I know. Many of us look at March as the center of all that could be wrong. Holidays are over and the end is far away. People complain because if they don’t complain now, it will be too late soon. Kids are tired of school. But worse, we are too and are hanging on for spring break or end of the year.
Here are ten reasons March is a wonderful time of year in school.
Number 10. It isn’t April yet. T.S. Eliot wrote in “The Waste Land”
“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”
So many interpretations. Many think Eliot was talking about hope not fulfilled. The struggle of shaking the past and moving to desire, the hopes and joys of the future that aren’t quite there.
It seems almost obscene to apply this verse to school, but so goes the school year as goes the struggle in the poem. April might be worse, if you let it. March is the month to start planting seeds about life and joy, and not let those around us get stuck on what might have been and what wasn’t, but what is and what will be. And, be glad it isn’t April yet?
Number 9. Seems so trivial after Eliot, but “March Madness.” Have fun. We had “March Mustache Madness” and had senior boys win prizes for the best mustache. Play the ball games at lunch on a big screen. Embrace the world and add to it.
March Madness helps sidetrack mad students, whether they are mad upset or mad a-little-crazy.
Number 8. Learning time. What month of the year holds more promise for learning? By now students should be in routines and able to grab and understand ideas much faster than the start of the year.
Distractions are few, hunker down and learn big time. Remind students of how much they have learned so far and how brilliantly they are learning now. March is about the best possible month for learning, if we use it and don’t start saying poor me.
Number 7. Delight in the doldrums. Sometimes March is a time of doldrums. Doldrums were trade winds that just quit, and sailing ships were stuck. Maybe for weeks. While it got old, sailors could catch up on work, rest, and play.
Instead of it being a sour, sad, and sluggish time stuck in the middle of no where in the school year, delight in it. Rest between holidays and before the crazy last weeks. Rejoice in God’s goodness that there is a quiet time. Reflect on the good things of the year with students and teachers. Reinvent focus to remember the year and plan the end. It is only as sad and sour as we let it be. Don’t let hearts get stuck, give them a joy in the moment and excitement about what is coming.
Number 6. Consider calling. March can be dangerous, if we want the status quo. Weariness and the weight of burdens leftover from the start to now can cause people to ask if the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence. Certainly it is still brown here.
But, there needs to be a season, a time, to rethink call. Is this the place God wants me? March is not enamored with the beginning and holidays, nor the end celebrations. It is a good time to soberly reflect on personal commitments. There is nothing wrong with everyone thinking about their future, because we come out of it with fresh conviction that this is where God has called us. We need March to reflect on why we are here.
Number 5. Relationship building. March is ripe for school leaders and teachers to spend some of that energy that was used for fall and spring events, sports, and holidays, and shift it to people. There is usually a pause in the programs, so people can get more attention.
Walk around and say hello. Instead of hiding in offices or workrooms, spread good cheer. Seriously. March is great for creating sweet, short “I care about you” discussions. And, walking around will help those inclined to making March a time of morose, not able to. Presence in public areas and surprises in private ones builds good things and stops moronic ones.
Number 4. Next year now. March is perfect time to think about the next school year. Give everyone hope by exploring ideas for the future. Help seniors enjoy the process of finalizing college stuff.
March is the last month to really focus on plans for next year so they can happen. There is time to get people on board, to figure out money, and to start making decisions. Share the hopes for next year to build excitement. Get ready. Before the craziness of spring hits. And, use seniors for ideas for next year so they have a part. March is great for planning. Spring is crazy. Summer is coming.
Number 3. Finger in the dike plans. Remember the little boy who saved a city by putting his finger in a hole in the dike? If he pulled it out, the water flows and breaks the edges more, bringing more water and forces, ripping off more pieces. Soon the wall collapses and the city drowns.
Use March to look at the holes that might be creeping in and patch them. It is way too early to start slipping on routines and discipline. March is the perfect month to fix holes. And, to learn to stick fingers in holes as the weather warms. So we keep the structures and routines steady until the brutal end of the year. So learning happens to the end and we aren’t drowned. March is time to get ready to have a great spring.
Number 2. Smell the flowers. They are poking up in many places. Look for them. Look for surprises. Get out of your classrooms and offices and see what God is doing beyond your walls. Pull a Robin Williams “carpe diem,” stand on the desk and “Seize the days, boys. Make your life extraordinary.” Keep fresh, freshness is here and coming. Feel it. Enjoy the warm breezes and the smells.
March is a time to look high and stand in the wind. To feel rain drops. To be released from the confines of winter. To think again about being extraordinary. But, it takes adults who will make themselves get up and look around and enjoy God’s gifts. And to help students know the gifts they have that need opened. Gift enjoying is contagious.
Number 1. Celebrate new life. March is the transition from death to life. From cruelness and no hope, to celebration and hope. March can be hard, because as spring reminds us of the death and resurrection of Jesus, death is first. March can still be about death, and cruel. A reminder of what was done to Jesus.
