Back to School: 5 Ways to Bless a Teacher

ways-to-bless-a-teacher

School supplies hit the shelves of our local Wal-Mart en force a few weeks ago and it is taking ALL of my mom self-control not to delve right in and buy every Sharpie marker, Post-It pack, and notebook in every color and pattern.

At least I have a few weeks to work my way through the supply list for my kids’ school because summer doesn’t end until after Labor Day for us.  Moms in other parts of the country, however, are on the final countdown to early wake-ups, packed lunches, homework and making it to the bus on time.

So, it’s time to start prepping for back to school season…for all of us really, whether our schools start in August or September…. because it can’t possibly be too early to pray for our kids, their teachers and school staff.  To be honest, I’ve been praying about what teacher my kids will have since March.

It’s not just our kids we want to bless as we send them off for a day of learning outside of our homes, though.  No matter what kind of school our child attends, there are teachers and leaders who impact their lives.  Homeschoolers have Awana, Scouts, and church leaders.  Private and public school students have a whole team of educators and administrators who impact their lives, too.

As I drove home from Open House the first year my children attended public school, God cut through my anxiety about teachers, bullies, academics, mean girls, and more to remind me:

This isn’t just for your kids.  This is for you, too.

My kids are my mission-field.  Their teachers and school staff are part of that ministry.  They pour themselves into my children and I want to pour myself out in blessing and encouraging them right back.

Here’s what even crazy busy moms and others can do to bless our teachers and schools.

  • Pray for them:  While we can’t solicit prayer requests or set up prayer groups in the public schools, moms can still get on their knees for students and teachers.momsinprayer You don’t even have to pray alone.  For two years, I’ve prayed with a local group of moms through Moms In Prayer International. We met once a week to pray for our own kids and the schools they attend.  Each week, we asked God to give wisdom strength, energy, and joy to the teachers, administrators and other school staff. To find a group for your school or to learn how to start one, please visit Moms In Prayer International.
  • Volunteer: This isn’t just for stay-at-home moms!  There’s a great deal of flexibility for school volunteers. You could help with the school newsletter, serve on the PTA, man the prize table at a school carnival, shelve books in the school library, listen to children read, walk kids back and forth to testing or pictures on special schedule days, make copies, and more.
  • Send Supplies:  We all get the lengthy school supply list at the beginning of the year, but keep in mind that supplies need to be replenished over time.  Many teachers and teaching assistants buy glue sticks, pencils and other supplies with their own money.  Here are some supplies you could send in (depending on grade level):
    • Pencils
    • Paper
    • Notebook reinforcers
    • Dry erase markers
    • Glue
    • Tissues
    • Clorox wipes

You can also periodically check with your child’s teacher to see if there’s anything he or she needs.

  • Show respect:  Let’s face it, when we think there’s a problem, we Mama Bears can be pretty tough.  Remember that the teacher you are talking to is a person with feelings, too.  Be sure to handle concerns appropriately.  You’re much more likely to have success that way.
    • First of all, don’t believe everything your child says. Give the teacher a chance to tell his or her side of the story, as well.
    • Let your child try to handle things on her own if possible.
    • Ask questions rather than making assertions and demands.  Teachers are professionals who likely have valuable input.  Try asking:Blessing a Teacher
      • How can we have more success this year?
      • What do you think we can do differently at home?
      • What can we change in the classroom?
      • What behaviors are you noticing in the classroom that we can address?
      • How can we work together to solve this problem?
    • Never show up at the classroom unexpectedly to talk to a teacher and don’t try to hold an impromptu conference on Back to School Night or during Open House. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to give you their full attention or even remember later what you talk about during those busy times.  Always ask for a separate conference time—maybe even over the phone—at their convenience to talk about your child.
    • Don’t teach your kids to disrespect teachers by criticizing them at home in front of your children.
  • Be an encouragement:  If you need some ideas for teacher gifts, consider handmade presents, snacks, chocolate, gift cards to area restaurants or Starbucks, or lotion.  I’ve posted my all time favorites on Pinterest here: http://pinterest.com/roomtobreathe3/cute-gift-ideas/The best gift, though, is a thoughtful, personal thank you note telling just what you appreciate about them as a teacher.  That’s something that fits every budget and that they can cherish forever.Teachers probably hear plenty of times through the year what’s wrong.  Let’s be sure we take the time to tell them what’s right and to thank them for it.

It’s more than a little scary to entrust our kids to teachers and school administrators that we don’t really know.  That’s such a powerful reason to be in prayer for them and to try to make this relationship a successful one.  Ultimately, we can be a blessing to teachers by keeping in mind what Paul said: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24 NLT).

