Bedtime has been a little firmer around these parts in the last week or so as we all try to acclimate ourselves to the shock that is next week's start of another school year. Boo! In honor or dread, depending on your perspective, of the pending occassion I thought I'd offer some simple suggestions on how we can become allies with our kids' and grandkids' teachers; not that I think most of us are adversarial. It just pays to be intentional about these sorts of relationships. It's that whole "missional thing" for those of you who've been playing along at home for awhile now. For the rest of you it's that whole "being-a-decent-human-being-in- hopes-that-you-won't-give-Jesus-a-bad-name-since-you-happen-to-be-a-Christian-above-all-else" thing. If you're not a Christian, well...be amused at those of us who are. Otherwise, you never know when you just might have a chance to do a little ministry of your own, even in the (cue the scary music) public school! Here's are few possibilities...
Look around the classroom. Remember how when you were in school it never occurred to you that your teachers were actually real people. But they are. Who knew? They have families of their own, hobbies, interests...even feelings! Visit your kids' classrooms sometime and take mental notes of potential conversation starters you may see. Pictures, sports memorabilia, college stickers...you never know what you may have in common with the people teaching your child!
Ask "How can I help?" early and often. Are you artsy, crafty, or generally good with a glue stick? Then there's probably a place for you. Even old, broken down athletes can assist with "Fun Runs" and "Field Day." Don't forget "Career Day" and all those silly holiday parties. If there are other needs you see around your kids' school think of potential ways in which you can meet them rather than complain about them.
Eat lunch at your kids' elementary school. I don't recommend this if your kid is in high school, but going to eat lunch with my daughter at her elementary school is quite the fun adventure...and very much appreciated by faculty and staff. Elementary school kids are still young enough to think of you as a hero, especially if you help them open their juice pouches and pudding containers.
Tell teachers you are praying for them. Last year our daughter's teacher had cancer. The spouse of our son's teacher was seriously injured in a car accident. We told them we were praying. They were appreciative. Even in the absence of life altering events I have never in 18 years of ministry had anyone turn down the offer or ask me to stop praying for them.
Actually pray for them. Um, yeah. If you say you are doing it, don't forget to really do it.
Try to find out teachers' birthdays! Not the year, Silly! Just the month and day. If it's during the school year don't make a big scene (nobody likes a brown-noser). Just a simple card and note of encouragement will do.
Pray for your kids' classmates...and teach your kids to do the same. It is never too early to model for our children how to pray for one another. And you never know, it just might open up some opportunities for both of you to be an answer to someone else's prayers.
Backup the teachers, coaches, and administrators at home. When your kids complain let them know that you always expect them to respect and obey their teachers. For your child it's good practice in being under authority...something that might come back to benefit you, the parent, one day. If you suspect your child has (or you have) a legitimate beef, exercise a little Matthew 18. Set up a private meeting with the teacher. And while it's fine to ask another parent or two for advice, resist the urge to bad mouth a teacher or coach.
Does your school have a Good News Club? These little after school clubs operate in elementary schools around the country. If there is one at your child's school, get involved! If there isn't such a club then maybe it's time to get one started.
Never send anything with nuts in it to school. Seriously. Personally I have a peanut butter addiction, so this one kills me. But do you know how much easier a teacher's life is when he or she doesn't have to worry about the one kid in the class who has a peanut allergy going into anaphylactic shock? That student's parents will thank you too.
Drop off or send a few extra boxes of pencils once in awhile. I'm told that teachers really get geeked out over this kind of thing. Actually I've seen it first hand. I got to deliver to the school across the street nearly 70 backpacks full of school supplies that my church collected. I was hugged by probably half a dozen elementary school teachers in the space of two minutes. It was a little awkward.
Perhaps you've thought of a few other ideas? Maybe you're a teacher yourself and want to toss out a few suggestions. Feel free to tack on any other good ideas. But most importantly enjoy this last weekend of summer freedom!