by Francis Cabrera |
Bachelor of Modern Languages and Education | United Kingdom

“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:14).”

The words of Jesus in Matthew 19:14 have always resounded in my ears. If the kingdom of heaven belongs to children, we have to learn from them to live in the presence of God.

After more than ten years of experience teaching in British schools, I feel that children have taught me more, much more, than what I taught them. Such a beautiful thought should be treasured by all who have contact with chil- dren, as teachers, parents, relatives, or only members of communities enriched with the presence of children and teenagers. Becoming a teacher has brought me closer to God as I realize the responsibility of being surrounded by young people who thirst for much more than theories. Being a teacher is both a blessing and a privilege that includes commitment and endless challenges.

In Christ, the teacher finds strength

At the beginning of my teaching career, I looked for the key to not only plan but also implement good lessons that would be relevant and unforgettable for my students. It was easy for me to pass all the exams to become a language instructor. But putting into practice what I had learned became a challenge. True consecration and help from heaven are needed to fulfil the responsibilities and the demands that a teacher faces on a daily basis. Only God can help us with this. Everyone who enters the teaching profession should recognize his/ her incapacity to achieve success—and submit everything into the hands of God. Then His Holy Spirit can help us achieve things that seem impossible. Frequently, however, the demand is much more than is humanly possible to fulfill.

For a teacher, twenty-four hours per day are scarcely enough to achieve all the tasks related to our commit- ments. As with a mother and a father, a teacher’s work never ends. Thus, it is very important to learn to prioritize. However, the pressure is not just in the administrative work but also in planning and teaching the lessons and later assessing the progress of the students, when the demands are multiplied. Constantly we are observed by our students, other teachers, parents, and representatives of various groups. How to classify a teacher as “good” is very difficult to put into words. Teachers should be good people, both inside and outside the classroom. They should be models to follow, people who inspire others to give the best of themselves.

The teachers whom I remember most never revealed their own achievements but, rather, encouraged me to de- velop my unique talents and achieve my own goals. Nor did they claim to know everything, but encouraged me to study what I was really interested in. Then I would not learn superficially, but do my best to become an expert in each field I entered. My father influenced me a great deal in facing the world and its challenges. For him failure was not necessarily a bad thing, but merely an opportunity to learn more.

I did not enjoy my early English classes. I begrudged the hours that I had to spend with the teachers of this language. It seemed impossible for me to learn English! Ironically, this resentment fired my determination in my higher education. I do not remember precisely when I started to enjoy learning languages, but eventually I made plans that decidedly changed my destiny. I set objectives that I had never considered in the past, and I reached them one after the other, because God enabled me, and because He had a plan for me. For such an experience, it is essential to be at God’s disposal so He can use us as His instruments and so our achievements and successes will glorify and honor Him. Definitely a teacher is an instrument of God, and his influence can be a blessing for the students, if he seeks the Lord with all his heart and desires to do His work.

Proverbs 4 always reminds me of my father, especially verse 7. “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding.” This is the biblical advice that we should make an effort to follow, because we are not just teachers, mothers, or fathers, but we need to serve God better in every area of our lives. Likewise, this advice should be the main objective of all that we want to communicate to our students. As Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Teaching children to love and fear God should be our priority.

Christians do not have to compare themselves with so- called experts or scholars, nor desire to be like them. Our model should be the Teacher of teachers: our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him we find a perfect example in all things. He alone should teach us how to lovingly teach our students. Our Saviour should occupy the most important place in my heart and your heart. From Christ we learn what is really important. And He alone knows how to teach us ac- cording to our needs and personal experiences. He knows our weaknesses and is willing to help us to overcome with heavenly power. Every day we need to remember that we “can do all things through Christ,” who strenthens us (Philippians 4:13). With this promise in mind and knowing that there are no impossible obstacles for our beloved Saviour, there will be no unsurmountable obstacles for teachers who are in God’s hands.

More than planning and preparation

I admit that I have spent many early-morning hours plan- ning activities and strategies that I would later use in the classroom, so the students would not only learn but also love to learn—not just to pass an exam, but because it is a pleasure and a privilege to know more. Little children are often fascinated with learning something new. Teenagers, however, often hide such feelings. And some adults openly show fear of and rejection for the idea of learning! We have seen that the Bible encourages us to be like children. This simple but valuable advice will help us not just to learn happily and achieve academic success, but also to realize our own salvation. We should be able to transmit our love of learning by modeling it in every area of our lives, as we consistently show our love for God all the time.

Not always did my routine of extensive preparation did not always give me the results I wanted. It is necessary to know very well each member of the group being taught so as to plan according to their curiosity and personal needs. The lessons need to be relevant for all the children. What works for one student may not necessarily work for another. Therefore, the differences cannot be ignored; on the contrary, each one must be carefully considered. (I learned these concepts very well when I became the mother of three daughters WHO ARE very different from one another! Studying and then putting into practice how to deal successfully with different personalities is another lifetime occupation.)

The challenge of the technological “avalanche”

It is not easy to teach others to love genuine learning and to search for wisdom. Unfortunately, children of this generation with advanced technology want only superficial answers to one thousand questions—in one instant, by simply touching a button. Today’s young people are not interested in in-depth answers or in the reasons for the answers. The internet has become a tool that can some- times destroy the reflective and reasoning abilities of those who are seeking to develop their own judgment. This generation is drowning in ads and social media, distracted by consumerism and flourishing technology that most of the time promotes anti-Christian values. Children are constantly distracted and bombarded with deception. Now, more than ever before, the challenge of teachers is huge. We aim for concentration in the classroom within children who are exposed to screens for more hours than they spend resting or in any other activity.

