For us educators, the summer is coming to a close. As usual, teachers are preparing classrooms (either face-to-face or online spaces) for student arrival. However, we all know that this next term will be different: COVID-19 and this year’s civil rights movement have planted seeds in all of our students, and God has given us an opportunity to nurture the seedlings that they may bear good fruit. With such a momentous occasion at hand, it behooves us to prepare our hearts and minds to respond well from day one.
Each student will walk into your school with a unique story, one that has been impacted by recent events to varying degrees. Some students may have gone on vacations as usual, while others were cooped inside their homes week after week. Some may have stayed perfectly healthy, while others may have lost loved ones. Some may have been on the streets fighting for change, while others may have been watching the news wondering why people were being so destructive. The spectrum is wide and the angst is high, yet Christ has given us the blueprint for how to navigate this upcoming year.
Matthew 9 reads like a singular set of occurrences. Jesus is seen going from place to place confronting Pharisees, healing the sick, rebuking naysayers, and teaching truth. I encourage you to read this passage yourself, but here are three lessons we can learn from Jesus’ ministry.
- Spiritual and Physical Needs
Not only did Jesus speak words of wisdom and forgive sins, he met physical needs. In verse 35, we are told that Jesus continued to “preach the good news of the kingdom and heal every disease.” Though we may not be able to miraculously fix everyone’s infirmities, we can aid with their physical needs. Keeping snacks in our classroom, being a safe person with whom to express needs, advocating for counseling when needed, and insisting on appropriate behavior and speech is all part of meeting physical needs. Your students cannot and will not learn from you if they don’t feel healthy and safe.
- Interruptions as Opportunities
In this chapter, every time Jesus was met with an opportunity to minister to people, he was on his way somewhere else. As teachers we are the planners of all planners, but we have to be ready for interruptions. I’ve made it a practice before each school day to ask God to prepare me for divine interruptions: it’s not a matter of if they will happen but when. Embrace those situations by being there for your students and your colleagues!
- Feelings Matter
The last practice to emulate comes from one of my favorite Jesus moments described in the gospels. After a long day of ministering, Jesus looked out at the city, saw the crowds, and “had compassion on them” (v.36). After reading that verse, go back and read the chapter from the beginning. Jesus invited Matthew the tax collector to dinner, evoking the wrath of the Pharisees. Why their ire? Because they saw Matthew and judged, but Jesus saw the people and felt compassion. Whereas the Pharisees saw brokenness, Jesus saw Himself—the image of God imprinted on every person who walks this earth. I urge you to see your students as Jesus does and to feel compassion.
Of course, there are many things we can do to serve our students well in this unusual season. Through books, documentaries, and podcasts, we can equip ourselves for important conversations about race, healthcare, and even politics. However, our posture is so much more important than our answers. You may say “I honestly don’t know” a million times this year, and that’s fine (be sure to do your research afterwards), but love and care extended to students will nourish seeds in their hearts and allow them to see Jesus in you.
This article is part of a series on diversity in the Christian school.
Tymarcus Ragland and his bride Chrissy have been married for five years. Tymarcus earned a B.A. in Youth Ministry & Biblical Studies from Moody Bible Institute and a Masters in Humanities from the University of Dallas. He currently teaches middle and upper school Bible at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Prosper, Texas and owns his own coffee roasting business. You can follow Tymarcus on Instagram at @ty.rashad.