Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Who hasn’t heard the axiom that you hit what you aim for? If you don’t have a goal, you’ll be essentially aimless–not a good thing if you want your efforts to mean something. During my child-rearing years, the thing that kept me going and helped me remain willing to do the hard work required to bring up decent human beings was a clear sense of vision.
For eight of those years I also taught at a Christian classical school. Teaching without goals is just as fruitless as parenting without them, so each year I’d remind myself of what I was really aiming for.
Below is one year’s pep talk to myself, listing my goals for my students for the year, and describing what I was in the process of trying to accomplish. You may not agree with all that I’ve included, but consider making your own statement of purpose, for your classroom or family.
Training my students to respect authority, including those they disagree with
To stand in the presence of elders
To defer to those who are weaker, to those in authority, and to all adults
To speak in a respectful way about the president, their parents, their teachers, etc.
Training them to work through frustration rather than giving up
To not raise your hand unless you have re-read the instructions, the lesson, what’s on the board, and tried to work things out yourself, at least once or twice
Counting off for unlabeled math answers, sloppy penmanship, failure to write their name and the date at the top of an assignment, failure to turn in work on time, failure to follow instructions– seemingly meaningless details–understanding that there are natural consequences for not doing so
It is not our prerogative to determine the value of instructions we’ve been given by those in legitimate authority (I’m obviously not speaking of that which would require us to transgress the laws of God, our nation, or our conscience)
Requiring them to stand when they speak
Take time to formulate your thoughts before speaking
Avoid the foolish, silly response
Requiring them to raise a hand and wait to be called on rather than simply blurting out whatever comes to mind
This is a form of respect
Even a fool appears wise if he keeps his mouth shut (see Proverbs)
Teaching them to re-examine and re-work assignments that are not clear and well-written
To focus on quality and improvement rather than “getting done”
Requiring them to stand up straight, hands to their sides, make eye contact, and enunciate distinctly when reciting memorized work
This builds confidence and poise, and leads to better communication skills
Assigning them homework nearly every night, whether or not they complain of too many evening activities
Learning is work. It requires practice and review, and cannot be accomplished in a few 45-minute segments per week.
I know I’m just a teacher, but in my opinion, school should take priority over all other endeavors in a child’s life, other than family and church
Telling them what is expected of them, not asking “okay?”
If I clearly communicate to them, they know that I believe what I’m asking of them is important, and that I expect it to be done. This relieves them of the burden of asking for exceptions or arguing. It gives them security in knowing exactly where I stand, and where I want them to stand.
Instructing them in such a way that leaves no doubt that I regard God’s word to be Truth, believe His commandments are to be kept, and that all things pertaining to Him and His worship are to be held in reverence, whether one feels like it or not.
It doesn’t matter if they are tired, thirsty, hungry, or bored—in the 15-minute intervals that we pray, read the Bible and sing, it is not too much to ask them to stand with their hands to their sides and their physical posture respectful.
Expecting them to take responsibility for their assignments by asking their parents NOT to check to see if they’re doing it, and not to “help” them
They will never take responsibility for themselves if someone else takes it for them.
They have to fail and receive the consequences—sometimes several times—before they learn this; I expect it, and it doesn’t bother me one bit
Teaching them not to panic when they make poor grades
The goal is learning—there is no way to learn without a certain degree of trial and error. If no one tells you your error, you cannot correct it and improve. That’s what the grades are for—they are NOT a status symbol or an indication of intrinsic worth, but mile markers along the path to becoming learned
I want to save our students from the disease of TIP (toddlerhood in perpetuity). I don’t want them to think that being studious is uncool. I don’t want them to be ashamed or embarrassed to behave respectfully towards authority.
I want them to talk amongst themselves about the causes of the French and Indian War, to wonder what’s going to happen next in Treasure Island, to be eager to continue work on their classroom projects, to anticipate the next installment of their recess play, and to care more about doing excellent work than they do about their favorite TV show or pop singer (Christian or otherwise.)
I want them to understand that worship is to be God-centered, not man-centered, and to always approach the things of God with reverence. I want them to not be satisfied with mediocrity, but always aim for excellence. I want them to carry themselves with humility and confidence, not foolishness, boastfulness, and self-centeredness.
These students are made in the image of God, and belong to him. They are constantly bombarded with messages from a culture that glorifies narcissism, tells them constantly that “they’re worth it” and that the greatest good is personal comfort and satisfaction. Often, Christian schools succumb to the same thinking, eschewing rigor and pooh-poohing exhortations to hold students to high standards. This is, unfortunately, very often because the parents kick and scream if “bad” grades occur, or if “too much” homework is assigned, or after school sports and activities are interfered with, or if the school itself doesn’t provide enough sports.
Too often even the churches our students attend focus on emotions and feelings, using the trappings of popular culture to lure them to church—don’t they recognize that these young people are capable of learning and understanding complex things? Haven’t they read that friendship with the world is enmity with God? What are they preparing them for?
I grew up without the blessing of this kind of education. I want more for our children, and for the world and culture at large. Our students can be different, and can make a difference simply by their presence in the culture, IF they have been adequately prepared. Compromise, conformity to the culture, avoidance of hard work and unwillingness to confront and correct immaturity and foolishness will not prepare them. Hopefully, a truly classical, truly Christian education, along with firm guidance from the adults in their lives, will.