Posted by November 30, 2011on
It seems we can’t escape the constant entertainment updates splashed across the daily headlines. Are superstar celebrities really to be envied for their behavior? Or could a little grade-school wisdom teach us to really shine?
A poster listing classroom expectations hovered over the reading table of the elementary classroom where I would be the substitute teacher. The poster’s title? “How to Be a Superstar.”
Suddenly, Kesha’s chart-topping tune began to dance through my mind, and I recalled the pleasant memory of running a summer errand with my teenaged granddaughter. Head bopping and finger-and-toe tapping suddenly came to a screeching halt when I mindlessly chimed in with: “You know we’re superstars; we are who we are.”
My incredulous young passenger asked, “You know this song?”
“Yeah, sorta,” I responded uneasily, sensing her discomfort. “Why?”
“Um, I don’t think you’ve listened to all the words,” she said.
True, I hadn’t—but soon took care of that with a Google search.
How embarrassing to find I’d been sucked into liking a catchy tune without knowing all the lyrics! How thankful I was for a stellar-thinking young person alerting me to the fact that adjectives like “numb,” “dumb” and “sick” are far from noteworthy.
The morning bell intruded into my flashback, and students poured into the classroom. How would the day go? Would the students remember the expectations on the poster? Of course, knowing the teacher’s expectations is one thing. Doing is quite another.
Stepping to stardom
Here are four of the poster’s expectations that work in the classroom and beyond. I’ve added a few scriptural applications to help us meditate about the precepts on our own individual journeys.
1. One person talks; the others listen.
Listening requires that we focus on what’s being said. It requires patience and self-control not to interrupt. Respect for and validation of the speaker’s wisdom is implied by the listener’s silence. For young children, these are vital virtues that must be learned on the way to maturity.
How much more would this apply to us as adults if we are inclining our ears to the One whose ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:1-13)! Think of all we might learn if we respectfully listen to His infinite wisdom.
2. Wait to be called on.
For children, waiting is probably even harder than listening! It requires a sense of calm, especially if there’s a delay in what they’re waiting for.
As adults, do we sometimes fidget, make excuses to others or justify our actions to ourselves, roll our eyes and insist that we’re just not being understood or not having our needs met? Do we push ourselves forward, looking for recognition or promotions (Philippians 2:3)? Do we nudge and prod God to answer our prayers the way we want them answered, when we want them answered?
Our Teacher’s gentle behavioral reminders direct us to work on our patience and self-control (Psalm 37:7; Isaiah 30:18; 40:31).
3. Be polite. No unkind words are allowed.
No one should ever be on the receiving end of a statement such as: “I’m done talking with you!” Teachers expect students to practice teamwork and empathy in the classroom by using kind words.
If we missed becoming proficient with these exercises in our youth, the bad habits will continue as adults. The words we choose to use with children, spouses, peers, teammates, business associates and employees will be harsh and hurtful (Ephesians 4:29, 31). Unless we work hard to change, how sad we will make ourselves and those around us!
4. Walk quietly.
Keeping elementary students quiet in the hallways is a continual task for teachers and aides, but it’s necessary for containing potential confusion. It also safeguards the students from potential accidents, helping them see and hear what is approaching. Once again, with a little self-control and patience, problems can be averted.
As adults, do we walk randomly and riotously? Or do we thoughtfully set upon a path (Psalm 17:5; Proverbs 3:23, 26)? Do we routinely practice this quiet behavior—understanding the powerful model it makes for our children—when we get up in the morning and walk with them through the day (Deuteronomy 6:7)? What is the quietude we seek, but that which radiates humility, mercy and justice (Micah 6:8) as we walk with God (Ephesians 4:1; 5:2, 8)?
A successful day of substitute teaching ends with spontaneous hugs from the students as they leave the classroom. They’ve worked hard at listening, waiting, walking and being polite—and with a few reminders here and there, they are superstars in the making!
My reflections make me wonder: If we don’t pursue these virtues at a young age, just when will we learn them? How often will we fall for the numb, dumb and sick superstar facade?
There’s one Source of light for all who seek to become authentic superstars: “They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed” (Psalm 34:5).
You might say it’s elementary.
At the very least, it’s worth reflecting on.
Janel Johnson has been a certified K-12 substitute teacher for 10 years and is always learning life lessons from her students.
For more about positive and polite communication and relationships, see: