February 25, 2019
I have been an educator for a long time. I began my teaching and coaching career in 1972 in Tampa, Florida. I have reflected many times as to what caused me to be interested in the field of education in the first place. First of all, let me confess that it wasn’t because I was a model student while I was in school. In the 11th grade I actually was removed from my U.S. History class because the teacher said it was either me or her. (I’m so sorry Mrs. Terry). I suppose I was a typical student for the most part, being interested in sports and girls while keeping my grades strong. I attended public schools through the ninth grade when a local Christian school added a new high school, my parents decided that I should attend. This meant that I would leave my friends that I had gone to school with most of my life and the opportunity to play sports with guys that I had known since Little League. To say the least, I was in full blown rebellion against my parents, the school, and God. It is only by the grace of God, the determined will of my parents, and the teachers and coaches that influenced me that God was able to get a hold of my life and lead me into a career in Christian education. Years after I became a Christian school educator when I would meet someone from my high school days and was asked what I was doing now, and told them I was a Christian school administrator they didn’t believe me. Truly God had changed my heart and my direction in life.
So what happened that brought me into Christian education? The first thing that happened was that just before the end of my junior year of high school, in what we call here at FCS, Spiritual Emphasis Week, God got a hold of me and I received his mercy, His forgiveness and His salvation. God brought people into my life to influence me, like my youth pastor, Richard Pankey, whose granddaughter is a student at FCS today. He took upon himself the mission of disciplining me and helping me mature as a believer during my senior year. While I still was involved in athletics, my circle of friends changed as God worked on me to consider my future path. Ironically the final football game of my high school career was played against Florida Christian School, and one of the cheerleaders for Florida Christian School was my future wife Katie. Little did I know that God was already at work.
But my decision to enter the field of education was a collaborative result of the influence of all those teachers and coaches that had loved and tolerated me throughout my entire school experience. Although I did not necessarily realize it at the time, it was the teachers and coaches in my life that loved me enough to see the potential that I had, and to help me mature into a teacher, and eventually an administrator, that could influence others as well.
Once I began to teach and to coach, I realized how vitally important it was to genuinely love my students and to build relationships that would influence others as well. Recently the FCS Class of 1979 had their 40th class reunion. It was amazing to connect with these men and women I had taught, and even after all that time rekindled those relationships that had been built so many years ago. It was humbling and rewarding to hear that I had influenced them and had an impact on their lives. The fact is, teachers are some of the most loving people around, and with all of the things teachers experience on a day to day basis, they have to be.
Paul told the church at Thessalonica, “Now about brotherly love, we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you brothers and sisters, to do so more and more.” I Thessalonians 4:9. John Maxwell said that a godly leader is an influencer. He said, “To influence is the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force that produce certain actions and behavior. It can be defined as the ability to change the course of someone’s future.”
One of the things we learn as teachers about love, is that loving students is usually not something you feel; it is something you do. We learn that the outward appearance of a student, or even the words that they might say might hide the true feelings that are going on inside of them, and those inward things can only be discovered if we genuinely love them in an unconditional way, and develop a trust relationship with them. That was certainly true in my life as the influencers looked past my rebellion and saw my potential.
The teachers at our school could fill many books with stories of how their students have responded to the love and concern received from them in their classrooms. Paul said that even though we might be loving others already, we need to do it more. Our children may have very few people in their lives who love them more than their teachers do. It is impossible in the present time for a teacher to know the ultimate impact the love they show to a student will be manifested in a student’s life. It is only in eternity that the lifetime impact of a godly teacher will truly be known, and like Paul said, “…it’s certainly worth doing more.”