But, March is the transition to life. As flowers grow and leaves bud, life wins. March is a life month, often the moment of the year where life overcomes and hope becomes real. March is a great month to turn our thoughts to eternal life through Jesus, and how He conquered death so it no longer has a hold on His children. March reminds us of new life in Him.
What we do with March is about attitude.
As are most things.
As we enter spring, most of us produce several important events that mean the world to parents and students. Graduations, assemblies, honors nights, concerts, plays, celebrations, services. The list goes on.
Each event is hugely important to someone, especially parents and students. We want it to be good for them. We want to avoid the anger and sadness and restoration needed if it isn’t done right. We want events to reflect excellence and bring glory to God.
What can we do to make events great, to have moms and dads and staff say “That was wonderful”?
What is the key to putting on great events and programs?
At the end of the night, an event should be beautiful. God brought order from disorder in creation, and it was good. Most labor in our world is to bring order and to build, to make something beneficial and beautiful out of things and people. Everything from events and trips to organizations and families. In our different occupational fields, each full of thorns and thistles and sweat and pain, making beauty out of the broken pieces is our job. If feet can be beautiful when they bring “good news of good things” (Romans 10:15) so can your event!
I said that most work is “to make something beneficial and beautiful.” They aren’t the same. Beneficial is helpful and brings value to people. But, even though it gets the job done, it is mundane. It is not memorable and creates little feeling. Applause does not break out.
Why should we stop with beneficial when an event can be beautiful? Why stop with just getting the job done when our offices, our gardens, our schools, and our families can be beautiful and touch lives.
Beauty is “The quality that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations, a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).” We know beautiful. It moves us, it changes us, it encourages us.
But, we often don’t know why we are moved. Beauty is subtle. Trying too hard to be beautiful by simply adding flash is gaudy. A lady who overuses makeup is not beautiful, even though she is trying. A movie that uses every theatrical device possible becomes a display of the devices and distracts from the beauty of the story. Beauty in an event is not achieved by using all the techniques you can squeeze in, it is achieved by very purposeful planning and work, and often requires the hard work of cutting rather than adding.
Beauty is done behind the scenes, with great work and effort. It does not happen by chance and is not as easy as it may look by those attending. Inordinate amounts of time on the smallest points help create beauty. What makes a flower beautiful? The distant view of color and lines attracts. But, a flower stands the test of an up-close view, the six inch look at detail, ordered and balanced and endlessly deep.
Beauty is not skin deep, beauty is soul deep.
And, it takes work. There are no easy roads to beauty. But, there are ideas that will help. Here are some ways to make a program or an event (or a business, organization, or family) beautiful:
- Know your goal. Is it to get through the event with no problems or to touch everyone involved? Clarify what a successful event does to people, not just what it looks like. Then aim for it.
- Plan, plan again, plan more. Even if there are chunks of informal time, plan so they happen the way they should, setting the right tone and situation where it feels and is in formal. Plan with a group. The larger the event, the more times to meet. Don’t trust yourself or an online discussion. Face to face. A group of us met several times for past graduations and every time found something to fix or add.
- Time it carefully. Give every part and transition a time frame. Test it, make sure it is right. We just had an event where a slide show went 30 minutes that was supposed to be 12; this mistake ruined the end of a great event. Make sure. Don’t assume.
- Control. Add up times of the parts, and keep it all under 90 minutes except for very special reasons (most people are happy under 90; we had a rule that no public event is over 90 minutes without administrative approval). Have a way to control or change if someone or something goes long.
- Balance. Not symmetrical, a picture has balance when one large item is on one side and three small on the other. Use a mix in your event, avoid symmetry or equal parts. Look for balance.
- Discord. Every part doesn’t have to be sweet. Planned tension draws attendees in and lets them feel relief and joy more deeply.
- Begin well. You have heard this. Start on time, grab them, show them that they are about to experience something special that is worth their time. Warm up with a prelude, sounds, images. Surprise them on the way in, in the halls, even in the parking lot.
- End well. Have the closure nailed. As a Recreation major in college, one of the things I learned is to “quit while they want more.” Don’t give away everything you have. End. Especially with a celebration or a statement or a conclusion. Notice how scenes in plays often end with a “picture moment.” Give those.
- Practice. There is no excuse for not practicing until it is right. Practice the informal times, make sure they work. Practice transitions. Use experienced people in key places when you can. Make sure every part works and it all works together.
- Value added. Give something extra. Flowers. A card in their seat. A song, always a song when coming in. A booklet about the participants. A slide show. Surprise them. Beautiful food dishes are garnished, so are events. Give them something to carry out.
- Pray. God says trust. Anticipate every problem you can think of, and make plans for them. But, pray. “The mind of man makes his plans, but God directs his steps.” We work. He is in control.
- Sit. Literally or figuratively, go sit in your audience’s seat. Walk in the way they will walk in. Think how it will feel and what will make it great to them. Think of individuals and pretend you are someone you know. What will make this a beautiful event for him or her?
