FIRST-PERSON: Pray for your child's teacher

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP) -- There was once a very ignorant time in my life when I believed that teachers had the easiest job in the world because they only worked nine months a year and had holidays off.

Wow, was I wrong!

My wife is a former second grade teacher. We'd just had our second child right before the start of a new school year, and she still had two weeks left on her maternity leave. So, I volunteered to be a substitute teacher for her class for those weeks.

Let me just say, I will never do that again. It was mayhem. The one positive result from the experience is that it gave me a new respect and admiration for teachers.

Being a teacher is such a wonderfully-stressful, joyously-difficult, low-paying-highly-rewarding vocation that only a precious few can take on. The great ones don't look at it as their job, but rather, their passion.

Teachers literally shape and mold future generations. When people are asked, "Who was the most influential person in your life?" the most common response is a parent and a very close second is a teacher.

As your children head back to school, you're entrusting them to a teacher. These men and women are simply human beings; this means they'll make mistakes, they value encouragement, they appreciate patience, and they surely need your prayers.

In asking some real-life teachers, "How would you want the parents of your students to pray for you this year?" here is a prayer list of what they shared:

1. Pray that they will be constantly reminded, especially on difficult days, of the reason they embraced a call to pour their lives into the next generation. Also, pray that they can find effective time during the day to get alone to pray, take a breath and regroup to effectively continue to engage with your child.

2. Pray that those who teach your children will have an overwhelming sense of peace and calmness in moments of stress, chaos or rebellion by a student. Remember, it's one teacher with many students. Pray that they will possess the wisdom to show grace and mercy when necessary, but also be able to discern when discipline and sternness is fitting.

3. Pray for each teacher's ability to effectively and clearly teach the subject matter to all students in a way they can understand.

4. Pray for your teachers' patience and understanding of each child's journey, having ears to hear his or her heart and needs, remembering that each child in the class is someone's baby.

5. Pray for your acceptance of this year's teachers, to realize that this is a completely new school year.

6. Pray for unity within teacher-parent relationships and teacher-student relationships. Also, pray for unity and effective teamwork between teachers and the administration toward an optimal learning atmosphere for your child.

7. Pray for those who teach your children not to be overwhelmed with the pressure of standardized testing and to avoid the temptation of looking at the students as scores, marks and numbers. Pray that your teachers would help students find value in a year-long process of hard work, sharpening their strengths, and celebrating their individuality.

8. Pray for teachers' physical, emotional and spiritual endurance, that they would be able to maintain consistent momentum throughout the entire school year and not lose heart.

9. Pray for your teachers' personal lives. Don't forget that they have responsibilities and interests outside of the classroom -- to-do lists, spouses, children, friends, hobbies and churches where they may serve.

10. Pray for teachers who are Christians, who see their primary task as loving your children like Jesus would by reflecting the Gospel to them -- which is often a challenge in a non-Christian environment. Remember that one of Jesus' most common titles was rabbi, a Jewish title meaning teacher.

If we take the time to intentionally pray for our teachers, we'll have an impact on how efficiently the school year will go for our children, the teacher and the entire atmosphere of the classroom. When you're praying for someone, you can't help but feel compassion for them and a connection to them.

I remember as a knuckle-headed high school student thinking that some of my teachers were "out to get me." But looking back, I realize how wrong I was. No one wakes up in the morning and says, "I can't stand children. I think I'll be a teacher!" Teachers step up to the call to mold the keys that unlock our future. What are those keys? The minds of children sitting in desks every day watching the teacher you're praying for.

Shane Pruitt is director of missions for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
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