Monthly Archives: September 2014

Talk to the Teacher

A little girl came home from school and said to her mother, “Mommy, today in school I was punished for something that I didn’t do.” The mother exclaimed, “But that’s terrible! I can’t believe the teacher would treat you that way. By the way, what was it that you didn’t do?” The little girl replied, “My homework.”

Every parent knows what it’s like for his or her child to come home and tell a story about something bad that happened at school. What should a parent do when his or her child comes home and tells about something that happened at school that is upsetting or negative?

Let me suggest several things not to do:

  • Try not to overreact. It’s easy to get upset, especially if our children are upset. The best thing we can do is maintain our calm and think through our responses.
  • Don’t believe everything your child tells you. I’m not suggesting you should accuse your child of lying! Rather, we should have the attitude of Ronald Reagan: Trust but verify. As an old friend used to say, “There are three sides to every story – your side, my side, and the truth.”
  • Avoid talking to other parents to find out if they are upset, too. Of course, sometimes speaking to other parents is needful if the issue involves their children. However, “parking lot chatter” rarely does anything more than stir up other parents.
  • Finally, don’t give in to the temptation to believe what your child says, get angry, and then stuff the feelings down and harbor resentment. That is a formula for dissatisfaction and bitterness that will certainly not help your children – and doing what is best for our children is what we all want.

Rather than reacting in these ways, what ought parents to do when they get a report from their child about something upsetting at school? First, listen to your children. Seek to comfort them and even to pray with them. Next, contact your child’s teacher. This is so important! Your children’s teachers are accessible to you. Call them, text them, visit them after school, email them – but find a way to ask your child’s teacher what went on. If the teacher doesn’t know, she will get to the bottom of it, and I, as headmaster, stand ready to help sort through what happened and address issues appropriately. When you call, ask questions. What happened? What was going on when it occurred? Who else was involved? Why did you choose to handle it the way you did? How can I help?

One last thing to consider: what if the issue involves something that the teacher him or herself did? All the more reason to contact the teacher directly! Perhaps it is a misunderstanding. Maybe your child is either lying or putting something the teacher did in a bad light. But then again, maybe the teacher is at fault. Teachers are prone to mistakes and sins, like all of us; sometimes it is only through a faithful and diligent parent that a teacher is asked about an issue they themselves caused. Christ taught us, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother” (Matt 18:15). Regents teachers are humble, approachable Christian ladies and gentlemen who are ready to hear from parents and address whatever the issue is, even if the fault is in him or herself.

As parents sometimes we feel torn between two competing impulses. One is the God-given zeal we have to protect and aid our children. The other is the biblical command, “Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thess. 5:13). I want to suggest that the way to accomplish both is to go straight to your children’s teachers and get to the bottom of whatever the concern is. We are ready and willing to help.

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Preferring One Another

Author N.D. Wilson wrote,

Rule 1 for Mortals: Love the Lord your God (with every bit of you).
Rule 2 for Mortals: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Tip 1 for Mortals: Ask God to call your bluffs.

One bluff that we certainly need called is the pretense that we can love God “with every bit of us,” yet fail to love our neighbor as ourselves. The Lord Jesus taught that these two commands are the Law’s first and second great commandments, but that doesn’t mean that one is optional as long as we work on the other. No, they are always found together, like two lovely flowers growing from the same soil. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

This is why at Regents Academy we so emphasize students loving their neighbors. New families are often amazed at the culture of kindness and respect at our school, but that culture is no accident. God has blessed us as we have trained students to love their neighbors all day long. One of the most important ways we love our neighbor is by preferring our neighbor. “In honor give preference to one another” (Romans 12:10).

What does preferring others mean?

  • First, to prefer others certainly means to get your eyes off yourself. Of course, this is easier said than done; we are born narcissists who need to be taught to look away from ourselves and our own wants and needs. The story is told that Robert E. Lee once advised a young mother about the instruction of her infant son by saying, simply, “Teach him he must deny himself.” We all need to hear that advice, each day.
  • Second, to prefer others we need to understand that people around us have needs that we can help meet. That is the nature of community. Truly, no man is an island; we need one another’s help, strength, counsel, and rebuke – and God designed us this way. The challenge for children is teaching them to gain this mindset, to become aware of the needs of others intentionally, and to cultivate the wisdom to understand what others really need that they can help with.
  • Finally, to prefer others you have to look for ways to serve others before yourself. It’s really the deceptively simple question, “How can I help someone else before my turn?” And this is a discipline that children can be trained to practice.

