When I first started teaching as a 22-year-old on the south side of Indianapolis, I really needed a mentor. I had a stressful position consisting of teaching three very different subjects to high school students with emotional disabilities. Two of these subjects weren’t my cup of tea, English grammar and pre-algebra, but I was thankful to have a job that I thought paid me handsomely. The students came from rough backgrounds, and I had some difficulty connecting with them. I was driving 30 minutes to work from a wealthier suburb of Indianapolis where I had spent much of my youth. I didn’t share a great deal in common with my students. They considered me to be from the countryside, and compared to their world, I was.
If I could go back two decades and mentor that naïve 22-year-old teacher, one tip I would give him is to carefully consider the kind of person the Master Teacher has made each student to be. You can be well educated and know every teaching strategy in the books, but you will have major challenges if you fail to carefully consider the kind of people your students are. Learn which of your students can create amazing pieces of artwork, which of them know everything about computers, and which of them you’ll always find on a court, field, or in a pool. Keep in mind which students get energized when being alone and which students get energized when they’re working with others. Find out where your students have lived and who their parents are. The more you carefully consider the kind of students you are teaching, the more you can connect with them and impact their learning.
A second tip I have for new teachers is to teach from the Master Teacher’s worldview. It doesn’t matter what subject matter you are teaching, integrate the content with His worldview as is appropriate and natural. When this is accomplished, your students should gain a greater understanding of who the Master is, who He wants us to be, and how we can bring Him the greatest glory. This integration is planned as well as spontaneous. Sometimes opportunities arise that lend themselves to sharing a story, having a meeting, or simply spending time with your students outside of the classroom. Additionally, have classroom policies and procedures that are filled with grace and truth.
The third and last tip I have is simple, but important. Be sure to find time to rest and relax. Teaching can be a demanding profession, and it’s important that you don’t spend every waking hour writing lesson plans and grading papers. This is a mistake I’ve made, and a mistake I’ve seen a number of other teachers make. We are designed to take breaks and experience joy. Genesis 2:2-3 shows us that rest is important. The Master rested not because He was tired, but to give us a standard to follow. Rest in Him and trust that the Master will take care of us.