I am not an expert on beauty. But, I have begun to understand that an event can be beautiful if it is done in a way that doesn’t show itself off, but is a gentle gift to those attending. It takes them to places they haven’t been and they won’t forget. Beauty happens when the effort to be beautiful isn’t noticed, and that takes more planning and work than just getting it done. Why settle for beneficial when your event can be beautiful?
How else can we create beauty?
If your dashboard has a yellow warning light (hopefully not red!) telling you that great, living biblical worldview is not impacting students in all subjects and all grades, here are three places to check in the engine.
The Intellectual. The Isolated. The Inept.
Of course, there could be something else, like your computer is out or there is a short in your dashboard, but you start somewhere figuring out the problem. When you open the hood, start with these.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being intellectual. After all, I am talking about schools here and we traffic in knowledge and truth. But, if “intellectual” is all there is, if biblical worldview is just about ideas in the head, great biblical worldview is not happening.
Great biblical worldview is about life, about the truth of the world through God’s eyes changing whole people: mind, body, spirit, emotion, motivation, decisions.
Consider Deuteronomy 6 where Moses says that “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.” Being on your heart is about being changed and following God’s desires in life. Words affect heart which affects action.
Or, Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” And, the verse before talks about our bodies.
The renewed mind proves the will of God by doing what is good and acceptable and perfect. It makes us transformed as a whole person, not conformed. We aren’t talking about ideas only here.
Or, my favorite: 1 Corinthians 8:1, from the NIV, “But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” Another version says that “knowledge makes arrogant.”
If you have ever puffed up a balloon, you understand that you really can get a big head if knowledge isn’t matched with love. And, love compels us to action doing the best for others in life. Not just intellect. Intellect in life and love.
Great biblical worldview is not about ideas only. It is about truth that changes lives and living. Seeing and living in a class, a subject, and a world through God’s eyes.
Every time a teacher starts class with a devotion then teaches the rest of the class without God’s view, students think His truth is only for some things—this is not biblical worldview. Every time a teacher inserts a verse because it is on a list to use and doesn’t make it live (God’s Word, after all, is living and active and sharper than a two edged sword) but remains a side note, students learn that God’s Word is a band aid.
Great, living biblical worldview is not a checklist and it is certainly not to be kept in a box and only brought off the shelf at the appropriate time. It is alive! We need to let it out, let it roam around and impact all that we teach and how we teach it.
All truth, properly studied and deeply studied, will lead us to a deeper understanding of God, drawing us to truths from Scripture about Him and life His way.
God’s truth of the world unifies all truth and ultimately it all points to Him and should draw us to Him.
Colossians 1 and 2 are full of the connection between truth and Jesus and life. For example, in 2:3 speaking of Jesus, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Not some. All.
And, as 1:17: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” The more we understand Jesus and the deeper we know truth and see the world from God’s view, the more we understand that He holds it all together. He brings unity.
Great biblical worldview is never an isolated verse or activity, but brings unity to all disciplines and life, and when pursued deeply points to the depth and breadth of a great God.
Kind of hate to say it this way, but it is true. (And, it is another word that starts with “I.”) Great biblical worldview is not going to happen with inept teachers.
A teacher who does not have ability to teach and the commitment to love God, love students, and love subject will not create great Biblical worldview in his or her class or subject.
It is the love that drives a pursuit of knowledge of God, of students and teaching, and of subject. If you are in love, you want to know everything. You can’t stop wanting to learn more. A teacher with ability and love will create great biblical worldview.
These three loves drive a passion that students see and feel, a passion that comes across in class for the living God and seeing the world, life, and subject through His eyes. A passion that draws students to love God and even to love the subject, to pursue learning more about God and His views because they are real and life changing in the teacher.
A teacher who cannot or will not pursue learning is inept, not qualified to teach and certainly not qualified to make biblical worldview great.
2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
It takes diligence to be approved and handle truth well.
I run into a lot of teachers who don’t think they know enough about God and His view of life and the world to teach with a biblical worldview. Maybe they don’t, but many sell themselves short. They know a lot and should not be afraid to bring God’s view and His truth into any situation or subject.
They may need to get over the idea that they have to know everything before they can use what they know. That is pride. Basically the more I know about God, the more I know how much I don’t know. They need to use what they have and know. And keep growing, with heart and passion in their knowledge of God, and students, and their subjects.
They don’t have to know everything but do have to use what they know. They have to be a living example of a person in love with God, and with students and subject, who is learning and growing, and draws students along in the adventure. That makes a great biblical worldview teacher.
If you bring your car to my garage because of a warning light, I would check out these three problems first. Intellect alone. Isolated ideas. Inept learning.
What then? Well, fix the problem. Whatever it takes.
Or, your engine eventually will quit.
(To pursue some of this further, let me encourage you to look at Building Biblical Worldview: The Three Loves on Amazon Kindle or here: buildingbiblicalworldview.com.)
