One of the thoughts that plays on repeat in my mind this time of year comes from a phrase in John Piper’s book Think, in which he highlights “the indispensable place of education in the cause of Christ.” Just think about that phrase a moment.
The glorious endeavor of pursuing learning is vital in knowing Christ and making Christ known in the world. How magnanimous of our Creator to fashion us as learners, as beings that grow and mature! Teachers are not the only ones facilitating education, but we have chosen it for our daily work. We enjoy a front row seat as students learn about the triune God, even when they don’t realize it, because learning about any aspect of creation reveals something about its Creator (see Psalm 19:1–4 and Romans 1:20). This truth fires me up when a new school year approaches.
A Different School Year
A great deal has changed in the way we conduct our daily living in 2020. The approaching school year is unlike any previously experienced in public or private schools. School teachers are already accustomed to a certain degree of change each school year. Some years it’s learning how to effectively collaborate with new colleagues, and other years it’s new administrators who bring with them new methods. Most importantly, a new school year brings new students to guide and shepherd. Every class develops their own group dynamics through the unique blend of individual strengths and weaknesses.
Teachers are well-versed in accommodating the surprises and changes that occur in the normal routines of a school year. But the 2020–21 school year brings more unknowns, shifts, alterations, hurdles, and novel situations than teachers typically face. Naturally, this stirs up a range of emotions, from excitement to fear. As the beginning of this school year approaches, teachers’ heads (including my own) are currently flooded with a range of questions, many of which they cannot answer. So when the Lord brings the teachers in your life to your mind, here are some helpful ways to pause and pray for them as the school year begins.
1. Pray teachers will be able to form meaningful relationships with students quickly.
Another thing that replays in my head when a new school year draws near is the song “Getting to Know You” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I. I often play it repeatedly in my classroom as I prepare the space, supplies, and materials for a new group of students.
Forming connections and meaningful relationships with students is vital work for a teacher. Students learn best when they feel supported and safe, which requires a healthy relationship between student and teacher. Whether the school year begins remotely or in person, or a blend of the two, teachers and students will have to build relationships without some of the usual means of connection.
Some teachers and students will meet for the first time through a screen. Although a screen allows for more connection than we ever could have had in this situation in the past, it pales in comparison to being together in person. Others can meet their teacher in person. But the usual visible smiles, reassuring hugs, handshakes, fist bumps, or pats on the back will be restricted.
Teachers need to find new ways to communicate their care and affection for their students, all while explaining and enforcing new protocols. Pray for the Lord to pour out his mercy toward teachers and students. They might be able to connect and bond quickly to form the meaningful relationships of love and trust that are needed for learning.
2. Pray the Lord will provide inspiration for the recurring innovations that will be needed this year.
New scenarios and situations require innovative and unorthodox solutions. Teachers and administrators will need inspiration and creativity to deal with the ever-changing circumstances this school year will hold. When time is short and demands are high, creativity is often difficult to generate. I often slip into anxiety, fear, or anger when I find myself struggling to construct new solutions that impact others. Pray that the Creator of all things would inspire creativity in us and for increased patience, perseverance, and trust in the Lord’s sovereignty in the creative process of problem-solving and making adjustments as the school year unfolds.
3. Pray teachers would look to Christ alone as their source of hope and strength.
Of course, this has always been a worthy prayer for any school year. As with all professions, when teachers lean on their own strength and understanding, we quickly run dry. But God, who is rich in strength, understanding, mercy, compassion, and creativity, loves to give generously. Isn’t that astounding?
We run dry of our own resources. But the one true God never runs dry. His resources never, even slightly, deplete. Pray that the teachers you know would first and foremost look to him for their hope and strength as they build relationships with students and adapt to all the various shifts this school year will require. Pray that teachers who don’t have a relationship with the Lord might recognize their need for him this school year. And that teachers who do know and trust in Christ might grow in their love, affection, and dependence on him. Also, pray that when we are tempted by doubt and fear, when the myriads of unknowns we face seem overwhelming, we will remember our good and faithful Savior who remains the same yesterday, today, and forever, even in the midst of an ever-changing world.
When the Lord brings teachers you know to mind, prompting you to pray, I encourage you to let them know. A quick text, email, or handwritten note will encourage and strengthen us as we embark on an extraordinary school year. Isn’t our Father wise and kind to give us each other, and in calling us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24)? May we, his people, spread the aroma of Christ in this season of unknowns to everyone we encounter, including our teachers.