Children prefer the fingertip to a pen or pencil! We could call this genera- tion “the push-button generation.” They can simplify everything. It is no longer necessary to develop sen- tences or even express opinions with words. Icons have become universal communication elements, and are able to express and summarize ev- erything that the writer wants to say. To get children and young people in- terested by simple things that lead to complex questions, is more com- plicated every day. Again, we need wisdom and divine intelligence. First, those who have the joy of being par- ents must protect their children from technological influences. Second, those who are teachers must seek to open the eyes of their students to the adverse effects of all this messy, un- structured information.

(I do not, however, totally forbid tech- nology in the home or in the class- room. We need to find a balance in this respect. Academically-used tech- nology is a powerful tool, sometimes even more interesting and cheaper than alternatives. But we must be careful with the material that our chil- dren and students are using, because it is our duty to guard the avenues of the souls of our little ones, exposing them only to what leads to salvation.)

Discipline with love

Human beings need structure. We were created by a loving, organized, perfect God. He Himself told the first couple in Eden what was expected from them. All of us know this story in the book of Genesis. Unfortunately, despite God’s advice, Adam and Eve fell into sin. Sin transformed everything that was good, and we have each inherited a rebellious nature. Even children try tirelessly to exceed the limits. They rebel against the rules, ignore instructions, and often confront the authority of the teacher in the classroom. Those who are parents know very well that, from infancy, children are able to manipulate us and display a contradictory behavior. Usually children will imitate positive behavior, but often such modeling takes too much time, time that we do not always have.

Patience and persistence are key elements, but they are not everything. We must also be prepared to deal with disobedience. Like God did with the first couple, we need to explain to children the consequences of not following instructions before giving our boys and girls the option of breaking the rules. We must explain the reasons for obedience: it has to benefit them individually as much as collectively. For example, “Listen carefully when someone is talking in the classroom; in this way we will learn from one another.” “Model the respect that you expect to receive.” To understand the reason for rules and regulations in the classroom, we have to turn to love again. Love to God, our neighbors, and ourselves—this is what helps us to learn and accept orders, and to have the desire to fulfill the expectations. (My experience with my most poorly behaved children indicates that they are the most in need of love.)

In the first school in which I taught, I realized that children do not behave according to cultural stereotypes. For example, British adults are very respectful. They apologize and say “thank you” frequently. But this is no longer true for British children and teenagers. On the contrary, they can become extremely rude and even aggressive. At the beginning of each school year, there is a process of adaptation. Then the behavior depends on the atmosphere that the teacher is able to create in the classroom. (I have personally witnessed the same group of children behaving in different ways with different teachers.) The teacher should have high expectations and respectfully share them from the first day. On the other hand, students should know the consequences if they choose not to follow the rules. And consequences should certainly come if the rules are broken. In this way the students feel secure, and they follow the dynamic introduced by the teacher. In theory, all this sounds logical and easy to put into practice, but it is not always the case.

My mentor encouraged me to show each of my students that I would be pleased with their obedience. Praising the positive and then pointing out, with encouraging words, what we do not like is a powerful strategy. I learned to give instructions like this: Rather than saying “Thank you. Sit down, and be quiet,” I now smilingly say, “Please sit down, and be quiet. Thank you!” This small change encourages the students to do what I have asked them, because my words and my smile indicate that I expect them to please me. Once more, what we say and the words we choose to communicate with children are essential for the success that we want in influencing their young minds.

When we are in front of a group of students, there are many things that we need to consider. I previously mentioned the planning and the preparation of the material that we want to share, but there are also other things that have a great impact on how the students will receive what we want to share— for example, our tones of voice, our body language, our clothing, and even our sense of humor.

I remember teaching next to a classroom in which the teacher often screamed. She screamed so much that, even from my class- room, we could hear her instructions! It is a mistake to believe that students will listen better if the teacher raises her voice. On the contrary, she created the habit that, in order to be listened to, the speaker had to scream. Not only did the teacher scream, but so did everyone else in the classroom! I cannot imagine that such an atmosphere would promote individual or group learning. If the noise begins with the teacher, it is unlikely that later on she can control it.

Deterioration of moral values in our society

Values have been changing, not for the better but for the worse. Several countries have approved laws that forbid the introduction of religious teachings in the classrooms. And they go even further, introducing teachings contrary to God’s law, such as interchangeability of gender roles, homosexuality, abortion, and soon. For teachers who are children of God, it is not possible to accept and teach such things. On the other hand, usually we have to abstain f rom using the classroom to introduce the gospel, because doing so is forbidden by existing laws. However, remember that the Lord will provide times when we can socialize with our students, and even with their parents, outside the classroom. If they ask, we have the opportunity to explain the reasons for our faith. If we are able to develop characters like Jesus —and express our thoughts politely and dress modestly—then we will be giving a living testimony that we are children of God.

People who are around us will feel com- pelled to ask questions about our faith. Then we will have the opportunity to share with them our glorious hope of salvation in our Lord Jesus.


Much has been said in this article about the challenges and responsibilities that teachers face. But let us remember that we chose to teach because we love to learn, and we want to help others nurture the same love as well as develop their characters. Because we teachers have so many missionary opportunities, we need to become God’s instruments.

Consider these beautiful words of one servant of the Lord: “Those who labor for the good of others are working in union with the heavenly angels. They have their constant companionship, their unceasing ministry. Angels of light and power are ever near to protect, to comfort, to heal, to instruct, to inspire. The highest education, the truest culture, the most exalted service possible to human beings in this world, are theirs” (Gospel Workers, page 515).

May the Lord bless all that we educators do—and pour His Holy Spirit upon every word and action.

by Francis Cabrera |
Bachelor of Modern Languages and Education | United Kingdom

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