Last week we joined family to honor the passing of my Father-in-law by visiting the places he enjoyed in the Bay area of California. His favorite restaurants were high on the list.
When we went into a restaurant we hoped for great food and atmosphere. And, we wanted a server who would take care of us. Someone we could trust while we relaxed and enjoyed each other and the blessing.
We had that experience in most. Places like Harris’ in downtown San Francisco and Fentons Creamery in Oakland. We were warmly welcomed and made comfortable. Then, the servers connected with us quickly, helped us navigate the menu, listened to what we said, and quickly brought things like water and bread. They watched and met our needs comfortably through the meal.
Even when there were small gaps of time, we knew that the servers were watching out for us and would be there soon. We didn’t need to worry about it at all. We didn’t strain our necks looking for them. They would do their best for us which they made clear from the beginning.
We had some wonderful times in great places.
But, a Bad One
On the other hand, we had a not-so-good experience in Carmel at a somewhat historic fish restaurant (not a restaurant on my Father-in-law’s list.) We were warmly welcomed, but our server was slow, unapologetic, and basically went through a checklist of phrases and “How is everything?” with a smile that wasn’t real and said, “I am doing my job, but I don’t really care about you.”
We had to ask two or three other employees to bring us things that our server didn’t get around to. We had to keep looking around, and looking out for ourselves.
Throughout the evening, our conversation had an undertow of having to take care of ourselves and be a little pushier than we would like. Our server did not earn our trust.
She said the right things. But, she knew and we knew we couldn’t trust her to take care of us.
Eager to Trust our Server
When we walked into a restaurant, there were a few things we wanted. Of course, a great atmosphere and food were important.
But, what we really wanted, and what set apart the great ones from the mediocre, was our trust in the server to take care of us.
We were eager to trust. To relax. To know we were in good hands. That someone had our best interest in mind, not just going through the motions but genuinely communicating and demonstrating care. For us, as a group and as individuals.
It happened! Almost all of the time.
Everyone is Eager to Trust
Isn’t this true in our relationships? That we want to trust the other person? We come into any situation—personal, business, social—hoping that we can count on the other person to have our best interests in mind.
To not just go through the motions (we can tell, can’t we?). But to care for us well, to sincerely say and do those little things that show us we can trust (again, we can tell, can’t we?).
We are all eager to trust.
Parents want to trust teachers. Teachers want to trust principals. Employees want to trust bosses. Children want to trust parents. Spouses want to trust each other. Parents want to trust children.
If we want our _________ to have a great experience (fill in the blank), we have to create trust.
How to Create Trust
Here are five keys to creating trust, so the people you serve have a great experience and don’t feel the need to be pushy or loud to have their needs met. Experiences where they can relax, know they are cared for, and be wholly engaged in what they are doing.
- Connect early and authentically. Most people remember the beginning and end of anything more than the middle. Make the beginning great. Let them know you are there, who you are, and how you will be caring for them. For teachers, a welcome note and scheduled meetings with parents. For principals, from day one, make sure teachers know who can help and that you are there for them by words and actions. As with servers, adjust what you say: some want to know more about you, and others less. Be authentic, but not intrusive as you connect, according to their lead.
- Make it easy for them. Put yourself in their place. What do they need to know? What do they already know? How will this work? What is the time frame? What will you do for them? Explain and help, but don’t talk down or over their heads. Friendly, clear, and helpful. How can you make their experience working or living better? What junk can you get rid of? (Clear those dirty dishes quickly!) What processes can you streamline? What can you do to help them engage in what they are doing with minimal distraction?
- Do what you say you will do. There is nothing more powerful in creating trust than doing what you say you are going to do. If you can’t do it, get someone else to or talk to them about the problem. You also have to do what isn’t said, to understand and meet assumptions that are not stated but are normal. Are you intuitive? Are you aware of what people you serve assume? Keep their coffees filled. That is assumed and should never be overlooked. And, they should never have to ask. What expectations do those you serve have? You need to do them, too.
- Listen, notice, and differentiate. I got a good education word in there: “differentiate.” Hear what people say, not what you think they said. Study them, notice what they—no, each one—is like and has tendencies toward. Some drink their water faster; be there. Watch body language. Overhear comments. Spy on the people you serve to know what they need and how each is different. Even in meals, each person is different. Figure out how to make each person you serve special as you adjust what you do and how you do it for each. Trust is in the details.
- Surprise them. Wow them. Chef Choa in Moraga not only brought us fortune cookies, but half oranges cut up to end our meal. Harris’ Steak House brought my wife a beautiful vegetarian plate, not on the menu (do you only operate with policy, or find ways to serve each one). Fentons brought plates overflowing with chips and sundaes gushing as hot fudge dripped to the plate underneath. What can you do to surprise or wow those you serve? Not all of the time, but enough that they know you care and can trust you to do your best and more for them, each one. In one school, we all got birthday greetings from our head on the back of his business cards: sounds hokey, but the notes were sweet and he did it every time. We remembered. Those you serve will remember, too.