Preferring others can mean a thousand things in a thousand situations:
Letting a friend go first
Talking to or sitting with someone who is alone
Opening a circle to include someone who approaches
Refusing to save seats
Holding a door for a lady
Trying not to hurt someone’s feelings with words and jokes
Being courteous and observing proper etiquette
Choosing not to talk about something that is a sensitive subject
Rejecting cliques by being friends with everyone
Finding a weak or awkward person and being his friend
Serving someone when the opportunity arises
Saving the last bite for someone else
We could multiply examples – and they abound, if only we will look for them!

The real breeding ground for learning to prefer others is the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we come to know the grace of God in Christ and see how Christ Himself preferred us in love by living, dying, and rising again for us, then our hearts are transformed and enabled to prefer others in love. We prefer them not because they are worthy, but because Christ is worthy, and He has shown us the way. “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). What wondrous love the Father has shown us, to call us His children. Now He calls us to imitate Him and share His love – by preferring one another.

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Wednesday Wisdom

As our school grows and matures, we are always doing new things at Regents Academy.One new thing we have begun this year is called “Wednesday Wisdom.”

Each Wednesday during lunch we gather the 7th-12th grade girls in one room and the 7th-12th grade boys in another room and talk about how to be wise. We are doing this for several reasons:

  • First, the Bible exalts wisdom and emphasizes its absolute necessity. “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7; see also James 1:5).
  • Children are by definition immature and need wisdom desperately; God does not want us to remain in our immaturity. Children in the teen years especially need wisdom if they will learn how to live with others in peace. Children do not come from the womb knowing how to resolve conflict, control their speech, act respectfully, or use their time wisely (if only they did!). Instead, children are born into the world with a natural tendency toward foolishness; it is the job of parents, teachers, coaches, pastors, friends, and heroes to give wisdom to children so that they will learn how to live a life that pleases God.
  • Consider this definition of classical education: the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty. This means that wisdom is not a secondary or optional matter, as if math is a requirement but being wise is an elective. Cultivating wisdom, rather, is central to the work of educators. Our very goal as a school is to join with you to train your children to be wise. The last thing we want to do is churn out smart kids who are skilled at scoffing at things God loves.
  • Training children to grow up and be who God wants them to be is a big job – bigger than any one of us. That’s why it takes a community to work together to model, teach, and train toward godliness and maturity. In the book of Proverbs, it is always a wise father who is speaking to a son, the more experienced who is teaching the less so (Prov. 1:8, 4:1, 10:1). Our children need every source of biblical wisdom around to make a contribution. Together we can make an impact on our children that can be accomplished no other way.
  • Finally, God has blessed us with a unique and precious culture in our school. This culture requires us to speak directly to many issues in our children’s lives that simply can’t be addressed in our curriculum. Regents students need to hear from someone they trust why it is not polite to whisper to a friend in front of another friend, why cliques are not loving, how to resolve a conflict, why rules are needful, and how to use words to build up a friend rather than tear him down. We are interested not just in the contents of our students’ heads but the contents of their character, the kind of man or woman they are becoming. We want to love them by showing them God’s way of being wise.

Beloved Regents parent, good friend, and former Regents teacher Kara Bertke has volunteered to meet with the girls, and I (Mr. Bryant) am meeting with the boys each Wednesday. We love these Regents students! We want to share the wisdom God has given us so that they will know better how to love God and their neighbor.

Please join us in praying that God will bless our school’s culture and that our students will grow in wisdom and love as they hear and heed God’s Word. God’s greatest and most gracious gift is His Son Jesus Christ, and if He has given us Christ, He will not withhold any other good gift. How we pray that the Heavenly Father will bless us to lead worthy lives before our students, and that He will give us the words we need to share with Regents students so that they will be wise!

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