Mrs. Chasteen was my 11th grade trigonometry teacher. I was a perpetual underachiever in junior and senior high school. I squeaked by and passed ninth grade. Tenth grade was better for me. Then I arrived in Mrs. Chasteen’s class. I made very good grades in her class. She pulled me aside one day and had a little talk with me. She told me that I could be in the Advance Placement (AP) class if I would simply try. She thought that I was capable just lazy. Mrs. Chasteen was also my pastor’s wife. She challenged me to no longer settle for mediocrity and apply myself. The next year, thanks to my teacher, I took AP calculus and passed the AP exam with a score of 4 out of 5. I learned to have some confidence in my God-given abilities. I also learned the value of hard work.
Teachers make a huge difference in the lives of young people. Teachers have an underappreciated vocation. I had a bad attitude about my teachers when I was a kid. Milton Berle said: “Some kids want to know why the teachers get paid when it’s the kids who have to do all the work!” There was a time when I thought the same thing. Mrs. Chasteen changed that. She inspired me.
There are more teachers in America than any other vocation. The teachers and the students are getting ready to start school. Derek Bok said: “If you think education is expensive- try ignorance.” We have too much ignorance already. As school starts, I have a little advice for teachers, parents, and students.
Every child is special. I have the privilege of pastoring a church with a Christian Academy. I have watched our faculty for fourteen years. My sons attended and graduated from our Christian school. Do not give a child regular treatment. Give every child special treatment because every child is special. I expected my sons to get special treatment because they were the Pastor’s sons. I expected our other pastor’s children to receive special treatment. For that matter, I believed that every child deserved special treatment. Teachers make a child feel valued and respected in ways that parents can not. Likewise, teachers can deflate, discourage, and devalue a child in such a way as to crush their spirit. Great teachers treat every child the same because every child is special to great teachers.
Speak up to children instead of down to them. Speak of where the young person can and could be if they worked at it instead of where they are. God called Gideon a mighty man of valor although he was threshing wheat down in a cellar because of fear. God spoke to where he could be not where he was. Mrs. Chasteen spoke up to me and her words created vision in me. Unfortunately, many of the children come from distressed families and are so needy. These precious little ones need someone to believe that God has placed greatness in them.
Every day is for excellence. Teachers and students have to bring their best to school everyday. Teaching is a grind. On occasion, a teacher will be phenomenal in August but terrible in April because they fail to have energy for everyday. The Lord deserves your best. Veteran teachers have the benefit of experience but experience can serve as an excuse for halfhearted effort. Teach bell to bell with the best effort possible. A teacher never knows which day will be the most important, which conversation will change a life, or which lesson will move a young person. Mrs. Chasteen did not know that one conversation would impact my life by inspiring me to excellence throughout as it did. She was bringing her best every day.
My prayer for our Christian school teachers, public and private school teachers, and home educators is that this year would be a joy, that they would not grow weary in well doing, and that they could see fruit from their labors. May the grace of God sustain them as they minister on the front lines in our sin broken cities and struggling communities with such meager resources. May the teachers always find encouragement and support in the churches. May this year be the best year!