“I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Thy testimonies are my meditation.” Psalm 119:99
“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers,…” 1 Corinthians 12:28
To the teacher is committed a most important work—a work upon which he or she should not enter without careful and thorough preparation. He should feel the sacredness of his calling and give himself to it with zeal and devotion. The more of true knowledge a teacher has, the better will be his work. The schoolroom is no place for surface work. No teacher who is satisfied with superficial knowledge will attain a high degree of efficiency.
But it is not enough that the teacher possess natural ability and intellectual culture. These are indispensable, but without a spiritual fitness for the work she is not prepared to engage in it. She should see in every pupil the handiwork of God—a candidate for immortal honors. She should seek so to educate, train, and discipline the youth that each may reach the high standard of excellence to which God calls him.
The purpose of education is to glorify God; to enable men and women to answer the prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” [Matthew 6:10] God invites teachers to be His helping hand in carrying out this purpose. He asks them to bring into their work the principles of heaven, the A B C of true education. The teacher who has not yet learned these principles should begin now to study them. And as he learns, he will develop a fitness to teach others.
Personal Knowledge of Christ
Every Christian teacher should have an intelligent understanding of what Christ is to him individually. He should know how to make the Lord his strength and efficiency, how to commit the keeping of his soul to God as unto a faithful Creator. From Christ proceeds all the knowledge essential to enable teachers to be workers together with God—knowledge which opens to them the widest fields of usefulness.
Many do not appreciate this knowledge, but in obtaining an education they seek for that which will be regarded by their fellow men as wonderful knowledge. Teachers, let your boasting be in God, not in science, not in foreign languages or in anything else that is merely human. Let it be your highest ambition to practice Christianity in your lives.
“Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: His going forth is prepared as the morning.” [Hosea 6:3] As the light of the sun shines with increasing power from morning till noonday, so, as you advance in the opening light of God’s word, you will receive more light.
Those who accept the responsibility that rests upon all teachers should be constantly advancing. They should not be content to dwell on the lowlands of Christian experience, but should be ever climbing higher. With the word of the Lord in their hands, and the love of souls pointing them to constant diligence, they should advance step by step in efficiency
Need of Prayer
Every teacher should daily receive instruction from Christ and should labor constantly under His guidance. It is impossible for her rightly to understand or to perform her work unless she is much with God in prayer. Only by divine aid, combined with earnest, self-denying effort, can she hope to do her work wisely and well.
Unless the teacher realizes the need of prayer and humbles her heart before God, she will lose the very essence of education. She should know how to pray and what language to use in prayer. “I am the vine,” Jesus said, “ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.” [John 15:5] The teacher should let the fruit of faith be manifest in her prayers. She should learn how to come to the Lord and plead with Him until she receives the assurance that her petitions are heard.
The Garden of Souls
The teacher should carefully study the disposition and character of his pupils, that he may adapt his teaching to their peculiar needs. He has a garden to tend, in which are plants differing widely in nature, form, and development. A few may appear beautiful and symmetrical, but many have become dwarfed and misshapen by neglect. Those to whom was committed the care of these plants left them to the mercy of circumstances, and now the difficulties of correct cultivation are increased tenfold.
No one branch of study should receive special attention to the neglect of others equally important. Some teachers devote much time to a favorite branch, drilling students upon every point, and praising them for their progress, while in other essential studies these students may be deficient. Such instructors are doing their pupils a great wrong. They are depriving them of that harmonious development of the mental powers which they should have, as well as of knowledge which they sorely need.
In these matters, teachers are too often controlled by ambitious and selfish motives. While they labor with no higher object, they cannot inspire their pupils with noble desires or purposes. The keen, active minds of the youth are quick to detect every defect of character, and they will copy defects far more readily than they will the graces of the Holy Spirit.
I recall attending a class for parents [and teachers]. All that remains in my memory from the teacher’s talk is one line. “Are you unhappy when you get up in the morning? Then get happy!”
Continual association with inferiors in age and mental training tends to make the teacher tenacious of his rights and opinions, and leads him to guard jealously his position and dignity. Such a spirit is opposed to the meekness and humility of Christ. A neglect to cherish these graces hinders advancement in the divine life. Many thus build barriers between themselves and Jesus, so that His love cannot flow into their hearts, and then they complain that they do not see the Sun of Righteousness. Let them forget self and live for Jesus, and the light of heaven will bring gladness to their souls.