I could make another list, of things not to do. But, all you have to do is think about bad service in a restaurant or by a boss or a teacher and you can make your own list.
People you serve really want to trust you, they are eager for it. If you are there for them, authentically and not because you have to or just to look good. They will know. If you follow up in details and treat each one with respect as individual people, they will trust you.
The Harris’ website says it well: “Our service is attentive but not intrusive, and our guests can rely on the utmost attention to detail.”
They did it. We relaxed and trusted them. We could wholly engage with each other and our special time.
Let’s do the same. For parents we serve, teachers we serve, employees we serve.
They are eager to trust us. Let’s do it, so they can flourish in what they do as they count on us.
The Power of Call
A commitment. No, a conviction that I am in the right place doing what I should be doing.
A conviction to mission.
A conviction that brings peace and courage.
A conviction that you have what it takes, by God’s grace, to fulfill the mission. Even when things are hard, which they will be sometimes.
A conviction that pushes you to be “all in,” to live abundantly and love deeply, to grow and learn instead of holding back because you aren’t sure this is what you are supposed to be doing.
A conviction that you are fulfilling the “good works which God has prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
Contracts and Call
The call. Especially timely in the weeks ahead as teachers consider contracts for the next school year. Or, anyone who is in a change of life, or thinks she or he should be.
Knowing you are called makes the hard work of teaching possible. When the weight of eternal impact and battle to keep going bear down, you don’t give up. You know you were called.
Being called doesn’t mean knowing everything, as Abraham found. He went as God said, but didn’t know the end. It means following God’s lead in your life, best you can. Then trusting Him as you go about your work, not losing heart, but with joy and love and overflowing.
You know that this is where you are meant to be.
For teachers, your call to teach, and to the place you go, are foundations that cannot be chiseled away, but serve you well as granite foot holds to stand and change lives.
How to Know Call
We each have a story that God writes. Your story of how you got to where you are will be different than mine. At each step we prayed, we looked at God’s Word, we talked a lot, and Dana and I had full agreement.
But, there are some other details from three moves in our story that might help as you think about call.
One. While in Dallas, I literally had a phone call from Iowa (thought it was Idaho at first) that I didn’t expect. The seminary had sent my name without me knowing. Every part of the process clicked. We had a list of things that were important and dreams—they were all there. We loved the people and the work. We were there 14 years.
Sometimes we can see a call because it comes out of the blue, a surprise. Sometimes you make a list and see what God does. Then the pieces in the process flow together easily. And, the place seems just right.
Two. When we moved from Iowa to Illinois, my son finally had to say, “What do you need, Dad, a neon sign?” Things were good, I didn’t want to go. But, God put tons of circumstances in our path, over a year. He even had three specific reasons we should leave come to my mind while walking and pleading. The next day, a high school girl told me the same three things. She “just thought of them.”
We left. It was hard. But, we were called. God uses circumstances. We talked to trusted counselors, some in other cities. We looked at giftedness. God sometimes invades our thoughts. And, sometimes affirms those thoughts. If we are willing to listen. Which seems to happen for me more outside, in the woods. Where do you listen?
Three. I had a growing unrest in my work in Illinois. I was ready for something different and more. We looked at the website in Little Rock and studied the school—it had everything we hoped for. I called, the day before the job was being taken off the web. We loved every part of the process of hiring.
Sometimes God plants an unease in us, if it is time to go. Sometimes He gives us a heart for something bigger or different, that we can’t shake. Again, the pieces clicked. There was miraculous timing. There was no striving, just being free to be us as we interviewed and came. It was hard, again, in some ways. But, awesome.
These worked, for some big moves. God gave us conviction in our call to serve where He wanted us to be, for that season. But, it doesn’t always play out that way.
A Life of Calling
God calls us and leads each of us in different ways, sometimes with the ways He did for our family. Sometimes not. Here are three suggestions as you look for His call in your story.
- Seek Him and His lead, daily. Most of the time following Him that day will be about loving someone or asking Him for strength, looking in the Bible. If your pattern is to look for His lead in the small things, He will help you in the large, either show you or give you peace not knowing.
- Use both sides of the coin. Do you have “permission” to leave where you are, have you done all you can do or do you have to go? And, the other side, are you drawn somewhere else? If in doubt, make sure both are true. You are released and you are drawn.
- Live abundantly. A lot of the times, things are not clear. Live fully and wholeheartedly where you are, giving your all and loving well now. His call is always about Jesus in you and how you live and think, even if the specific job or place is fuzzy. If it isn’t clear, use God’s Word and wisdom, and live. And, always, faith.
I love the end of the Gospel of John. Peter was walking with Jesus. Peter looked around, saw John, and asked “Lord, and what about this man?”
Jesus said, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”
That is His call. For each of us. To follow Him. Sometimes to not know where, but to follow Him, every day. Best we can with what we know, especially from His Word.
