Your email melted me. I was gushing. I walked with new power yesterday.
After having heard an interview podcast (cue audio to 11:25) this past February between Dr. Mark Daley, a leader in our school system and modern-day educational philosopher and Mr. Greg Bitgood, Superintendent of Heritage Christian Schools, I decided to email Dr. Daley, telling him how much I appreciated his take/focus/ideas/expressions in this interview. The words above were typed as a reply to his return-email – a powerful, humbling, and encouraging email. I also typed,
I have read your email 3 or 4 times in the past 24 hours. It has been a subtle, yet powerful, reminder to me how, as leaders, our words are so powerful.
If I, an emotionally stable husband and father, mature teacher, and green administrator was impacted this much by his specific, kind, and thoughtful words, how much more might our pre-teens, often not knowing up from down, often with ever-changing emotions, and who often might not have stable people in their lives, be encouraged by key people – mentors, role models, seriously committed friends & family – who might speak into them from a place of ‘knowing’ them? In a similar way, a Principal who is having serious impact in his school, mentioned me in the opening line of his blog. I felt like a million bucks. I felt I was the ‘bees knees’. His initiation of including me has caused me to feel invited to his blog, to following him more closely on twitter, and to feel special for being included in his writing & thinking.
The podcast interview above speaks words of ‘initiation’ and ‘invitation’, ‘respect’, ‘value’, and ‘trust’, ‘friendship’, and ‘enjoyment’. As Disciplers, we are continually initiating with our young disciples – asking them, modelling for them, coaching them, pushing them…it is creating ‘tough’ or ‘potential growth’ opportunities for them…both pushing and pulling… Yet, this initiation is also an invitation…an invitation to see our human weakness alongside our day job, to find out that we don’t have it all together all the time, and to see that we need grace just like everyone else. Really, it’s an invitation into a greater relationship with God.
As a teacher the invitation worked itself out as I continually tried to create a classroom where each student is identified and celebrated. I made it my goal that each day I would spend some time at each student’s desk (yes, HCS’ high school used to have desks…#RabbitTrail).
In the podcast, Dr. Daley mentioned, “Looking for an opening…” Calling back on my Young Life days, I will always remember the key phrase, “Earning the right to share the gospel.” I take this to centre on the reality that as an educator, and, really, as a person of influence in someone’s life, one must have enough ‘relationship’ with someone so they can truly connect. As we value our time with each student, we invite them to greater relationship in our school context. But, being a Christian school – the more time we spend investing in our students hobbies, insights, pet-peeves, and awe-ha moments, we are really investing equity into our discipleship potential with them.
This relationship is what generates gracious space in the classroom when we fail as teachers. It’s the grace and favour that covers over a multitude of sins. It’s what helps create an emotionaly-safe classroom. It’s what parents love about having their kids at Christian school – that staff invest so deeply in our students. This relationship is what opens the door to speak directly into a kid’s life…and to move beyond the simple one-word answer into a deeper conversation.
The teacher lacking relationship with their students gets answers & behaviour through an authority system. But the teacher who teaches from a place of relationship invites and engages students through a collaborative, iron-sharpening-iron, dual-growth system.
All of this starts with an initiation – an invitation from the mentor, the discipler, the leader, the sharer of trust and truth. This invitation must fall on receptive hearts & minds. Receptive here means trusting…trusting that who I am via character, emotions, commitments, etc. is valid enough to receive trust.
In my daily events and relationships, how often do I look to invite others to what I’m doing? Am I an encourager? Am I a passion-passer-oner? Do I invite my students to a greater understanding of the curriculum and of their learning and of their God? Does initiation & invitation come naturally for me?
PS – Book Thought:
Gladwell’s The Tipping Point speaks of those who’s role it was to spread the work, to network, to include…hmm…maybe have to re-read that one…but, then again, I’m always re-reading Gladwell’s stuff!