By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)
Scripture Readings: James 1-3
Key Scripture Verse: James 3:1 (NIV, Life Application Bible)
“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
I come from a whole family of teachers. When I was a child, I remember wanting to be a teacher. My sisters and I “played school” all of the time, pretending to be in classrooms teaching each other, playing out different school roles. My grandmother brought us readers that were used in the public schools. Because the schools would periodically replace the readers with new ones and books were sent to be burned and because the idea of burning a book was against everything my grandmother believed in, she brought some of those books home to us so that we could learn from them.
My mother and my aunt were teachers also. So, my sisters and I came by it naturally. All of my siblings have taught in some fashion or another, but my older sister and I both specifically studied to be teachers.
When I was taking some of the teaching courses in college and specifically learning about classroom management, I remembered thinking to myself that teachers have a lot of power and that power could so easily be misused. To facilitate relationships among children or to discourage relationships that seemed unhealthy teachers might arrange their classrooms to consciously alter which children could interact with each other during the time they were together in the class. I remember thinking about that and that a good teacher needed to consciously be aware of his or her own biases and preferences and to consciously and conscientiously consider what is best for the children in their care.
Teachers have a lot of responsibility and with that comes accountability. I take this scripture very seriously—not everyone should become a teacher and those of us who take on that role need to be careful in what we say and do. And we are human and make mistakes, but it is right that we be kept accountable.
A little over a year ago I taught Sunday school to some children who were between the ages of kindergarten and 3rd grade—a mixed class of nonreaders and readers. It had its challenges and many rewards. I developed some strong relationships with these kids and they trusted me. It was my job to teach them about Jesus and how to love each other and to demonstrate that by example—showing them that I loved them and how to love each other in even the small things we did. The scriptures are challenging enough for me to teach adults, but sometimes abstract concepts and lessons in the Bible are particularly hard to impart to children. I did my best with it, but, even now, I am very aware of the influence that a teacher can have on a child.
If you are like me, you remember your elementary school teachers. You remember a lot about them and you remember how they made you feel, certain lessons you learned, and you remember things about them that if you saw them today, they would not even remember. The influences these people had over you and me have been longstanding and even life-changing in some cases.
And so, the book of James talks about the teaching relationship and what we say as we teach or are examples of Christian faith to others. Even if we are not called to be teachers professionally, we are all teachers in a way. We all are examples to others.
Parents, bosses, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles—all are examples to someone. Do we exhibit good character traits as we conduct ourselves in our daily lives? Are we Christ-like in our behavior? If a child looked up to us and emulated our behavior or imitated us and God kept us accountable for being an example to that child, how would we measure up?
May we guard our tongues and our behavior as we demonstrate to others and teach others how to be. May we live our lives as Jesus himself would want us to. May we be the example we would want someone to be to our own children and loved ones.