You will be in the right place to love deeply and to serve well, with courage and joy. And, to hear His call.
If you haven’t thought about your call, the conviction of where you should be, now is a good time to pause and pay attention, to listen. To see if God will lead you to know before you sign a contract or commitment. His placement service is awesome.
In faith, He will put you in places that are good, to fulfill you call.
(This piece is adapted from a chapter in 10 Keys to Powerful Faculty Growth, a book in the works. For a free copy, go to RootedSchools.org)
“They are leaning!” The Head of School was watching her teachers working in groups at a recent faculty workshop where I was speaking. The teacher engagement with each other was obvious.
Because I had a clip ready to show that afternoon from “While You Were Sleeping.” About leaning. I thought maybe I had mentioned it to the Head, but hadn’t. (I love it when God does things that way.)
“While You Were Sleeping”
My favorite part of the movie is when Jack and Lucy are outside her apartment on New Year’s Eve, and Jack is upset that Joe Jr. had been “leaning.”
Lucy has no idea what this means, so Jack explains how “leaning” is different than hugging.
He says, “Hugging’s very different. Hugging—that involves arms and hands; and leaning is whole bodies moving in like this. Leaning involves wanting… and accepting.”
Then, Jack is interrupted by Joe Jr., who asks Lucy if Jack is bothering her, “Because it looks like he’s leaning.”
Try something. If you are sitting or standing, sit or stand straight. Now pretend there is a person across from you who has bad breath. Or, a bad attitude.
Notice how you lean back. Just a little, often an inch or two.
But, now imagine the person across from you is important to you, and saying important things. That you accept them and care.
Notice how you lean forward. Just a little. Maybe just an inch or two.
But, that little bit is enough for all of us, including the person, to know how you feel about them and the situation.
Love God, Love Students, Love Subject
In our workshop, we were talking about loving God, loving students, and loving subject. To help ground biblical worldview. And, we were talking about how you do it.
Some simple advice?
Lean. Lean into love.
Make a choice to love God’s way. Doing your best for the other person. And, letting them know you are there for them. That you care and are on their side.
Lean, even just a little.
I know this isn’t the same as loving God with your whole person, all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind, as Jesus said.
But, if you are having trouble loving, especially people or your subject, choose to lean. Start there. Into their lives and ideas.
A lean is a big deal, it is totally different than standing straight or leaning back.
What Happens When You Lean
If you lean to love, God’s way, here are some things you will find.
- Leaning brings a reaction, either a lean away from you or a lean toward you. Love God’s way always affects people.
- Leaning is messy. The moment you move that inch, you are entering their space and lives. Because you care. Love, God’s way, is messy because it is for messy people.
- Leaning is noticed. People around you will be amazed and sometimes hard on you, if you lean into the hard to love. Think Zacchaeus in the tree and Jesus asking to have dinner with him.
- Leaning shows you care. You care enough to really listen. You care enough to help or discipline, whatever is good for the other person.
- Leaning gives away. Love God’s way almost always involves sacrifice. When you lean, you give up something else. A focus one way, gives up a focus somewhere else. It takes a part of you.
- Leaning requires strength. Leaning into the easy to love is simple. Leaning into the hard to love requires knowing how much God loves you, and has given up for you. We love because He first loved us.
Obviously, this isn’t really about leaning. It is about love, God’s way.
It’s about making small choices to love. Being aware that we make choices, and leaning into love.
God’s big two are to love Him and love people. If you add loving your subject, you will find power in your classroom and create naturally powerful biblical worldview, a view of life and truth and the world through God’s eyes that is real and fueled by love.
If in Doubt, Lean
Into love. It is messy because it is real and about people. And, might catch you some grief like Lucy had.
But, love God’s way is what life is about.
And, leaning is a great beginning.
Ask someone if they have leaned today. And, see where that conversation goes.
We watched The Martian this weekend. Watney so wanted those potatoes to grow. But, he couldn’t hurry them. He could help them be healthy and strong, but not grow them faster no matter how well he treated them. Even though his life depended on it.
I was in a small group that met regularly. I wanted so much to not go over the details of life issues again. Why did they take so long to learn how to handle these things?
There is a lot of discussion out there about how hard young children are pushed in school. If we work harder and focus more, can’t they all learn to read well before first grade? If our school is going to have better scores, surely the students can learn earlier if we try harder.
I used to have teachers who seemed so slow to implement any new idea. Couldn’t I just tell them and expect them as adults to get and use it? Some could, so all should. Right?
My list can go on, the times where I just want people to get it sooner, to grow. Or grow up. What is their problem?
“Just, hurry up and grow! Let’s get on with it.”
Most of the time when I feel that way, when I feel frustrated with someone who I think should know by now, I am frustrated because it affects me. It messes up my agenda. It takes me more time and energy. To support, to direct, to listen.
I want them to hurry up and grow because it is harder for me and for my plans when they don’t.
I think there is a reason that God puts “patient” first in His list that describes love in First Corinthians 13.
