Seeing and being seen: a devotional for a new school year

One of the things that summer does for us in the education profession is to restore our sight. We can easily lose our perspective as we near the end of the year – it is a challenge just staying focused as the tasks mount up. Summer gives us time to reflect – to see into the future, to look back, to see through some past problems/people, to soul search about any “blind spots” and “logs” (see Matthew 7:5) and to “look into” things that help us gain our balance and give us new hopes and dreams.

At the beginning of a new year, I encourage you to think about seeing. Will you take the time to truly see your students, parents, and colleagues and enter into their worlds? Will you recognize Jesus when he shows up in your school? Are you seeing the good or the bad in others? It likely depends on where you are focusing. Are we seeing beauty all around? It is essential that we help students see it, as beauty engages us and entices us to learn more – beauty is critical to the learning process. Will you take the time to see the needs of the world around you and through your keen sight provoke the missional imaginations of your students – to help them truly see as Jesus saw? Do you have a vision for the future impact, the ways God can use, each of those whose hearts and lives you have the opportunity to deeply impact?

At the beginning of the year, I encourage you to think about being seen. Not in the showy, attention-getting way that we first think about when we use the words “being seen.” Let me give you an example of what I mean. In his wonderful book, Nudge, Leonard Sweet tells this story.

Many decades ago some men were panning for gold in the state of Montana. The prospectors organized themselves into an informal cooperative and agreed up front that if they should strike gold they would tell no one about their find.
    After weeks of hard panning and digging, one of them found an unusual stone. Breaking it open, they were excited to see that it contained gold. Soon the prospectors discovered an abundance of the precious metal. They began shouting “We’ve found it! We’ve found gold! We’ve struck it rich!”
    They then proceeded to go to a nearby town for additional supplies. Before leaving camp, they reminded each other of the pledge of absolute secrecy. While they were in town, none of them breathed a word about their good fortune. However, when they were getting ready to return to camp, they were horrified to discover several hundred of the local townsmen preparing to follow them. And when they asked who had revealed the secret of their discovery, the answer came: “No one had to. Your faces showed it.”

How do you wish to be seen this year? What will students, colleagues, and parents see in you?

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18 Comments

Filed under devotional, distinctively Christian, encouraging the heart, image of God, resources, worship

18 responses to “Seeing and being seen: a devotional for a new school year

  1. Very good devotional.
    I love the last little story. How true.
    Bye the way I think I know where the story took place.
    Thanks for writing.

  2. Susan Medendorp

    Wonderful! Delightful! And challenging! Thank you.

  3. prof post

    Hello Dan,
    I am back in class sporting a brand new doctorate in which I took a look at teacher training (including Finland) and attempting to analyze how having my Trinity students tutor students with special needs at Elim Christian School contributes to their perception of being prepared to teach. In fact this week most of my Trinity students taking SPED 315, in which we study about teaching students with low incidence disabilities, will begin 50 hours of teacher aiding in a classroom at Elim. I’m excited to introduce them to this Nurturing Faith website and would like them to contribute a short reflection on this little article. Thanks so much for the stimulus – I’m curious to read their response.

    • Thanks, Pete – err, Dr. Post! Congratulations on completing this milestone! I look forward to having your students interact again on Nurturing Faith – it always is stimulating and helps me better understand the issues and ideas that are compelling to them. I would love to hear your thoughts on the contrasts with Finland and NA and what implications for us might flow from your study. Perhaps a blog post – are you interested?

      • prof post

        Certainly – my dissertation was entitled, in part ,”Docere est discere” (my high school Latin teacher would be so proud) which means “to teach is to learn” and was a program evaluation investigating how certain field experiences might contribute to new teachers’ perceptions of being prepared to teach. The Trinity students that I am asking to respond to this blog will actually be coming with me to our old stomping grounds – Elim Christian School – next semester and will be paired with a student that has special needs to tutor at the end of each class. My study went back to graduates that had taken this course to see if this was perceived as a worthwhile endeavor as they actually entered the teaching work force. In the literature review I found some very interesting teacher training ideas such as teachers in Finland being required to have Master’s degrees or first year teachers in Shanghai being assigned mentor teachers that work with them exclusively throughout their first year of teaching. Interestingly I have also just welcomed back a student teacher from South Africa who explained that since a teachng education is something college students do not have to pay for in this country – teaching is considered to be something you do if you don’t have other marketable talents! Let me think about what I would like to share and I will send more. Thanks, as always, for providing your interesting articles.

