the realisations of His great blessings.

As Ephesians 3:20 says,

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us… to him be glory… for ever and ever! Amen.

please God