Secrets of Happy Teachers
By Pat Verbal
What really keeps those smiling, zany, highly committed teachers in your ministry coming back for more?
Teachers come in all personality types, from diverse backgrounds, and with very different styles. I’ve seen a quiet, middle-aged, balding man in polyester pants, who at first glance appeared to be a boring instructor, come to life with such animation and excitement about his subject that children were spellbound. I once heard a sweet little grandmother tell beautiful Bible stories to preschoolers as though she’d been doing it all her life. Later, I discovered she’d spent 15 years in jail for embezzlement before she met Jesus at age 55.
But the teachers I’ve enjoyed watching the most are those who don’t think they can teach. They refuse to try teaching a Sunday school class for years. When they’re finally talked into it, they’re pleasantly surprised because they enjoy preparing the lesson, children love them, and everyone can’t wait until next Sunday. For these teachers, the road to teaching is a true adventure. And they have a few secrets to share with all of us.
Happy Teachers Are Adventurous
The thrill of teaching isn’t like a short sprint; it’s more like a marathon. A short sprinter teaches in the same classroom with the same furniture and decorates the same old bulletin board month after month. If the sprinter has taught very long, he or she frequently tells the same stories and grabs the same old lesson plan. Every week, the same “problem” children show up. Where is the adventure in that?
For marathoners, their discipline comes from a deep, inner commitment. They’re in it for the long haul. It reflects a strong desire to be the best they can be. When the alarm signals their 6 a.m. workout, no one needs to pull them out of bed and lace up their track shoes. It’s their personal zest for adventure that spurs them on. In the same way, adventurous teachers do more than the lesson requires. They scrutinize the curriculum to determine if the printed activities will really work for their kids. Then they add new crafts, games, experiences, and devotions because they strongly desire that their students learn all that God has for them.
Are you that adventurous about making an impact on children’s faith? What would it take for you to rediscover the quest?
Secrets Of Adventurous Teachers
* They look for fresh, creative ways to present Bible lessons.
* They sacrifice personal time for lesson preparation.
* They attend training events-even at their expense.
* They search out and invite guests to speak to their class.
* They pray for miracles and watch for results.
* They keep a camera in class for memorable moments.
* They get their class out of the building for fun and service.
* They never stop being a kid themselves.
Happy Teachers Are Affectionate
Someone once said, “If Jesus had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.” That’s where we keep all the most important people’s photos, right? Jesus constantly demonstrated unconditional love for his followers, especially the children.
At the age of 8, I followed Jesus as my Savior at a children’s crusade in my home church in Illinois. My teacher, Miss Kliver, was what some folks called an “old maid.” What I remember most about this gentle lady, though, is our class Christmas parties at her home. We made Christmas houses out of white sugar cubes with pink icing. I don’t know why the icing wasn’t red or green, but I remember the houses because every year she took pictures and gave one to each of us. In 1999, Miss Kliver celebrated her 100th birthday. We all sent cards. The love she freely poured out on us continued to bring her much happiness.
Henrietta Mears was a master teacher with far-reaching influence. Her teaching challenged some of the greatest leaders of our time-evangelist Billy Graham, ministry founder Bill Bright, and author Richard Halverson. Ruth Graham remembered Miss Mears’ love for her students. “I think Miss Mears had the greatest capacity for loving people of almost anyone I .know,” Ruth said. “Some of us talk about love. Miss Mears loved. No wonder God used her!”
On a “Love Scale” from 1 to lO, how would your students describe you? What would it take for you to show your students that love is an action, not simply a word?
Secrets Of Affectionate Teachers
* They pray for wisdom to see each child through Jesus’ eyes.
* They write loving notes to their students.
* They discover each child’s special interest and talk about it.
* They make simple Christmas presents for each child.
* They invite students home for a party.
* They keep their students’ pictures on the refrigerator.
* They’re huggers.
Happy Teachers Are Addicted
Stories of people trapped in a variety of addictions fill today’s news headlines. Each year notable athletes, movie stars, doctors, and politicians enter rehab centers by the thousands. Some are addicted to alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, or the thirst for power. We don’t read much, though, about people addicted to serving others and making
the world a better place. As I’ve heard stories of teachers serving 20, 40, and even 60 years, I’m amazed at how their addiction has shaped so many lives.
Iris Regester began teaching first-grade boys in the 1940s and continued until two weeks before her death at the age of 83. She studied her lesson on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Her 6-year-olds never failed to memorize their Scripture verses and loved quoting them for adult Bible classes. In later years, Mrs. Regester was known for her pocket of Sweet TARTS candy that each child received at the end of class. Mrs. Regester didn’t ask for summers off, and she showed up on holidays. No one was surprised that at her funeral “Jesus Loves Me” was sung; first graders filled the front pew and passed out Sweet TARTS candy following the service. Mrs. Regester was addicted to teaching children, and it became her legacy.
In 20 years of serving as a children’s pastor, I’ve ventured into a few other areas. I thought leading a women’s ministry might be nice. Then I worked several years for a major Christian publisher. I even tried outreach to senior adults. What I learned was that these things weren’t God’s call on my life.
I can painfully recall being stuck in a Los Angeles traffic jam on my way to a sales presentation. After weeks of frustration, I spoke to God aloud in my car, “Lord, I don’t care how many books are in a case or what the ISBN number is! This is just not me!” Immediately, I felt a clear message form in my spirit. It was so powerful that I went home five hours later and wrote it in my prayer journal word for word. The Lord seemed to say, “1 have given you the gift of teaching. Whether you are teaching children or adults with speaking or writing, you will always feel fulfilled.” A few months later, 1 quit my job with the publisher and returned to local church ministry.
Do you know who you are in Christ? Have you surrendered to God’s plan? Are you experiencing contentment in your teaching?
Secrets of Addicted Teachers
* They ask for their materials well ahead of time.
* They keep files on all their lesson aids.
* They wear crazy hats, T-shirts, and smocks.
* They get to class early and stay late.
* They’re constantly rearranging their classroom furniture.
* They spend their money on students.
* They get bored in adult classes because there’s nothing to color or cut out.
* They have nearly perfect attendance.
Whether others call these happy people born teachers or artists, they’re an amazingly diverse group of people with an innate love for children, who are constantly learning how to be even more effective. And any way you look at it, that’s a happy combination.
This article “Secrets of Happy Teachers” by Pat Verbal is excerpted from Children’s Ministry Newsletter, June 2007.