Love is patient.
I live and operate in a Western culture that wants things done. I want everyone to solve their problems and move on. I want meetings to get finished with conclusions instead of hearing all of the concerns and teaching those who don’t get it. I want Kindergarten students to read so we are ready for the next step, instead of waiting for them to be ready.
When I think about The Martian and his potatoes (and me), here is what I know:
- Growth takes time. I can help it be healthy and do its best, but growth still takes place in its own time, whether plants or people. You can’t hurry it.
- Growth is messy. It takes fertilizer and pruning and tending. So do people, they need to talk and think and take two steps forward and one back. They need to dig in their dirt sometimes before their roots go deep and they grow.
- Growth is out of my control. As the Proverb says, “The mind of man makes his plans, but God directs his steps.” I don’t think anyone knows what really causes growth. We can describe it but not control it.
- I am too often not patient, a reflection of my culture, but no excuse. Which means I think I can hurry it up and make growing happen. I think I am in control. So I am not patient when they don’t grow as fast as I think they should. But, love is about what is best for the other person not my agenda.
- The problem is mine most of the time, not theirs. My frustration for slow growth is about me, and my need to give a list and get it done. But, people require time to grow and learn. A checklist gets something done, but not growth.
- I hurt them if I push. I can’t hurry growth. I can’t hurry a Kindergarten student to read, not matter what I expect or do. All I do if I push harder and expect someone to grow faster than they can is to create anxiety, a belief that they can’t grow, and a real likelihood that they will give up. Why try when you can’t?
- God causes growth. We do our part, but He causes growth. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6). I need to do my part with patience. And trust God to grow in His time. That is His part. And, I need to let Him change me. The real problem.
- God is so patient with me. It would help if I would think about how incredibly patient God is with me. Decades of dead areas that haven’t grown in my life and He still loves me. Why do I expect more from others?
When my group needs more time to talk about needs, what do I do? Or, a child needs time and maturity to learn to read? Or, a teacher to understand a new idea? What do I do?
Pushing harder isn’t going to help and will damage them. They may give up.
What I can do is love them. Do what is best for them. And, wait. If I love, I will wait until growth happens. I will be there to feed and encourage. I will be there to celebrate. But, I won’t be saying, “Hurry up.”
It won’t work anyway.
Patience, according to God’s timing of growth. The One who is in control. “Hurry up and grow” is a symptom of a culture that thinks we can be in charge of everything, that we can make anything happen if we try harder and push more.
But some things won’t to do that. Like potatoes. And, people.
Lucy discovered Narnia by going through the wardrobe.
If we don’t uncover new ideas and find our own Narnias, we are not worthy of leading and teaching.
We lead and teach because we have somewhere to take people. Certainly the standard container of ideas and practices are normal and expected. Even Lucy knew about life on this side of Narnia and how to live it. That is expected.
But, if we want to take people somewhere they haven’t been, if we want to have students passionate and joyful about learning, we have to go to Narnia. Beyond the expected to the unexpected.
Regularly. Maybe every day. We have to learn beyond the textbook paragraphs and what somebody tells us about leading and teaching. We need the edges and glimpses that others don’t see, that keep our love for learning fresh and make us people worth learning from. Passionate about a learning that is joyful and takes us to new places on our own, not just what someone has already done and said.
How did Lucy do it?
- She didn’t go with the crowd. “Nothing there!” said Peter, and they all trooped out again—all except Lucy.” The others saw an empty room except for one big wardrobe. Lucy saw a wardrobe worth opening. What is everyone walking by in your world?
- She opened the door. Even though she thought it would be locked, she tried it. What do you think is locked to you, that you haven’t even tried?
- She stepped in. First she looked, smart idea. The furs attracted her. She had the courage to go into the furs that brought her pleasure. What would you love to be in the middle of? Why not get in the middle of it?
- She kept going when things were odd. “She took a step further in—then two or three steps—always expecting to feel woodwork…but she could not feel it.” Where she thought there were walls, there weren’t. Instead of stopping because it was weird, she kept going. What are you analyzing too much instead of moving forward? What imagined walls stop you?
- She kept going even though she was scared. “Lucy felt a little frightened, but she felt very inquisitive and excited as well.” Do we let fear stop us instead of letting excitement and an inquisitive heart draw us forward?
- Ten minutes changed her life. From the lamppost, “she could still see the open doorway of the wardrobe, and even catch a glimpse of the empty room from which she had set out.” The lamppost was only ten minutes away. She kept her bearings with the lamppost. You will need to go back, but a ten minute journey to the lamppost changed Lucy’s life. What ten minutes today could be life changing for you?
- Strange creatures appeared. She heard steps. “And soon after that a very strange person stepped out from among the trees into the light of the lamppost.” What is God waiting to show you, if you will only go through your wardrobe?
If we think we know much, we are deceived. Knowledge can make proud, and a fall often comes from pride. Compared to what God offers, we are young and weak. Listen to God in Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know.”
