Let’s Start Over

I hated math, but I loved my 10th grade geometry teacher. Her many years in the classroom honed her teaching skills while slowly salting her black hair with gray. More than any other teacher, Dorothy (Dot) Peterson influenced my desire to become a teacher. She also greatly affected the way I interacted with my students. She became my pattern, and I am thankful she set such a high standard.

Mrs. Peterson followed three rules that every teacher worth her salt must follow: be firm, fair, and friendly. She taught complex concepts, but broke each one down into manageable, bite-size pieces. She was just as concerned with conduct as with curriculum. Those who chose to misbehave got a Pat-Summit-style stare-down that put an end to most shenanigans. Yet, her style of humor made us all smile. When she made a mistake, she admitted it. If ever our class didn’t score well on a test, she spouted off words that I later adopted with my classes: “Where there has been no learning, there has been no teaching. Let’s start over.” She didn’t blame us, call us names, or make us feel inferior like other teachers I had. She took the blame and retaught the lesson in a different way.

For a girl who struggled with numbers, having a teacher who didn’t want anyone to get left behind was like a cool, sweet breeze on a hot, stinky day. I was always thankful that I had been assigned to her class. Hers was the only math class I ever sat in that allowed me to relax, make mistakes, and actually learn something. As a result, I got geometry, but algebra … well, she didn’t teach algebra.

I wonder if our generation of young people feel like they can relax, make mistakes, and learn when older folks call them lazy, entitled, and self-centered. When I hear that, I want to snap back with, “Where there has been no learning, there has been no teaching! So, Let’s start over!” Maybe all of us older ones could take some time to shift our focus. 

I had a school counselor tell me that the reason the father of a boy I was mentoring wouldn’t discipline his son was because he was just like him. The father didn’t think he had the right to tell the boy “no” when he had done the same kinds of things. Because the father had no one to teach him, he had nothing to teach his son. As Jesus followers, no matter our family dynamic we have three Master Teachers with us at all times. Our Father God teaches us through His written Word. Jesus taught us best by being what He wants us to become. The Holy Spirit continually teaches and encourages us in every way. 

If I HAD to choose just one trait to instill in this entire generation (young and old), it would be an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude shifts our focus. Instead of fixating on ourselves and all the wrong around us, we fix our eyes on Jesus and all that is excellent and praiseworthy. Expressing our gratitude to God and to others increases our joy, invites sleep, lessens stress, deepens our relationships, and helps regulate our behavior. In other words, gratitude makes the world a better place!

Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, coach, or teacher, you have young people in your life. Give them boundaries; they actually want them. Teach them right from wrong; they don’t always know the difference. Pray for and with them. Spend time with them. Be who you want them to become. But by all means, express your gratitude for all that God has done in YOUR life and for all you see Him doing in theirs; they might not see it yet. 

As for the young ones you have no influence over yet, pray for them and their families. Be prepared and available. Be firm, fair, and friendly. When God opens an unexpected door, you just might hear the Spirit whisper, “There has been no teaching, so … let’s start over.”

“Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ. Keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Put into practice the example of all that you have heard from me or seen in my life and the God of peace will be with you in all things.” (Philippians 4:6-9, TPT)

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