As classroom doors swing open this fall, what hope, what life, what promise, streams through them! How important then to hold the highest expectations for the success of each child. We can know there is no such thing as a “failing” child, because the promise of God’s creation lies within each one.
When it comes to education of the young, we all play a role. It is important we counter the drumbeat of negative media on how our schools are failing. For the neediest children, a quality education may be their only ticket to the opportunity to succeed. We can pray to know and support God’s care for both pupils and teachers. There is not a single person in a single classroom outside the reach of divinely inspired intelligence.
Mary Baker Eddy, in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” has a lesson plan for the ages: “School-examinations are one-sided; it is not so much academic education, as a moral and spiritual culture, which lifts one higher. The pure and uplifting thoughts of the teacher, constantly imparted to pupils, will reach higher than the heavens of astronomy...” (p. 235). It is a point each one of us can take to heart in our dealings with children.
I was once president of a group home in Montana where teens, adjudicated for bad behavior, could live in the community under supervision and not be incarcerated. Some were victims of sex abuse and drug abuse, and would in turn sell drugs, or their bodies. My “lesson plan” was to cherish students’ destiny to know and love God. It was one that I, as much a child of God as the students, knew from my study of the Bible. The book of Jeremiah records God’s word as saying, “I will give them an heart to know me” (24:7).
Helping students find yard work or other jobs communicated self-worth that could then be banked for future challenges, which in many cases meant not dropping out of school. A board member would “test” a new child before offering his or her services to the community.
One boy came to us because his parents had left him by the side of the road in the high plains on the Montana-North Dakota border. He was 13. Thankfully, it was summer. At one point, I had him mow my lawn. A power lawn mower is a serious tool. He was thrilled to be trusted to use one and took to it like a spring colt to a meadow. A small row of bushes bordered my yard, and in addition to the grass, he cut every single bush to the ground.
I knew more was at stake than my bushes. My initial anger (given the harsh winters, it would take a long time to grow those bushes back, if at all) was replaced by a healing insight – more than just a “teachable moment,” it was an angel message. God embraced this child. Could I do anything less? The example of the master teacher, Jesus, directed my thought: “And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said ... Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me” (Mark 9:36, 37).
I simply pointed out that bushes were not grass. I encouraged his good intentions and eagerness, attributes he would need in school and in life. And I learned what it meant to be touched by the knowledge and love of Christ in a way I cherish to this day.