Or, how about Job, in 26:5-14, talking about the awesome things God has done like quieting the sea and clearing the heavens, but saying that “these are the fringes of His ways.”
And, Paul talking about Jesus says “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
There is a world beyond what we will see if we follow Peter who walked past the wardrobe. If we take ten minutes to learn something new, to discover ideas and places, we can be people worth following and teachers who draw students into the joy and passion of learning.
If Lucy can go to Narnia, you can. You can open the door and walk into ideas and areas that others neglect. You can discover mighty things which you do not know.
You then have somewhere special to take those who follow you and learn from you.
Because of your own adventures.
(In case you don’t know Lucy, the story is from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis.)
Dana and I love to hike in the Collegiate Peaks in Colorado.
One summer we were using a guidebook of trails. The book told about a beautiful trip up a mountain with waterfalls and a majestic view near St. Elmo, a restored ghost town.
Before we went we asked an experienced mountain guide about the trail. He happened to be our son, Luke. He told us not to go, that it was just dry switchbacks up the side of a mountain. Hot and hard.
But, we listened to the book, packed up, and went.
Luke was right. It was hot, hard, and not beautiful. And, the waterfalls must have given up. Why is it hard to admit to your child that you should have listened to him?
When you have information, how do you decide what is right? What to trust?
I don’t think my biggest challenge for 2016 will be self-discipline (although I could certainly do better). Nor setting and keeping goals (again, I could certainly do better).
I think my biggest challenge, and likely yours, is to decide what is true from the huge amounts of information available.
As Virginia Postrel said in “Information Overload” on January 3, 2016: “Information used to be scarce. Now it’s overwhelming.” This amount of information and ideas leads us to spending so much time sorting and trying to decide what is right. Or, to throw up our hands and not try to pick truth out of the pile.
Deciding what is true is the kingpin for deciding what to do, what to focus on. Knowing what is right out of the thousands of possible inputs drives all of our New Year’s resolutions and choices of what we do and how we do it.
How do we know what to believe?
Let me give three suggestions about how to decide what to believe so we can know and act with confidence.
- Who is telling you? Who is the writer or researcher? Is the person’s background solid? I knew my son and should have trusted him over the unknown author.
- Where did the writer get the information? Is there personal experience or just fourth-hand information? Is the methodology solid? My son had been there, he knew. But, the book sure looked like an authority because its pages looked nice.
- What is the motivation of the teller? Does she or he care about you? Or, just trying to get you to read the piece or an idea? What is the agenda? My son cared about us. He would never have given us bad information. We were his agenda.
We live in a world of information overload, where ideas are cheap and the good is mixed with the bad. Some of it is important and good, and we need to know it and use it. But, other information is poorly done, and sometimes intentionally deceitful.
Deciding what is true is the biggest challenge of the year, and maybe your life. What you do and how you do it depends on what you believe is right.
There is one person who will never let us down and we can always trust. This person will never give us bad information because he knows the way it is. And, because he cares about us more than we will ever know. God will always be the person who can help us sort truth from information overload.
Paul tells about a time when people are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3). Sounds like today, trying to figure out all of the ideas.
Then Paul says “continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God…”
Who is telling? Where do they get the information? What is their motivation? Paul uses these to sort the ideas.
We certainly need to keep learning and looking at ideas out there. And, to sift through their value so we know what to use.
While we do this, we can always start with God’s truth in the Bible. And, use it to measure what is true and worth our time from the piles of information we get. His background is the most solid. He has the experience and knowledge. And, He cares about us.
Information overload and deciding what is true is my biggest issue for this year. Probably yours, also. Who we are and what we do depends on what we decide is true.
Thankfully we have help.
Hope keeps us going.
It keeps our students going.
Hope motivates, moves forward, draws us to the tops of mountains. Looks around the curve for what is ahead and possible. Eyes ahead, straining for the joy and surprise.
Hope is found in every little baby born yesterday, with the promises and dreams of a new life.
Hope lives in that little baby born in the manger, promises and dreams of lives changed, a world changed.
Hope is real that a life can be changed, that a child can change, that a colleague can change. Let’s give them room to change, not anchor them in the past or present.
Give parents hope, they so want hope. Even if things are really bad, tell them a story of redemption. Give them the next step or steps that takes them and their child somewhere. Pray with them. Give them hope. Never leave them looking down, with no where to go, without hope.
For a teacher who has had a rough semester, school has great rhythms for hope. Start over. Walk in class in January and reboot. Say you were wrong and it wasn’t the way you want. It can be different, just admit it isn’t right and forget the past. Students will respond.
Hope depends on saying things aren’t how they should be.
It gives space for things to change, it allows change and celebrates it. Not a Jonah who was sad about a changed city. We can be Jonah, we can like the old way and the mud and comfortable paths we have made and our old ways of thinking.
But, hope changes things.
Classes can change. Students can change. Families can change. Countries can change.
We can change.
Especially if that little baby in the manger is our hope.