These are perhaps two of the most underrated words. When I hear this pair of words directed at me, I am always surprised by how deeply it impacts me. Sometimes I hear it after a math lecture with our upperclassmen. Other times I hear it after teaching in one of our chapels. Or it might be spoken to me after guiding students across our busy crosswalk. Occasionally, the words are connected with a tasty treat, which not only deeply impacts my soul but also my stomach!
The words themselves are rather quite trivial, but the intentionality when one uses them is significant. In today’s culture, the pursuit of personal fulfillment is on the rise, and the practice of gratefulness is on the decline. Each one of us is not immune to the influences of this cultural trend. But as disciples of Jesus Christ, these weaknesses can be replaced with the power available through our faith in God. We cannot escape the world, but we can do our little part to be ambassadors of the transformation God is doing inside of us.
Gratefulness is an area in which I often cry out, just as Paul did in his letter to Timothy, “I am the chief of sinners.” I wish I was a more grateful person! I am so blessed with the family, friends, school teammates, and community that God has placed around me. Yet my intentionality in saying “Thank you” often comes up short. As God continues to replace my weakness with His power, can you do me a favor? As you prepare to meet with our teachers during Parent-Teacher conferences, join with your spouse and prayerfully consider how grateful you are for your child’s teachers. And then take those “good thoughts”, and make them “good actions”, by giving them a “Thank you” for all the seen and unseen service to this community.
*Ironically, after writing this article, but before sending it out, a parent and student brought in a thank you card and donuts for all of the teachers! And this happens regularly! Thank you!
One of the most influential “educators” in my adolescent years was my PE Teacher/X-Country/Track coach. He treated me with the same inherent value, whether I was a star pupil or in need of correction, whether I finished in first place or farther back in the pack. He was quick to give me individualized attention and even helped me out with running gear from time to time. He even took me and my running buddies on extended hunting trips, investing in our lives well beyond what we could produce on race day. I learned more from him through his example than through his words. Though when he spoke, he had a platform for me to truly listen.
It often seems like most of the most influential people in our lives are those who are both present and actively engaged with us. In a recent leadership article from ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International), they provided a definition for discipleship:
Discipleship is the process of demonstrating Christ-like qualities in everyday life through a delicate combination of leadership (visible example), testimony (past example), and direct instruction. At the core of discipleship is the disciple’s relationship to the discipler. True discipleship is transference of values acquired, mostly, through visible example while the direct instruction is the commentary. Discipleship typically breaks down when the visible example does not match the direct instruction (the commentary). The master discipler is one whose visible example matches their direct instruction. Discipleship is the embodying of our salvation and making it effectual, in other words, working it out with fear and trembling. It begins with understanding that all of life is sacred because it all belongs to God (Philippians 2.12).
I found this explanation to be very encouraging and helpful to me both as a parent and as a school leader. While direct instruction is often useful for teaching new content, it is through visible example that values are transferred. For these visible examples from parents and teachers to have an impact, they must be built upon relationship, and must be consistent with our words. It is through intentional time and love that we built a platform for our example, and words, to be heard.
Who are the examples in your life whose actions and words provided discipleship for you? And who are the children, neighbors, or friends that God has asked you to now do the same? The school’s mission of discipleship training flourishes in the parent partnership focused on the example of Christ. Thank you for your teamwork as the complementary pieces of example and instruction pass on an active faith to our students.