• Jennifer Hastings

Think on These Things!

Back to school week for teachers can be like running a marathon when sitting on the couch is the only training you have been doing. Teachers go from a state of relaxation, from two cups of coffee over Good Morning America, to being out of the door before Good Morning America has even started. Even though we are sad to let the carefree spirit of summer go, the possibilities that come with a fresh start and the new school year is a special time in the heart of an educator.

There are a million things to accomplish before the first day of school. This year, however, there are a million and one things to consider. The safety of students! This year, teachers are not only decorating their doors and making their classrooms welcoming, but they are thinking through how to restructure a students’ day, so they are as safe as possible. They are spacing out tables and desks, stocking their shelves with hand sanitizer and wipes, and basically rethinking how to teach content in a socially distanced style.

That takes quite a bit of time, and apparently, if you are not a teacher, you might not understand the magnitude of what it takes to prepare for the start of school, at least the businessman I live with didn’t understand. Don’t worry, I enlightened him. Twenty minutes later, I’m sure he wished he could take that comment back. I’m proud of our district for recognizing this year, we need even more time to get it right!

This school year is presenting many challenges, but maybe the one we all are fearing most is uncertainty and change.

At least for me, that is the hardest part. I worked this summer leading a team of instructional coaches and teachers to create digital work for students. I can’t tell you all the times this summer while we were planning for this unprecedented year, I could feel the uncertainty threatening to knock me down. All the what-if questions can begin to be too much.

We all probably feel like this many times throughout our day. We need strategies for when we begin to feel overwhelmed. We fight all kinds of things in our life; we fight wrinkles, gray hair, and the scale. It could be time to fight our feelings. Time to take those negative thoughts and worries threatening to steal our joy captive. When fear and doubt come knocking on your door trying to steal your positive attitude, silence it, tell it to STOP! Our students need us to be their rock now more than ever. As much as we crave peace and order, they do too!

I ran across this verse this morning, and I think it is one that can help us combat our fear and worry this year.

Philippians 4: 8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about those things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

What is noble? What is true? (really think on this for a minute)

At this point in our history, it is hard to find anyone noble, and true to follow and emulate. People are on edge right now. Even the calm ones among us. It is hard not to be more aware of our vulnerability and immortality with the death count scrolling across the bottom of the screen each night. This verse is asking us to make a decision to turn our focus.

The verse is encouraging us to think, to dwell, to focus our private thought life in a specific direction. A shift in thinking about my circumstances, to thinking about the illustrator of the sunrise and creator of the rainbow, now that is praiseworthy!

Go back and read the verse again. Read it slow and think of an example of each of those things. Spend a few minutes and brainstorm how pure God is. What do you have to praise him for today? A simple compare and contrast of myself and God leave me in awe of our Creator.

The strangest thing happened after I did this though, I had peace! Just what the verse promised.

When I think I am in charge, I begin to feel a weight I wasn’t created to bear, but recognizing God for who he is and what he is, is calming. I am not in charge!

Do you remember the part in The Sound of Music when all the kids coming running into Fraulein Maria's room scared to death of the storm? She begins to teach them how she thinks of her favorite things to feel better. She sings..."I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so sad." This verse feels like God's version of the favorite things song. He places a high emphasis on character traits. Think about these things when life gets tough.

I hope this is encouraging to all you teachers out there, you are not in charge of the plan, however, you can be in charge of your thought life. This year can be the year you practice having control of your worry, and instead of focusing on all the uncertainty and change, make it a habit to notice the beauty in the classroom around you. Look for the praiseworthy actions of your students, notice all the good in them, watch them flourish and grow under your care. The way I see it, you could become a student’s source of light and encouragement when you live with the peace only God can give you.

Have a wonderful start to the school year filled with possibility and promise.



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