  4. Allison Karlock

    I really enjoyed the point you made about seeing Jesus in your classroom. One underlying aspect of all the classes I have taken at Trinity is viewing all the students that we come into contact as made in God’s image. When you have this idea of a child in your head it is easier to focus on the talents they have been given, and also to be patient with them as well in the things they are not so gifted in. Seeing the beauty in all your students is something that really allows you to see into their future. This was a very insightful article and helped to confirm the things that I have been learning.

  5. Janna Ottenhoff

    This post really spoke out to me as I study to be a teacher. I really liked the point you made about seeing how each student is equipped to serve God and how as a teacher, I have an impact on these students. Teachers play such a valuable role in preparing students for who God has intended them to be. It is so essential that we recognize that each student should be guided as a servant of God, because we are all made in His image to be His servants. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind as I go into my future classroom.

  6. Lori Byma

    As a future teacher, I found this article to be very interesting. I found your point about losing perspective to be intriguing. Sometimes when teacher’s have a tough and busy days, they can lose perspective. It’s important to remember why we teach. I also enjoyed the point you made about seeing, particularly in regards to our students and seeing the good or bad in them. It’s important to start each year with a clean slate and to not let what you have heard from other teachers impact the view that you have of your students. All students are created in the image of God and it is important to see them as such from the moment they walk into our classroom. By seeing the good and beauty in each person, you will be able to have a more positive environment in your classroom. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article and will keep it in mind as I work towards having my own classroom.

  7. Sarah Rodgers

    Since I am training to be a future teacher, this article made me think about many different aspects. Going through classes at Trinity, it has given me a new perspective of seeing my students as image-bearers of God. As I have aided in my placements, I have always worked to see my students as the way that God sees them. I know that there are times when students will drive us crazy, but I try to see them how God wants me to see them. With this in mind, when I start the school year, I want to give all of my students a clean slate. I do not want to have any preconceived notions about my students before I get to know them. I want to learn about their likes and dislikes. By having this perspective, it will allow the students to start the year on a good note. When the students sense this, it will also help the students to understand that I, as the teacher, care about each of them and want them to be successful as we work on things throughout the year. This article was very interesting, and I loved reading it. It gave me a new perspective to think about as I work to teach my future students.

  8. Nate Hendrikse

    I completely agree with your post in that I think it is very easy to lose focus, motivation, or the reasons we teach or learn when the school year nears an end. I say this as a student, but through my education at Trinity so far I’ve learned that teachers resemble students in so many more ways than students believe that they do. A successful teacher must be constantly learning and must be dedicated to teaching their students for the right reasons. A teacher must teach not just to meet curriculum standards or state standards, though these are needed and important. Instead, as a Christian leader in the classroom, the teacher must do all they can to “Start a child up in the way they should go.” -Proverbs 22:6 This verse was a theme verse of sorts to my grade school and I believe that Christian educators need to do all they can to accomplish this goal. By enjoying the summer off and reflecting on the past school year, educators are able to focus more directly on their real purpose as an educator and work towards this goal.

  9. Rebecca Verhage

    I really enjoyed reading this blog because, as a future teacher, I felt it challenge me to think of the way in which I think of the current students I am working with and those I hope to have in the future. The example of the gold mine was inspiring. If people could tell just by looking at me how excited I am to be teaching students, that would be great. If I could be as excited about my students learning and the beauty in the school as those men were about the gold they found, I think I could truly be an excellent teacher. As a teacher, I have the chance to make an impact on many students. I hope that I am able to show them, through the way that I teach and conduct myself, that there is beauty in the people in our classroom and school. Each and every student is unique and has their own unique gifts. I hope that my classroom will be one that sees the greatness of that diversity and is welcoming learning community.

