The following list is in random order, allowing the reader to create opinions easily and to glean any wisdom quickly.
1. Be a model. It’s you. Yes, your students are looking at you. Your words and your actions make a difference. Years from now, they will remember that you loved history, or rang a little bell on your desk, or always smelled good, or ripped up a student’s drawing book, or got mad fast, or got off the topic because of current event questions, or made the fashion mistake of wearing suspenders during the early ’90s.
2. Don’t jump into the class discussion. Before a whole-class discussion, have students share their answers with their partners and collect other student ideas. This new list makes sharing safer.
3. Accept correction with grace. Sometimes your math is miscalculated on the board. Sometimes you say the wrong word. Acknowledge the mistake. Laugh about it with the students and go on.
4. Explore the outdoors. Make them see creation. Take a seasonal walk. Create “creation celebration” artwork. Use digital photography on a hike and share with the school what you saw. Breathe the fresh air and share a common experience in God’s creation outside of your classroom.
5. Have lunch with your students. Make lunchtime an opportunity to sit with them. Share stories and jokes and be together.
6. Pray hard for your students, for your time with them, for your colleagues in the next room, and for school unity. Let them know you are praying for them. Publicly pray for a student every day. Ask parents and students to pray as well.
7. Put work into your pedagogy. What are you doing besides the question sheet and reading? Don’t tell them, but show them that you’ve put a lot of thought and effort into the work that you do. They get the best of what you do.
8. Know that sometimes the question sheet and the reading is the right thing to do. Sometimes your lesson will fall flat. That great lesson won’t work for a class one year. Sometimes you have to be quiet. Let the kids do the reading and go on. It might be that you need a break from them, and they need a break from you.
9. Have a sense of humour. Tell bad jokes. Ask the students what makes them laugh. Encourage humour, not sarcasm. Other adults have modeled sarcasm very well. Show what good humour is. Laugh every day.
10. Give tests scores and assignment marks back quickly. Show them that the work they’ve done is important to you too.
11. Be excited. What great book are you reading? What’s your favourite Christian song? Be excited about something. Who wants to be in a room with someone who’s always negative and miserable? Share a great song, a fun You Tube video, a recent concert. Don’t worry if the students will enjoy it, but share it to show who you are.
12. Honour students with choices on tests and on projects. Give students choices on topics and on presentations. Give alternatives for evaluations, for example, by giving the choice of taking the science test or doing a lab write-up.
13. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Call the parents with the discipline issue. Go on the bike trip that you promised. Work on the talent show with the students.
14. Sweat the small stuff. Have students pick up their garbage off the floor. Take off marks when they don’t include their commas. After the volleyball game, make sure they shake hands and are positive to the other team regardless of the outcome.
15. Be excited about church. Tell your students about the one great idea you learned in church and are applying to your life this week. Tell them about your small group, your music team, or the service project that you are involved in. Talk about your great Sunday, and about how you can’t wait to go back next week.
16. At recess, spend time with students. Play with them. Approach a circle of them at recess. Share a joke. Complain about the weather. Move on.
17. Enjoy your colleagues. In class, pray for other staff members. Help other staff members with computer problems. Laugh with staff members in the hallway and on the playground. Contribute to a school activity in a fun, enthusiastic way.
18. E-mail parents individually and as a group. Organize your parents’ e-mail addresses as a group and let them know about the work, the joys, the prayer requests, and concerns of the classroom. When you are there in their inbox once a week, your email is easily accessible to them and more communication happens.
19. Handle the problem. If the student won’t stop talking, use fast correction. If you discover that the classroom plants are dying, have students research plant care and develop a plan to develop that care.
20. Serve. Be a servant. Create service opportunities.
21. Have circle time. In the morning, provide time for students to see each other’s faces. It’s also your “first contact.” Use this as time for prayer requests. Ask them one question to start the day. Make them listen to each other. Encourage all of them to talk. Sing together. Check agendas. End the day in a circle. Do this from junior kindergarten to senior year.
22. Apply restorative justice. Everyone is part of the community. Treat the person who is harmed and the person who did the harm with respect. Bring both back into the community so that reparations can be made and forgiveness can be given.
23. Be at the door to say good morning. Call the student back if he or she doesn’t respond, and explain quickly that everyone should say good morning to everyone else. Have students say good morning to everyone in the room.
24. Do speeches. Some students will shine; others will be challenged. In a practical way, students will learn empathy. Everyone’s voice will be heard.
25. Be surprised. Try new things and see what happens.
26. Read the newspaper. Share with the students what is going on in the world. Show them pictures. When they finish their work, have them read the paper. Continually pray for global and national concerns, and don’t forget about them. Pray for tsunami victims or the families of the tragedy of Fort Hood. Do current events. Find one happy news item that celebrates achievement, makes you laugh together, or shows love.
27. Help your students to feel safe in your room. Shut down sarcasm and bullying, and don’t do it yourself. Are they scared of you? Make things better and acknowledge your own sin. Model what an apology is, because many students have never had an adult apologize to them. Show kindness.
28. Ask them questions. Get past the test and make them think about life.
29. Create enduring understandings for lessons and units. Ask the essential questions that have answers at the end of each lesson. Know why you are spending an hour of your life and your students’ lives teaching the Canadian Rebellions of 1837, similes and metaphors, or computer hyperlinks.
30. Have them reflect. Ask them to extend, imagine, and explore past what happened today. What are their thoughts on the enduring understanding and the essential questions? Ask the big “God” questions here and struggle with the mystery of it all.
31. Spend time marking. Add one constructive comment that will help them grow. Add one encouraging comment based in truth. Tell them what they need to hear.
32. Vary your assignments. Keep things fresh for you and for them. Appeal to their different learning styles and interests.
33. Make sure the learning happens. An incomplete is not an option. Modify assignments when needed. Give extra time. Get parents involved.
34. Do drama. Get them off their chairs to move and to imagine. Have them watch their peers. Laugh together. Learn an important truth together. Have them walk in another person’s shoes.
35. Assign partners or groups with random match-ups. Sometimes random grouping will fail, sometimes it can be messy, but mostly it will succeed. Just because you think two people can’t work together, doesn’t mean they can’t. Put two leaders together and watch them sort things out. Team up two followers and see them develop and grow together.
36. Choose great literature. The Miracle Worker, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, Shakespeare’s sonnets … the list goes on.
37. Teach the Bible as one story. The main character is God. Along with Moses, Ruth, and Paul, we see the story unfold.
38. Celebrate math. Everyone should be talking math and discovering things together. Show God’s handiwork with the Fibonacci sequence.
39. Know the whole world. Quiz them on the locations of the countries of Africa, North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. How can they pray for a country if they don’t know where it is in the world?
40. Be a creator. Share writing activities. Have art galleries. Do plays. Perform music. Sing.
41. Worship well. Make chapel meaningful.
Other Christian schoolteachers can add to the list. Just ask them how they show their unique and distinctive Christian approach to education. Pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable, and listen. I’m sure you’ll get to one million in no time.