What are your best tips on how to bless our teachers and schools?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Keep On Keeping On

Lunches packed for the last time. Desks cleared, backpacks cleaned out and stowed away. Field day over.  Class parties celebrated.  Awards ceremony concluded and certificates photographed.  End-of-the-year pictures taken of each daughter and compared to the photos from the first day of the school year.

And now we collapse.  We did it.  Somehow it feels like a joint accomplishment, not just theirs.  Sure, my kids worked hard. So did I.  And somehow, by God’s grace, we made it here to this first day of 006summer vacation.

It’s only taken 15 months of prayer.  I started praying for this school year last March, praying for this teacher, this classroom, these friends, this school, these character issues, and these lessons.

On Monday, a friend and I bowed heads for the last time this school year and we gave thanks.

Thank You, Lord, for answering our pleas for our children.  Thank You for helping them learn, being with them in all of the struggles that have sent these loving (and worried) mamas to their knees.  Thank You for helping them with difficult concepts and friendship drama, bullies and mistakes on tests, report cards and forgetfulness. Thank You for these teachers You chose specially for our kids.

And we began again, just that quickly, one sentence to another, thank God for this year and then praying for next year: for classroom placements and teacher assignments, for the responsibilities of a new grade and for the friendships they’d make.

So it continues.

“Pray without ceasing….” that’s what Paul wrote (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

He meant that living prayer, that breathing in and breathing out of living life alongside God, taking in crises and handing them right on over to the Lord, receiving blessing and offering up spontaneous praise.

It means no more arbitrary separations between the sacred and the secular, between the holy parts of my life where God is welcome and invited and the dusty living rooms of our hearts where we try to hide away the clutter in corners.

Having kids, though, reminds me of this, too:

Prayer is perpetual; it’s insistent and consistent.

And sometimes I’m not.  I’m driven to the throne by need and I’m pouring out pleas of desperation until the need eases a bit.  Or perhaps I just grow weary or fall back into the coziness of complacency and apathy.

I’m not praying so fervently any more. It’s more like unemotional have-to prayers, perhaps performed out of duty, perhaps totally forgotten and not prayed at all.

We pray for that intervention, that salvation, that redemption, that rescue…for us or for another….and then slowly we cease the praying.   We need the reminder to keep on keeping on, to not give up asking God for that healing and to refuse to stop praying for a loved one’s salvation.

With kids, you can’t really forget, not for long.  Time just pushes you right through from prayer need to prayer need.  I’m not even done praying over one school year before I’m on my knees for the next.

I read the Psalms and here is the reminder anew:

“But I keep praying to you, Lord, hoping this time you will show me favor.  In your unfailing love, O God, answer my prayer with your sure salvation” (Psalm 69:13 NLT).

“But I will keep on hoping for your help; I will praise you more and more” (Psalm 71:14 NLT).

“We keep looking to the Lord our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal” (Psalm 123:2 NLT).

Keep praying….keep hoping….keep looking.005

Keep at it and when He answers, press on in more prayer.

With this fresh resolve, I flip through the pages of the neglected prayer journal.  What did I pray then….and what do I still need to pray now?

What have you neglected in prayer?  What have you given up on and long since stopped asking God for?  Who used to be on your prayer list but somehow slipped off?

It’s discipline to begin again.  And when we cease praying, which feels like the inevitable failing of us forgetful ones, we return again and resolve again to be insistent and consistent in seeking God and hoping in His deliverance.

What have you stopped praying about that you need to pray for again?  What prayers are you already praying for your children’s next school year?

Do you have a prayer journal?  How does it look and how do you use it?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Praying for Our Kids Around the Clock

News reports and tears.  How could they not go together at times?

I don’t think my momma’s heart can handle watching the live footage of Oklahoma after a tornado, not when it crushed a school with other women’s babies inside.

Still I wake up this morning and the next and the next and I rush my children through the routine and watch the clock count down the minutes to the school bus’s arrival at the end of our driveway.  I kiss blond heads and say the simple things: Have a good day.  Behave.  Learn lots.  I love you.

The temptation is always there to snatch them up and try to hide them from a world out of control and full of so much evil and such pain.

But here is my daily choice: To parent in Fear or to parent in Faith.

It’s prayer that faith-parenting demands: this incessant and heart-all-in-it intercession for our kids because we just aren’t enough to protect them from everything and we can’t ever do it all right on our own.

Today, I’m choosing to pray around the clock for my kids:

7:00 a.m., before they wake–For Me:

Lord, please help me be the mom You want me to be today.  I give this day to You right from the beginning.  Forgive me for yesterday’ s mistakes and give me grace for a new day.  I trust You for the wisdom, strength, grace, patience, and energy I need to do this most important job.  Thank You for trusting me with the care of this family.

7:30 a.m., as they wake–Praise and Thanksgiving:

Thank You for these children, Lord.  They are so unique.  I see how this one hops out of bed with joy and how this girl drags her blanket and stumbles out to the sofa for a slow move into the day. Help me remember how they are each a precious treasure.

