Many teachers have already started the 2023-2024 school year. Where has the summer gone? Each year, school seems to be starting sooner, and in most school districts, teachers must report for teacher orientation and in-service events days before the students arrive.
Some of us remember when the traditional school year did not start until after Labor Day. In many school districts, the push to start earlier was based on teachers wanting to finish the first semester in December to take advantage of the winter holidays. Maybe starting school so soon contributes to the national teacher shortage, such as in Fort Lauderdale, where the district still has 200 teacher positions to fill. And in the Tulsa Public, Union, and Broken Arrow school districts, administrators are scrambling to find teachers (Tulsa World). If you haven’t done so yet, it is time to plan your last summer barbecue and go shopping to take advantage of the back-to-school sales.
Regardless of the time school starts this year, teachers and administrators expect to have the best year ever. In my August-September posts of 2022, I provided some thoughts on how teachers could have the best year ever and how to be the best teacher ever. You still have access to these articles on our blog.
The answer is simple for Christian educators looking to experience the best academic year. However, it is not how many orientation or in-service meetings you attend before the start of school. Nor is the number of curriculum planning sessions you join or seeking to enhance your schedules. It is not lobbying for smaller class sizes, aiming to reduce teacher supervision duties, and seeing that all the “troublemakers are not all in one class period.”
Furthermore, it is not having a class where all students are functioning at grade level academically. All or any of these may add to the potential of a successful school year. However, one action is guaranteed to contribute to a successful academic year. It is inviting the Holy Spirit to participate in classroom decision-making, instruction, and management. You will find suggestions for accomplishing this in my recent book Spirit-Directed Education: A New Approach to Education.
Let me offer two actions to help this aspect of a successful school year. First, learn to tune in to the voice of the Holy Spirit as you prepare your lessons and as you teach. The Holy Spirit is always speaking; it is a matter of taking the time to listen. It takes time to develop a clear reception of His voice as He speaks to one’s recreated Spirit. It is much like tuning in a digital television antenna. We dropped our cable provider a few years ago to save money, and I purchased a digital antenna. Once I set up the antenna, I moved it around in different directions. The first time I was able to pick up fifteen channels. After fine-tuning the antenna, I finally received twenty-five channels.
A few weeks ago, I was looking for a specific sporting event, which I could not receive on my TV. I thought about readjusting my antenna, which I did. To my amazement, I could not only tune in to the specific sporting event, but I could also pick up several additional digital channels.
In most cases, tuning in to the Holy Spirit involves tuning out all the distracting voices and thoughts. As a Christian educator, you are faced with thoughts and ideas. The Holy Spirit helps you sort out what you should listen to. As you listen to Him, He will order your steps. Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (KJV). The Holy Spirit directs you to avoid calamity, to avoid evil, and to allow you to be in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing the right way, so that good things happen.
A second action is to cultivate a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. How can this sensitivity be enhanced? The best way I know is to 1) spend time reading the Word of God, 2) have a personal devotional time, 3) pray in Spirit as recommended by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:15, and then 4) pray with your understanding. These last two actions sensitize your heart to the things of the Spirit. This helps bring direction from the Holy Spirit to your heart and into your mind through impressions, phrases, mental images, and dreams. During these devotional times and lesson planning, create an environment of praise and worship. The Word of God says, “He inhabits the praises of His people” (Psalm 22:3, KJV). This means that God “dwells” in the atmosphere of His glory.
As you take these first two actions, you will set the stage for a successful academic year. In future posts, we will offer several other suggestions for having the best school year ever.