  10. Kaylee Wilson

    As a future educator, seeing students through the eyes of God is something that I need to consciously be working on. God made His people unique and special in their own ways, which I need to acknowledge in my classroom. If I look at my students in this light, and act as a child of God myself, then I will have the opportunity to impact the lives of my students. When I accomplish this, even on rough days in the classroom, then I will be able to see the beauty that God has created. Each student will have their own special gifts that God has given them. First and foremost, my students will be a child of God and should be looked at in this way before anything else. This article has truly made me think about how I need to view God’s children, especially in my classroom. With everything that I do, I strive to bring glory to God.

  11. samantha murphy

    As a future teacher, and a Sunday School teacher, I find it very easy to see my student’s short comings and negative behaviors. When Sunday School is over the first thing I tell my friends about is the negative incidences that happened. Your blog really helped me reflect on how I am looking at my students now, and how I should look at my “real” students in the future. It is important to look at your students for who they are, and to try to understand why they misbehave. It is also important to take a step back and remember why you went into teaching in the first place. It truly is about the students. You need to SEE your school’s beliefs, and practice them, you need to SEE your students and be understanding of them, you need to SEE your student’s parents and communicate with them.

    1 Samuel 12:16
    Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes!
    God truly is putting amazing sites before our eyes everyday. We need to push away all of the distractors that are blinding us from seeing them.

  12. Robyn Covert

    I agree with Sarah’s post. I plan to give all of my students a clean slate when starting the school year. Some students are known for getting in trouble, or expected to be good based on their past or their siblings. Giving them a clean slate can change the way a student acts just by knowing that you are accepting them no matter what. God has made every person in His image, and it is important to remember that as an educator. Students can become very difficult at times, but everyone has their faults, and it is very important to take a break from it, and remember that they are God’s children. But starting the year is not the only important part of the year. The end of the year is a struggle not only for the students, but teachers as well. Every body is ready to enjoy their summer and get done with the year. As teachers, we should keep the excitement of learning and school going until the last day of school rather than give up in that last month. Students should not want to leave school!! That’s definitely one of my goals as a future educator–To not give up.

  13. Kylee Hall

    I was extremely blessed by this blog. I really agree with the idea of seeing the beauty in each student. As I prepare to become a special education teacher, I think this is one of the most important aspects when it comes to teaching these students. I think that it is important that we see these students as Jesus sees them. We need to recognize their strengths and the beauty in their weaknesses. We all have strengths and weaknesses. It is important to see the beauty in both of them. I hope that as I teach my students I see them with love and grace as Jesus sees me.

  14. Diane Serbentas

    I really enjoyed reading your blog. I am also a student at Trinity Christian College. As I was reading your blog, I could not help but think about how I can relate to this blog. The first thing that I can relate to is your statement about losing perspective as the end of the year nears. I can relate because as the end of my last few semesters drew near, I began to lose my perspective and wanted to give up. That is until the following semester begins and I walk into the classroom to begin my aiding hours. The big picture (my vision to teach students who have disabilities) immediately becomes clear again. Another thing that I can relate to is your question about taking time to see the needs of the world around me. Attending Trinity has strengthened my relationship with God. It has re-directed my thinking to view each student as a unique child of “God.” God loves variety. After all it would be quite boring if everyone was the same. Focus should not be on the bad (not on what a student can not do), but the good (the student’s strengths and what he/she can do). The strengths and needs of each individual student must be taken into account and fulfilled in order for our students to succeed.

  15. Brie Brugioni

    After reading this blog, I began to wonder if any of my previous teachers saw me and my fellow classmates as you mention here. It makes me wonder whether they were going through the motions and not actually taking the time to get to know their stundents and see their students in a way that is beneficial for their education.. As I plan on becoming a secondary education math teacher, my students must believe that I truely want them to succeed and that I care and see each of them as thriving individuals and will treat them as such.

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