8:25, the school bus arrives–For Safety. 

Lord, I trust them into Your hands today and ask for their safety.  Please watch over them.  Even when they are with me, I can’t get it all right and don’t know how to protect them from 007everything.  Your hands are so much bigger than mine, Lord. Please hold them in Your hands today.  Keep them safe from evil and those who want to hurt them.  Protect them physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

8:50, school begins– For their school (or work);

God, please help my children be seekers of truth.  Grow in them the skills, the knowledge, the abilities they need to fulfill Your plans for them.  I pray that You will choose the perfect teachers who will be an encouragement to my kids, will help them discover the joy in learning, and will know exactly how to guide, direct and care for them today.  Thank You for these teachers, school staff and administrators.  Please give them wisdom, strength, energy, and joy.

12:00, lunch time–For health and physical disciplines:

Lord, I pray that You will be the healer and protector for my children.  Help them to make wise choices about eating, exercising, and their bodies.  Show them how to say “no” and stand firm against addictions and harmful substances.  Give them a healthy body image so they will care for the body You’ve given them, but they will not fall for the lies of this world about beauty.  Remind them that they are beautiful the way You made them.  Please protect them from any struggle with eating disorders.

1:00, recess—For friendships and relationships:  

Father, Proverbs says: “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Prov. 13:20 NIV).  Help my children make wise decisions about their friendships and relationships.  Show them how to love others, be kind to all, reach out to the ignored, the ostracized, and the downtrodden.  Give them compassionate hearts.  But please help them choose close friends who will lead them to Jesus and not encourage or dare them to rebel and walk astray.

For their future dating relationships and marriages, I ask now for wisdom and purity.  Let them be passionate about pursuing You above all and let a passion for You be what attracts them to others.  Prepare them for their future as friends, wives, and moms and give them the relationship skills they need now to fulfill those roles later.

3:45, school ends and afternoon and evening activities begin—For their future:

Lord, You know the exact plans You have for each of my children. I ask that You will reveal their gifts and hone each of their talents so they can use them for Your glory.  Give them hearts that are passionate for You and Your will and help them choose to walk in Your ways in all things.  I ask that You will teach them discipline, faithfulness, and hard work so they don’t give up too soon, but instead always strive for excellence, giving their very best offerings as praise to You.

8:00, bedtime—For their salvation and their walk with God:

Above all, Lord, I ask that You draw the hearts of these children to You.  Help them to know You as their Lord and Savior and let that be personal, real and life-changing.  Stir up passion in them for Your Word, for worship, and for the things of God.  I place them into Your hands again this night, trusting them to Your care.  Please don’t let them be afraid, but to learn to trust You and turn to You for whatever help they ever need.

In Jesus’ name….Amen.

Interested in learning more ways to pray for your children?  My favorite resource is Stormie Omartian’s The Power of a Praying® ParentShe also wrote a book specifically for parents of adults: The Power of Praying® for Your Adult Children.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

My Favorite Teacher Gifts and Why This Matters…

For ten years, it sat on my desk.

And I’m not a “stuff” person really.  I have kids.  Things break.  It’s a reality, not a nightmare.

Yet, this I mourned a little, when I sat down at my desk and saw what a child-who-shall-remain-nameless broke this week.

Ten years ago, in my pre-Mom days when I was still teaching in the classroom, parents and students gave this simple picture frame to me.  Each teacher in the school received one with a card inside displaying their name along with the fruit of the spirit or character trait the students said that teacher most represented.

Sometimes you need an outsider’s perspective.  Sometimes you think you know who you are, but it takes someone else to say, “I see this in you…” and you haven’t ever seen that before so you know exactly what that means.

It’s proof that God’s been working in you.  He’s been transforming you and changing  you all up from the inside.  Maybe you’ve missed the yellow “Caution: God At Work” sign and maybe you didn’t even see the grand unveiling of the new and Holy Spirit-improved you.

But someone else saw.  They noticed.  And they took time to say….Jesus is glorified in you.

So, I opened up that teacher’s gift ten years ago and just marveled at God because what the kids saw in me was “Joy.”

I never would have guessed that.  Didn’t see it.  Didn’t know it.  Can’t even tell you now how exactly the Holy Spirit chiseled, scraped, sanded, and carved that out of a misshapen rock like me.

But I knew one thing for sure.  That was God’s hand, His glory, an artistic endeavor that only a Master Creator would undertake and accomplish.042

That little picture frame gift never was just about remembering students or recalling the old days when I commuted and dressed like a professional instead of donning jeans, a t-shirt and canvas sneakers to head out for a full day of Mom-life.

No, it was about so much grace.

And more.

