I hope your families are enjoying the new rhythms of a new school year. After just two weeks, teachers are beginning to establish their routines, parents are learning new traffic patterns, and students are finding their favorite (and least favorite) challenges to this year’s lessons. A whole lot of training goes into these first two weeks as we learn to live together in community, both at the classroom and all-school levels. Straight lines and cleaned countertops don’t just happen on their own; they take attention, practice, and persistence. The habits that shape our character and form our loves take time to develop and to sink in. We get rusty over the summer. We find new temptations in our flesh. We forget, we justify, and we just plain fail to think of others more highly than ourselves. But we can learn and grow and improve, and our classrooms are a great place to do this with others who are walking in the same direction. In this sense, peer pressure is a great thing! When we can help our kids positively participate in a classroom where the focus is not on them as individuals but as a group of brothers and sisters learning together, their own individual character and gifts can be refined to something greater than they could accomplish on their own.
From a parenting perspective, the blessings of routine provide a great deal of support, but as the glitz and glimmer of back-to-school time wears off, the real work begins. During the first two weeks of school, we do our best to train our students to our expectations in the classroom, on the playground, and in Convocation or other common gatherings. That involves a lot of explaining, demonstrating, imitating, practicing, repeating, and reminding. But once students understand the standards set forth, we have the real challenge and opportunity to hold them accountable to those standards. Because we know that we all face temptations and are naturally inclined to sin, we should expect opportunities for correction. This is particularly true because we want to LOVE our students. The author of Hebrews quotes Solomon in Proverbs when he reminds us,
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.’
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” (Heb. 12:5-7)
Many other Proverbs communicate something similar, for example, “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Prov. 13:24). In both passages, we see a direct link between love and sonship and discipline. To the world, correction counts as unkindness. But to Christians, a failure to correct amounts to hating and disowning our kids. When our students need to be corrected, it’s not a sign of our failure but a reminder of their need for the saving grace of Jesus, of our own call to obedience, and of the whole reason we educate in the first place. Yes, we can sometimes correct improperly or be motivated by the wrong reasons (for we fall short as well), but we do not show love by avoiding correction. Quite the opposite. Students (and all of us) may show resistance to fences when we first run into them, but they find much greater security when they know where they are and when they know they are protected and loved.
As we enter the “real” routine of the school year, you shouldn’t be surprised if you get a phone call home from a teacher sharing the need to correct your student. Instead, you should prayerfully receive the opportunity to share in the partnership of discipling your children, to engage with the teachers in support, and to give thanks to them and to the Lord for His faithfulness. Jesus called all His disciples to repent and believe, and I can hardly think of a better description of the educational process. This is God’s grace to us in action! So don’t be embarrassed or defensive, dismissive or deflecting, too hard on yourself or on your kids, but expect correction as part of what we all signed up for, that the Lord might sharpen us all as iron sharpens iron, preparing our children in love for a life of faithfulness, service, and submission to God for His glory!
While the students were away this Friday, our teachers took the opportunity of this bonus day to gather for training, fellowship, and growth together. After a time of singing and prayer (and learning a new song), our staff reviewed a great presentation by Dr. Neil Shenvi from this summer’s national conference. Dr. Shenvi spoke about the dangers of Critical Theory and demonstrated how “wokeness” and Christianity are incompatible. The discussion afterwards focused on how we can prepare our own students to think well about these antithetical worldviews and show from pre-K to senior year how God’s truth and His love for us (who are made in His image) make all the difference in how we rightly live and love one another in this world. What a blessing it is to have a staff so willing to engage in today’s pressing issues through the time-tested methods of classical education rooted in a biblical worldview. This should give us great hope for our children, for, “They shall not be ashamed in the evil time, And in the days of famine they shall be satisfied” (Psalm 37:19).