Quite often teachers tell me about their difficulties with managing student behaviors. It seems to be one of the reasons they leave the profession earlier than planned. Last week, I assisted a teacher with mock interviews. One of the students, a high school junior, said she wanted to be a pediatrician, because she loves working with children. She said she would not become a teacher because of how she has observed teachers being treated by students. “I wouldn’t be able to handle that,” she said. “They are disrespectful and do not know how to talk to adults. No ma’am. I cannot be a teacher.”
Last week I had a conversation with a teacher, from Kenya, about a recent interaction with a student. He said he asked her to wait in the hallway until she calmed down, but she refused, told him to mind his…business. She was unconsoled by her friends, was hitting them, using profanities, and interrupted him as he attempted to check attendance and begin the lesson. He said he threatened to write her up, but that did not influence her to calm down. After a few more exchanges, he said to her, “I’m sorry, but you really need to shut up.” That, he said, made it worse. He said it got so bad that the students, her friends, turned on her, agreeing with him. He said she finally calmed down, but it offered him very little time to teach the lesson he had planned. I asked if he had written a referral. This was his response, “No ma’am, I did not. I have written her up many times before and she just keeps repeating this behavior. I’m pretty sure she’s dealing with something at home. I don’t know what it is because I cannot talk with her. She received the rebuke of her friends. There is no greater reprimand than rebuke of your peers!
I ask myself what causes children to act this way. I hear this type of thing from teachers all the time. I’ve seen it for myself, in classrooms. Why? Why are our children not grateful for the education they are receiving? Why would they rather disrupt the classroom than learn the information their teacher has prepared to teach? A few years ago I became the sub for a teacher who left mid-year. Each day, it seemed the students wanted me to fight with them and if I won the battle, I would earn the right to teach that day. Several reasons have come to mind and they all are in regards to parenting.
We often refer to Proverbs 22:6 as a verse about how we should raise our children in the fear and admonishment of the Lord. I’ve heard it said that this verse is about helping children to begin using their God-given gifts and talents at a young age. It states, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” I’d like to use this Scripture to point out that children learn from what they see in their parents. We are teaching them inadvertently. They mimic our behaviors and attitudes. If they hear us speaking negatively or disrespectfully about their teacher or their school, they will do it, too. If they sit in on a parent-teacher conference and witness us blaming the teacher or challenging his/her classroom rules, they will do it too. If we start our children off without teaching them the value of school, the value of education, the value of their teacher’s time - they will never know the importance of it. In fact, they may spoil the educational experience for their classmates.
Proverbs 29:15, 17 has more on the topic of parenting. 15”A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother. 17"Discipline your children, and they will give you peace, they will bring you the delights you desire.” You may have seen in last week’s news that James and Jennifer Crumbley had their first court appearance. The charges claim that they created a chaotic home life, knew their son needed mental health care, but did not provide it, and bought him the gun that he used to kill 4 of his classmates in a school shooting last year. Parents, what you do matters! Your care and conversation with your children can make or break their future. It can also make or break the future of their peers.
In the OT we read about Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli. All three were priests of the Lord. Scripture tells us that “Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord.”1 Sam. 2:12 Their sinful deeds went on for a time until “Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.” He spoke with them about it, but they did not change their behavior. God is patient with his children, and we can mistake His patience for absence. We may think that because He hasn’t punished us, that He won’t. There is folly in that thinking. We don’t know how many years passed, but God did punish Eli for allowing his sons to continue to dishonor the people’s sacrifices. He accused Eli of honoring his sons more than he honored the Lord. (v. 29) He punished Eli’s family with the wage of sin. Death. “...Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. 33Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life 34“‘And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day.” (v.32-34)
Parents, you matter. How you parent matters. You are training up the next generation. Yes, you should teach your children the ways of the Lord, but we must not neglect to teach them and demonstrate to our children the heart of God. The future is in our hands. Our teachers deserve better. They are imparting knowledge to the next generation, our children’s future is in their hands. We must support teachers and discipline our children. Amen.