No man or woman is fitted for the work of teaching who is fretful, impatient, arbitrary, or dictatorial. These traits of character work great harm in the schoolroom. Let not the teacher excuse his wrong course by the plea that he has naturally a hasty temper or that he has erred ignorantly. In his position he stands where ignorance or lack of self-control is sin. He is writing upon souls lessons that will be carried all through life, and he should train himself never to speak a hasty word, never to lose his self-control.
Above all others, he who has the training of the youth should beware of indulging a morose or gloomy disposition; for this will cut him off from sympathy with his students, and without sympathy he cannot hope to benefit them. We should not darken our own path or the path of others with the shadow of our trials. We have a Savior to whom to go, into whose pitying ear we may pour every complaint. We may leave all our cares and burdens with Him, and then our labor will not seem hard or our trials severe.
“Rejoice in the Lord alway,” the apostle Paul exhorts, “and again I say, Rejoice.” [Philippians 4:4] Whatever your disposition may be, God is able so to mold it that it will be sweet and Christlike. By the exercise of living faith you can separate from everything that is not in accordance with the mind of God, and thus bring heaven into your life here below. Doing this, you will have sunshine at every step. When the enemy seeks to enshroud the soul with darkness, sing faith and talk faith, and you will find that you have sung and talked yourself into the light.
We open to ourselves the floodgates of woe or joy. If we permit our thoughts to be engrossed with the troubles and trifles of earth, our hearts will be filled with unbelief, gloom, and foreboding. If we set our affections on things above, the voice of Jesus will speak to our hearts, murmuring will cease, and vexing thoughts will be lost in praise to our Redeemer. Those who dwell upon God’s great mercies and are not unmindful of His lesser gifts, will put on the girdle of gladness and make melody in their hearts to the Lord. Then they will enjoy their work. They will stand firm at their post of duty. They will have a placid temper, a trustful spirit.
The teacher should not think that all her time is to be spent in the study of books. By putting into practice what she learns, she will obtain more than she will by mere study. As she uses her knowledge she will receive more. Some who have but one talent feel that they can do nothing. They hide their talent in the earth, as it were; and because they receive no increase they murmur against God. But if they would use the ability given them, their talent would double. It is by a faithful use of talents that they are multiplied. As we use aright the advantages God gives us, He increases our capabilities for service.
Because you are teachers, do not think that it is unnecessary to obtain a training in the simplest duties of life. Because you are studying books, do not neglect the everyday duties around you. Wherever you are, weave into your life all the usefulness possible, and you will find your minds more capable of expansion, more vigorous in grasping the lessons you endeavor to learn. By performing with faithfulness every practical duty that falls to you, you are becoming better qualified to educate those who need to learn how to do these things.
“Where there is no vision the people perish” [Proverbs 29:18]
There are some who love the society of the world, who regard the companionship of the worldling as something to be desired above the companionship of those who love God and keep His commandments. Teachers, know enough to obey God. Know enough to follow the footsteps of Jesus, to wear the yoke of Christ. Do you desire the wisdom of God? Then humble yourselves before Him; walk in the way of His commandments; determine that you will make the most of every opportunity granted you. Gather every ray of light that falls across your pathway. Follow the light. Bring the teachings of truth into your life practice. As you humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, He will lift you up. Commit your work to Him; labor in faithfulness, in sincerity, in truth, and you will find that each day’s labor brings its reward.
Teachers must have a living faith or they will be separate from Christ. The Savior does not ask how much favor you have with the world, how much praise you are receiving from human lips; but He does ask you to live so that He can put His seal upon you. Satan is seeking to cast his shadow across your pathway, that he may hinder the success of your work. You must have within you a power from above, that in the name of Jesus of Nazareth you may resist the power which is working from beneath. To have in the heart the Spirit of Christ is of infinitely more consequence than the possession of worldly recognition.
To the teacher is committed a great work—a work for which, in his own strength, he is wholly insufficient. Yet if, realizing his own weakness, he clings to Jesus, he will become strong in the strength of the Mighty One. He must bring to his difficult task the patience, forbearance, and gentleness of Christ. His heart must glow with the same love that led the Lord of life and glory to die for a lost world. Patience and perseverance will not fail of a reward. The best efforts of the faithful teacher will sometimes prove unavailing, yet he will see fruit for his labor. Noble characters and useful lives will richly repay his toil and care.
“The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.” Isaiah 50:4