I recently spent time with a Calvary Christian School graduate- class of 2005. He was reflecting on the time he spent and the impact made during his 9 years at CCS. His dialogue focused on one essential topic- the relationships he had with his teachers. He specifically talked about Mr. Gertsen and the connection he made with him. This CCS alumnus explained that he is currently a History Major at UCI because of the influence of his 8th grade history teacher.
What is equally interesting is that while at CCS, this student was not particularly strong academically and was somewhat of a behavior problem. However, it was Mr. Gertsen who not only loved and motivated him through teaching, but also disciplined him in way that created a long lasting impact.
Excellent teachers strive for excellence in their relationships with students. When teachers fail to connect with students personally, students don’t care what they have to say about math or language arts. Teachers who know their students well, gain their trust and are afforded the opportunity to motivate and have meaningful impact in their lives.
The end goal in our relationship with students is that they would grow into independent adults with Christ-like character. We know that this not only means connecting with students, but also disciplining with excellence.
In the 1960’s there was a particular student at Stony Brook School in New York who was finding himself in trouble often. He was continually missing assignments and was a behavior problem. After numerous threats, the Head of School expelled the boy. It is said that the Head of School made it clear that he loved the boy, cared for him and even followed up with him for years to come. Because it was done in grace and truth, the boy never forgot the lesson. The boy was Franklin Graham, now President of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Discipline is a key part of teachers’ relationships with students. At CCS, we believe discipline must be done with grace and truth. Giving truth is letting a student know when they missed the mark and that they will serve a consequence. The grace is letting them know that we love and care for them- it is a both/and concept.
The additional element, of course, is that of time. As we discipline our students we must remember that they need time to grow. Students don’t change overnight; instead it takes years and we are all part of the growth- from preschool — 8th grade.