Recently, I shared about how writing a personal manifesto for my life helped to clarify my values and vision for how I want to live in 2019. The word “manifesto” is described as “a written statement that describes the policies, goals, and opinions of a person or group.” While the previous manifesto focused on my personal life as a whole, this one reflects how I want to carry myself as a teacher. Feel free to modify your manifesto to your own career! Here is my “Teaching Manifesto”:
- Where there is no honor, there is no glory.
- Warm greetings and farewells
- Embrace silence
- Connect before you correct
- Under-react to problems. Over-react to solutions.
- Assume positive intention
- Raise the bar. Have Great Expectations.
- Iron sharpens iron
- Teach them to fish
- “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”—Maya Angelou
Where there is no honor, there is no glory
In Hebrew, the word translated as “honor” (kabed) derives from a root word meaning “weighty” (in terms of impressiveness or importance) and is often used to refer to the glory of God. We could also say that where there is no honor, there is no blessing. By promoting a culture of honor in my classroom, I open the door for the anointing, for God’s “weighty” presence to fill the room, bringing peace and joy.
Warm greetings and farewells
I meet my students at the door, and often they can see how excited I am to see them as I smile and wave from all the way down the hall. They have the option to hug, high-five or handshake as they are walking into the room. I realize that this would not work for many public schools, but I am at a private Christian school, and this positive interaction often sets the tone for the rest of the class. It shows the student that “I see you” and am looking forward to spending time with them. Often students who have moved on to a different grade level will show up randomly at my door to say, “I just really needed a hug today.”
Several years ago, I was sharing Isaiah 30:15 “….in quietness and confidence is your strength…” with a group of junior high age students. One of them said, “I know what confidence means, but what is that other word?” I stared at him for a long moment. “Quietness?” I have never forgotten it because it highlighted a focus for prayer for this generation. So often consumed with their electronic devices and a desire to be continuously entertained, we have lost the ability to just sit in silence and be still. In my middle school Bible classes, I decided to introduce “centering prayer”–silent, contemplative prayer focused on a single word or thought. I was not sure my students would even be able to sit in silence for that long. I gave some instruction (“close your eyes or fix your gaze…when you get distracted, go back to your breathing and your centering word…”) and set the timer for 5 minutes. Some fidgeted for minute or so (okay, three or four) at first, but at the end of the five minutes, they were calm and focused. “Can we do this every day?” someone asked and the others nodded enthusiastically. There are lots of great meditation and mindfulness apps, but my favorite is called “Centering Prayer”. Check it out!
Connect before you correct
Before giving a tardy slip or dress code violation, I try to connect with the student. “How was your volleyball game last night?” “How is the new puppy?” This shows students that I care about them and am not just looking for something they’ve done wrong.
Under-react to problems. Overreact to solutions.
I tend to be a little “tightly wound”, and do not like to deviate from the plan. So when the projector is not working or a lesson takes longer than I intended or someone forgets their part of a group project, my stress level rises and I start to lose my patience and my peace. I have to take a deep breath and remember one of my favorite quotes from Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well….” When a student poses a solution to a problem, however, I like to make a big fuss. “What a fantastic idea! We could change the order of the group presentations… I would love for you to invite the guest speaker who is an expert in the field…” etc.
Assume positive intention
Why is this so hard for us? I often assume that questions undermine my authority or cast doubt on my ability to lead, when they may simply be for the purpose of clarification. Once during our morning chapel service, I saw two male students get up and walk toward the back of the room. I am ashamed to say that my first thought was that they were going to the hall or to the restroom to goof off or avoid chapel. Instead, they walked over to our principal and asked if they could pray for her. Sigh. Lord, help me.
Raise the bar. Have great expectations.
My dad was a school administrator in public and Native American boarding schools, and a phrase I remember him saying often was “students will rise to the level of expectation you set for them.” In my classes, this looks like challenging them to memorize more than just one verse at a time or teaching middle schoolers to look up cross references and the original Hebrew and Greek words in their Bible reading. What would “raising the bar” look like in your classroom? I’d love to hear it!
Iron sharpens iron
Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.” Similar to socratic circle seminars, we have “Iron Circle” discussions in my classes. The inner circle begins the discussion while the outer circle listens and takes notes. Then they switch places, giving the outer circle an opportunity to build or expand on points previously discussed. We also go on silent meditative prayer walks around the school building. We often have a theme or verse we are mulling over or praying from, but the point is to listen to what God might speak through the verse or even nature. Students share their personal revelations at the end of the walk, and I am always amazed at the depth of their epiphanies!
Teach them to fish
When I first started teaching at Forerunner Christian Academy in Kansas City, I sensed the Holy Spirit saying, “Teach them to fish.” I was reminded of the saying “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” So rather than just teaching what a passage means (giving a fish), I teach simple Bible study methods and how to use reference tools so they can “fish” for themselves. I love hearing the stories of fifth and sixth graders reading through the Bible and doing their own in-depth studies!
How do I make them feel?
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”—Maya Angelou
This one needs no explanation. I want my students and those around me to feel loved, honored, seen and heard. Known.
Write your own manifesto
So, what about you? Are you a teacher or office manager? A waitress or nurse? A stay-at-home mom or barista? What would your career manifesto look like? I’d love to see it!
with love and much HOPE,