This world condones, encourages, evokes, and just pulls right out the selfishness in us.  It tells us: Focus within.  Look out for #1.  Fight to get ahead.  Don’t let anyone stand in your way.  Help yourself.  Take what’s yours.

God, though, didn’t just tell us to stoop down low, to reach out, to humby pull out the cloth and the basin and wash another’s feet.

He did it Himself.

And then He asked us to do it for others.

Hebrews 10:24 says:

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (NLT).

One little teacher gift for me was Hebrews 10:24 wrapped up with tissue paper and handed out during teacher appreciation week in 2003.

Now, I’m the mom with the young kids and they have the incredible teachers.  This, again, is grace.  The way God blesses us and pours into us.  Then He asks us to pour ourselves right on out for others so they can be blessed and filled to overflowing.

And so it goes, a perpetual fountain of grace-giving that only stops when we break the chain and stagnate the flow until we’re all swamp-stinky and covered in a grime of selfishness.001

Maybe your days of classroom teachers are long over.  But we all have those special ones who give so much and if we’ll just take one moment to look at them instead of at ourselves, we’ll marvel at the creativity, the thoughtfulness, the gentleness, the devotion, the commitment, the faithfulness, the care and the compassion.

And we’ll want to say, “Thanks.”  We’ll want to tell them—“I see this beauty in you.”

For those looking for ways to bless a teacher or other special servant, here are some ideas as we end this school year or even thoughts to give you a head-start for the fall.  We’ve collected these ideas from Pinterest, the Internet, and from other moms.  I’m hardly creative enough to come up with these on my own!

To see my whole Pinterest board of Cute Gift Ideas, click here!

Of course, gift cards are great, too.

Most importantly, though, is a genuine, heartfelt note of appreciation and encouragement.  That’s something we can all give to another this week.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Filling Out The Form

“I’m your servant—help me understand what that means, the inner meaning of your instruction”  (Psalm 119:125 MSG).

“What do you want to see your child learn during this school year?”

I tapped the eraser end of my pencil on the table.

It’s not a new question.  I’ve been answering it for years.  The first time I registered my oldest daughter for preschool, I sat in a child-sized chair and hunched over a child-sized table and completed the “Help Me Get to Know Your Child” form.

Some questions were easy.  What does she like?  What are her strengths? I scribbled away for a while, trying to sum up my precious daughter in a few sentences on blank lines.

But when it came to that one question—What do you want her to learn?—-tap, tap, tap went the top of the pen on the preschool table.

Tap, tap, tap goes my pencil after Open House for second grade.  Some things never change.

What am I supposed to put on this form?  Multiplication?  Cursive?  Powerful writing skills? 

Truly, I want her to know in a deep-down, unquestioning way that God loves her.

This was Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:17-19

I’m not talking about being able to rattle off John 3:16 or sing Jesus Loves Me.

In her book A Sudden Glory, Sharon Jaynes notes that the first word for know here is gnosis or ginosko:  “This word is not simply a head knowledge but an intimate heart knowledge,” like the “relationship between a husband and a wife.” (p. 173).

Yes! I want her to love God with that passion and to be filled up with all that God has for her because she trusts and fully knows His love.

And I want her to understand that growing in Christ takes time, a lifetime of time.  There are no shortcuts to faith. 

Rick Warren wrote:

Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth. Spiritual maturity is neither
instant nor automatic; it is a gradual, progressive development that will take the
rest of your life.

I don’t want her to settle for a safe amount of faith, a reasonable amount of Bible knowledge, a decent prayer life, an appropriate amount of service to God.  I don’t want her to declare, “I’m finished.  This much is enough.  No need for more of God.”

After all, He always leads us forward, perpetually changing us, incessantly maturing us.  His passion is transformation.

It takes hard work.  It takes discipline.  It takes yielding.  It takes willingness to be taught and to change.  As it says in Romans:

… fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.  Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you (Romans 12:2)

This is my prayer for her.

Not head knowledge or wisdom gained through book study and our teacher in these matters has to be more than human.  Paul assures us that, “these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God”  (vs.10).

The deep things of God.  Is that what I’m asking?

Or as Paul puts it later, “We have the mind of Christ.

He says it with such confidence.  Not we want to have, we will have, someday we’ll have, or if we work hard enough we’ll have.  God has given us His Spirit and with that, “we have the mind of Christ” (vs. 16).

This is what I want my daughters to learn.  This is what I want to learn.  I want every day to know Him more, to be filled by His Spirit, responsive to His promptings, and for my mind not to be filled with self and with world, but with Christ.

I look at the form from her teacher.  How to answer this question?  I decide that being vague is the way to go.  “I want her to fulfill her potential, growing in her strengths even more and improving any weaknesses.”

That’s what I write.  But I pray for so much more.

I pray for the deep things of God.  I pray for the mind of Christ.

How would you answer this question?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King