(Thanks to my friend, Bruce Hekman from Calvin College, for sharing this post.)
In the face of often daunting circumstances teachers and school leaders need to find a way to be strong persons, to be able to be the calm, non-anxious presence in our classrooms and school communities.
Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, in the first chapter of his book Leadership From Inside Out, writes, “Leaders (and I would add “teachers”) who can be trusted will be those who lead well-examined lives, who have recovered spiritual practices that liberate them from the power of compulsions and free their energy for outward service.”
Parker J. Palmer in Leading from Within, cautions, “A leader is a person who has an unusual degree of power to project on other people his or her shadow, his or her light….A leader is a person who must take responsibility for what’s going on inside him or her self, his or her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good.”
Leaders and teachers, in other words, need to be self-aware, reflective, grounded in their faith, confident in the promises of God. We don’t this well on our own. As a rabbinic saying goes, “Do not live without a rabbi, or die without a disciple.” The journey inward requires the presence of another who can help us cut through the masks, the pretences, the rationalizations that interfere with our understanding of our selves, and our relationship with God.
“Spiritual practices” are spiritual disciplines, faith-forming exercises that keep us closely connected to Jesus, the source of the living water. As I Timothy 4:8 reminds us, “Train yourselves to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things…” If we want to be spiritually stronger, we need to engage in spiritual training.
Dallas Willard, Richard Foster and others have captured the wisdom of the centuries about the practice of spiritual disciplines. There are two other resources I recommend. One is a new website, monvee.com, still in Beta testing, that provides an on-line assessment of your spiritual-growth patterns, and then connects you to resources to help you on the journey. There is a companion book by John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be. The other resource is a book by Adele Calhoun Ahlberg (2005, IVP, Downers Grove), Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, a wonderful compendium of faith forming and faith enhancing practices.
Here are two suggestions from the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook from the chapter on mentoring: “Take a mentor review. Think back over your life, writing down the names of those who believed in you and mentored you. What happened to you because of their presence in your life?” “Pay it forward. Think about your job and the colleagues with whom you work. Who needs someone to believe in them and mentor them? Ask the Lord is he intends for you to mentor this person. Offer to be a mentor for the next year.”