This week at staff devotions we read a chapter entitled, “Classroom Behaviour and Discipline.” The heart of this chapter, and the book, is that Christian classrooms should be different. Does this mean that in a Christian school every student is expected to be perfect? The answer is no. The gospel does not support this view. The gospel tells us that we all fall short of righteousness. In fact, “outward behaviour is not a sufficient measure of godliness. (p. 243).” There is the chance that their outward behaviour is a source of pride. It is possible that they are only compliant for the rewards of such behaviour or the fear of punishment. All of us need to examine our hearts. Is our behaviour rooted in a desire to serve the Lord out of thanksgiving of his grace? That is the true measure and again according to the gospel, we will all fall short in this measure. Does this mean that anything goes in a Christian school? The answer to that is also no. Barriers, boundaries, rules and expectations are there for our own good. Teachers are still given authority and are expected to guide the behaviour of students. Christian schools do this delicate dance between recognizing the fallen natures of ourselves and our students, seeing them as image-bearers and demonstrating the gospel by extending grace as we have been freely given that grace by our God. This is a difficult task, but we are called to model the gospel. Below is a great summary and illustration that is found at the end of the chapter. It highlights the discipline approach that we take at Community Christian School in the shaping of disciples.
“When we expect students to pursue the good urges of Christ who lives within them, we empower them to pursue righteousness instead of the sinful urges that still plague them. The spirit to empower comes through the way in which we grant that power to students, by not focusing on what is wrong with them but instead attempting to tap into what is good in them-the image of God and, for the believers among them, the person of Christ who now lives in them. If we treat them as image bearers, we invite them, and expect them, to live as such-just as God does.
The students’ spirit to pursue righteousness also comes through the teacher’s acting as a shepherd to help the “cast” sheep to its feet, allowing it to live and flourish as God intended. A cast sheep is one that has rolled over onto its back and is unable to right itself More than likely, the sheep has chosen a comfortable spot to lie down (as on soft grass in a hollow) and has unsuspectingly rolled a bit too far over. The more it flails and attempts to get up, the worse things get. If left for long, it will die as gases begin to build up in the rumen and circulation is shut off in the limbs. To right the cast sheep, the shepherd does not merely pick it up and set it upright. Rather, he must first roll it over on its side, talking gently to it, and then lift it up slowly, rubbing its legs to regain the circulation. When it is upright, the sheep may still lack sufficient equilibrium so that when it attempts to walk, it falls in a heap and needs to be picked up again. With sufficient time, encouragement, and patience, the sheep is up and happy, able to go on feeding and flourishing.
Students who cause trouble in the classroom are often “cast” students whose souls need to be restored. Their fallen nature ensures that they will be downcast, in the pit, unable to right themselves and get going-sometimes because of poor choices but often just because they rolled over a bit too far when they were comfortable, or because some circumstances over which they had little control dumped them over. Teachers do not shout at such students to get up, stand up, and do right, for such action does nothing to “restore the soul” of a student. Rather, they do as a shepherd does. They always keep an eye out for such students so they can find them before it is too late, “rubbing” their sore limbs, speaking in encouraging tones even when rebuking, and picking the student up- not once but as often as necessary.” Teaching Redemptively: Bringing Grace and Truth into Your Classroom by Donovan L. Graham p.250-251
Pray for teachers, staff, administrators, parents and students as we live out the gospel.