By Eva Juliuson
One of my favorite parts of being a teacher is seeing my students live out something I’ve taught them. Then I know it has become part of who they are. A few of my most thrilling teacher moments have been when I watch across the playground as one of my students helps another child in need; or when after years of praying out loud with my grandchildren, they are praying with others; or when a young person I taught in Bible school is preaching a strong message in front of the church.
The very best teachers are those who pass on important life lessons that take root so deeply that their students live out those lessons and pass them on. The students aren’t fully aware of just how much they are being taught at the time. I work with many great teachers and have learned a lot from each of them, but Jesus is the master teacher. He came not only to save us but to teach us.
Great Teachers Love Students
Students of any age are far more likely to learn from a teacher who loves them. The children I teach in my daily job know that I love them. And they love me. They are excited to come to school (most of the time) and they are eager to learn. They can tell I’m enthusiastic about what we’re learning together. Even if it’s a subject I already know, it is fresh and thrilling all over again as I watch their young minds discover and come to life with new knowledge. The saying is true: “A teacher always learns more than the student.” I truly want the best for each individual student. It’s my heart’s desire for each young person to grow to be all they can be. It’s critical to teach them the truth because the lessons become part of who they are.
Each of my students becomes precious to me because they are each unique. I also teach two adult classes, and I have found this to be true for students of every age. When I love them, I will take time to make certain I can find a way to reach each person. Different students learn in various ways, so it’s my responsibility as a teacher to pay attention and make sure I see them absorbing the lesson. Of course, teachers cannot force students to learn, but it is the deep desire of their hearts for each of their students to grow.
The love I have as a teacher for my students of all ages is but a small taste of Jesus’ love for each of us. He loved us so much he died and rose again for us. Jesus didn’t want us to go any longer without knowing the truth. He came not only to save us but to teach us so we can grow and mature. It must bring great joy to his heart as he sees us practice and obey the lessons he teaches us. As we learn from the Lord, he calls us to go and teach others. In Matthew 28:19, 20, Jesus instructed: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” We don’t have to be a certified teacher; we just need to have Jesus’ love living in us and through us as we teach others to live for him.
Great Teachers Humbly Serve
One of my teacher friends gave up a guaranteed higher paying job in a cushy district to serve in an inner-city, high-risk school with no benefits. The students have overwhelming issues to overcome including gangs, hunger, poverty, drugs, and abuse. This teacher loves her students so much that she has given her life to help them find a better life. A lot of her smaller paycheck goes to pay for supplies needed. She is constantly asking us all to pray for her kids and their families. Her life is poured out for her students. She patiently serves them with love even though there are no guarantees that her students will escape the horrific place they are living in.
Jesus, our ultimate teacher, gave up all the riches and benefits of Heaven to come into our world and live in it as one of us. He humbled himself to serve us and teach us with love and patience. It is his deepest desire to give each of us new life and rise above the stronghold of sin that imprisons us. He knows it is up to us to accept his salvation and learn from him. Even though he knows not everyone will accept him, he still gives us his all.
Jesus, our perfect teacher, constantly intercedes in prayer for us. “Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). The Son of God is always praying we will understand the lessons and will put them into action in our lives. Once we are saved, he longs for us to grow and mature so we might humbly serve others as teachers.
Great Teachers Teach by Example
I recall a time of great frustration as I worked with a group of teachers. They were basically good teachers, but they had fallen into a trap of gossiping and bad-mouthing one another. No one went out of their way to help one another because it wasn’t their job. The bad attitudes trickled down to the whole school. How could we possibly teach our young students to be kind and respectful to one another when we were not doing it among ourselves? We are constantly teaching others by our actions.
Jesus was constantly teaching by example. Jesus wanted us to learn to truly love—so he loved even while we were sinners. He loved those who spat on him, those who denied knowing him, those who betrayed him, and those who yelled, “Crucify him!” Our Lord wanted to teach us to serve—so he washed feet, fed the hungry, and healed the sick. Jesus wanted us to learn to pray—so he prayed out loud, went off by himself, and prayed on the cross. Our teacher wanted us to learn to forgive—so he forgave his betrayer, forgave those who persecuted him, and forgave those who drove the nails in his flesh. Jesus didn’t just deliver the lessons we need with words; he lived out the lessons for us to follow.
Teachers are always alert for teachable moments. I watch my students as they play on the playground, eat lunch, and face challenges. It’s perfect timing to reinforce a lesson and show how it works in their daily lives. Jesus did the same for his disciples. When they faced a hungry group, Jesus implored them to feed the crowd. When they tried to keep children away, Jesus told them that’s what the kingdom was made of.
Jesus was forever teaching through sermons, experiences, parables, and actions. Should we not do the same? Jesus not only taught through his life on earth; he teaches us today through the Word and the Holy Spirit, his still small voice that guides and directs us through life’s lessons. Jesus teaches us so we can grow to be more Christlike and then we can pass on what we’ve learned to others.
Eva Juliuson is a freelance writer in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.