Throughout my teaching career, I found that the best advice came from my students. In the early years, I regularly surveyed my students asking, “What should I keep on doing? What should I stop doing? What should I add that is new?” Students let me know that it was hard to see when I wrote with red or green marker on the board; that black and blue were clearer. They told me they liked knowing each day’s schedule at the beginning of class. They told me they would like to spend more time studying biology outside. Whenever possible I implemented their advice.
When we moved to a new place, we would first look for a school for our sons. Then I would apply for a job at that school, since I wanted to have the same hours and vacation schedule as our boys. Each time, God provided a job: in England I taught grade six biology, in the Netherlands I taught grade seven biology, in Singapore I taught grade eight general science.
But then Brad was notified on June first of a surprise transfer back to the Netherlands. I telephoned to see if my former school had a job available for me. A few days later, they said, “We have a high school grade nine and eleven chemistry position available. We think you can do it. Do you think you can?” I took a risk and answered, “Yes.” Then I spent two hours most days that summer studying chemistry, re-activating my memory of content I had not glanced at since university days.
I loved teaching chemistry: it’s orderly systems, interesting mathematics, and practical applications. Laboratory work was especially engaging. But sometimes when I was teaching difficult concepts, I confused students. I am so thankful for one student, who would raise her hand the instant she didn’t understand. She was so aware of the progress of her own learning, that she could pinpoint exactly when she got lost. Her questions taught me to slow down; to check for comprehension more frequently; and to treat my plans more flexibly.
Long ago, there was a Syrian warrior named Naaman, who had a skin disease. His wife’s maid, a young Israeli girl, who had been captured, said, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him.” Naaman followed her advice and not only was his skin restored, “clean like that of a young boy,” but also he chose to worship only the prophet’s God even after he returned to Syria.
Application: Dear friend, being teachable is more important than being right. God sometimes sends children, students, employees, coworkers or spouses to teach us. Weary friend, pridefully defending the way we do things, and ignoring advice, can make us weary. Good advice is a gift that can help us find a better way. I need to re-learn this.
How might asking for advice help you to fulfill your purpose? Who might you ask for advice?
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Humility: True Greatness by C. J. Mahaney