Natalie, a high school senior, recently shared some unsolicited thoughts with me about the kind of teacher she admires. Natalie has been educated in two different Christian schools, at home, in a homeschool co-op, and at a community college. She has pretty well “seen it all.” But in each setting, a certain kind of teacher stood out above the rest.
“I respect teachers who know their subject, teach well, and keep order in class,” she said. “But I really like teachers who are also willing to be your friend.” She quickly clarified. “Not that they get too buddy-buddy in a way that downplays their authority. But just that they show you they care about you as a person, not just as a student.”
Natalie summed up one of the most important things I’ve learned as a teacher. Teaching is not just about imparting information. Teaching is about relationships.
In a world where the word relationship is fraught with ambiguities, Natalie understands that the way a teacher relates to a student must be guided by wisdom and a sense of appropriateness. With that in mind, here are a few ways we can relate to our students as a friend who cares about them personally.
1) Pray for them. Keeping track of their prayer requests is one of the best ways to learn what’s important to them. Ask them for updates from time to time, and don’t just say you’ll pray, but really do it!
2) Take an interest in their families, hobbies, and pursuits outside of school. Converse with them about family members and pets. Ask them what they did over the weekend. Attend some of their recitals, plays, or sporting events if possible. Send them birthday cards.
3) Be willing to share. Students respond to transparency. As appropriate, mention your own prayer requests, relate a family story, or share something God taught you in His Word that morning.
Christ Himself is a wonderful model in this area. While on earth He chose and trained twelve men who, with one exception, would lead His church after His return to His Father. He took a deep personal interest in each of these men. He traveled with them, ate with them, prayed with them, worked with them, and conversed one-on-one with them when they had questions or needed guidance. He called them His friends (John 15:13-15). Shouldn’t we who name Him as Lord follow His example?