Consequences with Empathy
Applying Christian Principles to Any Classroom
The world has not changed much in the past two thousand years. Of course, advances have been made in technology, and people no longer travel everywhere by horse and buggy, but the world – as in the people of the world – has hardly changed.
When Jesus walked the Earth thousands of years ago, He attempted to show people a better way to live. Some rejected his teachings. Others did not understand what he talked about. However, many embraced his teachings and people still follow those teachings and principles today.
Principles taught by Jesus can be found in the Word of God (the Bible) and are sensible practices that can be adopted by any teacher and implemented in any classroom – regardless of a teacher’s stance on religion or Christianity. The principles taught by Jesus were not predicated on selfishness; neither were they manipulative tactics or ways in which to solicit other to do his bidding. His principles were mainly based on sacrifice. If a person were to ask five Christians to come with the five most important Christian principles to live by, that individual would likely receive fifteen or so different answers. However, there are a number of basic Christian principles on which most would agree.
Forgiveness is the ability to overlook an offense. From a Christian perspective, God extends forgiveness to anyone who ask. When someone asked Jesus how many times we should forgive each other, he said "70 x 7". Jesus even extended forgiveness to those who killed him, even though they failed to seek for it. From a teacher’s perspective, forgiveness is refusing to hold a grudge against a student who commits an infraction. Depending on the severity of the violation, consequences may have to be issued. However, the teacher who operates in forgiveness lets her student know that she is moving on from that infraction and will not allow the mistake to define the student. By applying forgiveness, the teacher actually minimizes behavior because the student is the focal point rather than what he did.
Grace is unmerited favor or getting what is not deserved. Human beings are not perfect. According to the Bible, the only thing any human is deserving of is death. However, the beauty of Christianity is that God extends grace by sparing the lives of those who believe in Him. All students have the right to a free and appropriate public school education. Yet, most teachers do more than simply teach lessons. There are times when teachers have certain privileges like free time or class parties that are intended for all students. Unfortunately, the inappropriate behavior of some students results in their exclusion from such activities. The teacher who implements the principle of grace allows an undeserving student to attend the function. He tells the student that participation is being granted because he wants to extend grace to the student, not because the student deserves to attend.
Mercy can simply be defined as not getting what one deserves. The Bible records numerous accounts of people accused of wrong doing who were presented to Jesus. Rather than stone them to death or ostracize them as society of that day demanded, Jesus had mercy on them and accepted them for who they were regardless of what they had done. A teacher can also have mercy on her students. If a student commits a minor infraction, the teacher should talk to him about the choice he made. After asking him what consequence should be issued, she could let the student know that she will have mercy him by assigning a lesser consequence. However, it is imperative that she makes sure the student knows that if he chooses to misbehave in the same manner in the future, he will receive the consequence that would have been issued in the first instance, if not for mercy.
Empathy can be defined as a deep level of understanding when it comes what other people feel. Jesus was very empathetic. In fact, the Bible mentions an instance where in Jesus was moved to tears because the people around him were sorrowful. A teacher should make a concerted effort to remember what it is like to be a child. Trying to live up to parents’ expectations, keeping up with work from teachers and remaining cool in the eyes of friends all at the same time is a bit difficult for students. What may seem to be blatant disrespect with regard to complying with teacher requests may actually be an attempt to “save face”. Likewise, a disinterested student may be a confused student who is embarrassed to ask for help. A teacher who implements empathy takes the time to talk with his students, explaining that he knows how challenging it must be and showing them the importance of doing what is asked of them.
Edification is using words for the purpose of encouraging others and building them up. The words that Jesus spoke brought life, hope, peace and encouragement to hearers with open hearts and open minds. It is extremely easy to resort to sarcasm, but a teacher should refrain from using sarcasm at all cost. Coarse jokes that cause students to laugh at their class mates are also strongly discouraged. A teacher should be intentional about what is said to and about students. A teacher can also be strategic; what he says about his students in their hearing may not be true at the time, but perhaps his words can encourage them to live up to what the teacher said about them.
Stewardship is when people take care of all that has been entrusted to them. Jesus shared stories with people about the utter importance of being wise stewards of what they had – whether time, resources, or money – stating that those who invest wisely will be given more, but those who invest sparingly will have things taken away from them. This principle can be applied in the classroom two ways. First, a teacher should make sure he takes care of everything students give him. No papers should be returned to students with food or coffee stains. Those papers do not belong to the teacher and should be returned to the owners in their original condition. Second of all, a teacher can encourage students to be good stewards by taking care of all materials, supplies and equipment entrusted to them. Regardless of whom the owner is – the teacher, the school, the student, a classmate – students can be encouraged to take care of items as if they are treasured possessions.
Compassion is more than feeling sorry for someone; it is a deep sympathy that inspires one to do something. Jesus was the epitome of compassion. Compassion moved him to feed thousands of people at one time, raise people from the dead and heal those who were sick. Some teachers feel that they are simply there to teach students, so it is not necessary for them to get involved in the personal lives of their students. However, students are very perceptive and can ascertain the difference between a teacher who genuinely cares about them and a teacher who is there to collect a paycheck. Sometimes it is necessary for a teacher to go beyond the call of duty and show compassion - to do something to help a student or a group of students. However, it is impossible for a teacher to show compassion without truly getting to know his students.
A teacher’s job has become increasingly difficult in recent years. Teachers are asked to do more – work additional hours, come up with creative enrichment activities for students, make sure all students are reading at or above grade level – without being given additional resources, time, compensation or assistance. Teachers deals with challenging students, difficult parents and complicated administrators. Despite the outside forces that daily impact what goes on in classrooms across America, it is imperative for teachers to remember that they set the tone for their rooms and that they have the potential to impact the future directly as they influence their students. Choosing to apply Christian principles is choosing to cultivate students who are moved to go above and beyond what teachers ask because those students know that their teachers really care about them.
Too many students have been hurt and countless futures have been damaged by vicious, cut-throat, self-serving practices of some teachers. They ruled their classrooms with iron fists, expecting their students to comply with their demands, simply because they are the teacher, the adult in the room. Since teachers are being held more accountable now than ever, it is time to take a different approach to classroom management, an approach that calls for teachers to emulate the Great Teacher, Himself.
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