My very favorite Scripture is 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain” (KJV).
My life has been a consistent manifestation of this Scripture. So many times I have failed the Lord, and His grace has kept me. Yet, how easily and often that grace was forgotten when I walked into my classroom...
If I’m being honest, during the first few years of my teaching career, my classroom management system lacked grace—the same type of grace mentioned in my favorite Bible verse and offered to me by the Lord time and time again.
Some might say I was a strict teacher. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with holding and enforcing high standards, I was too focused on my rules. I aimed to run my classroom with order and dignity at all costs. And, my classroom did in fact run like a very well-oiled machine. My rules were clear: Come to class prepared. Be ready to learn. Never be late.
However, when I became pregnant with my son, my perspective completely changed…
I was constantly sick, and I was just trying to survive. To hold off nausea, I snacked on crackers while I taught. I disrupted our regular routines when my students and I had to switch classrooms every Wednesday because the broccoli smell that wafted into my classroom from the cafeteria made me sick. I changed our schedule when I could no longer facilitate the fun lab I had planned because it involved chemicals I couldn’t touch. One day, my feet were so swollen I had to teach sitting down.
I desperately needed my students to understand that I was suffering. I needed them to extend grace…and they gave it to me in spades.
My students did not remind me of expectations. They did not scold me about my poor performance. They were kind. They were patient. They kept no record of my wrongs.
After that season of my teaching career, I began to look at my rules and expectations for my students in a new light.
I started buying extra pencils for the students that could never find one. I extended due dates. I bought snacks for the students who couldn’t focus because they were always hungry before lunch. I took note of the students that seemed off of their game, and, instead of scolding them, I began asking them questions. I learned so much about my students. I discovered which didn’t have stable home lives and why homework couldn’t be done at home. I came to understand why their assignments were so often incomplete or turned in late.
My relationships with my students and the entire climate in my classroom changed for the better. Because I received grace from my students, I am now more aware of the value of grace in my classroom, and I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude that God never expects perfection from me. His grace is sufficient. Since it covers a multitude of sins in my life, surely it can cover some late homework and lost pencils!
Hope Rogers is a former full-time high school teacher and part-time college professor of chemistry. After 15 years of teaching professionally, she now homeschools her two small children.
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