By Jillian Finkbeiner
As I wrap up my fourteenth year of teaching, and tenth in fourth grade, I cannot help but reflect over the last two school years. Education has been flipped on its head, carving a new trajectory that not even a single stakeholder in our children's lives had ever imagined would have happened. As distance turned remote, remote switched to hybrid and hybrid turned into full-time in person, it’s fair to say that teachers, students and families were forced to continually readjust. New routines, schedules, work habits, mindsets and dynamics were never constant and continually being altered.
My colleagues and I described the last school year as, “We’re flying a plane while it is being built!” There were a plethora of moments I did not know how much more we could take. Choosing to live day by day was the only way to survive the ever changing nature of our education system.
It’s safe to say our kids have suffered. The elephants in the room are our children's morale, stamina, focus, happiness and joy. It seems the world around them has slowly stolen their childhood, and turned it into something unrecognizable.
As we move into summer, I can’t help but sit and reflect about our impending fall school year. What will the next year bring? How will our students adjust? Will there be new mandates, new schedules or new routines? How will I be able to support your kids in our ever developing world? Although the questions are heavy, I can’t help but also press on to new horizons, goals, aspirations and dreams.
Learning and achievement gaps will be significant, but what can we do to support our kids in the meantime? I Timothy 4:12 states, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” The Apostle Paul’s call to the youngest of Christ’s followers is wholesome, strong and beautiful. And I want to be a part of that call. I am encouraged and strengthened as not only a believer, but as a trusted adult in the lives of my students. Parents, I pray you will be encouraged and rejuvenated as well.
When the world of learning is uncertain, how can we be refreshed, heading into our summer? Let’s begin with relearning and reinforcing the values and foundation for Gospel living. Teaching the truth of the Bible is not enough. As believing parents, teachers and community stakeholders, we must begin again, to model the truth we so proudly profess. Using I Timothy as the standard, modeling edifying speech, righteous living and decision-making. We need to love our kids well, demonstrating a renewed sense of faith, and unwilling to compromise any of our standards should be of the utmost importance. These God-given values will see our kids through. Our kids need a revived sense of value, worth, significance and hope. The list of principles and beliefs the Apostle Paul presents will edify, develop perseverance, create a restored growth-mindset and a formidable sense of will. Test scores, homework packets, Google Classrooms, SeeSaws, Canvases, and Schoologys will continue to weigh them down and crush their spirits. However, if their character and image in Christ is bolstered over time, it will be difficult to disregard our youth when their character and conduct is impeccable. If we desire to change the nature of our kids’ learning environments, the change has to start in our homes, with us. So, what can we do?
It’s time to turn off the electronics and start to talk again. Walk, play, design, build, create, establish traditions and make memories. Research states that a child’s number one contender for attention in their life is their parent’s cell phone. If the last year has taught us anything, technology has been used as an escape, divisive tool, and babysitter. This summer is a time to reconnect and establish ourselves in Christ. We need to carve out the space and time to model the Christ-like characteristics we so desperately want our children to display. Take heart, be encouraged, and begin to dream with your family again. Pray, laugh and grow together in Christ’s love and move forward as a fortified unit into our indecisive world. Our children need to experience in our families and classrooms what King David described in Psalm 62, “I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken.” You can do it. I can do it. We can change the course of our children's lives together by demonstrating an unshakeable faith in a shakeable world.
Jillian Finkbeiner is a teacher for the Kennewick School District. She is a member of Bethel Richland and an active participant in Bethel Christian Writers Group. Her belief is that every child can succeed no matter what. She praises God for equipping her with gifts of innovation, design and creativity in order to reach every learner in her classroom.