Faith and the Classroom: Can they co-exist?

     I'm currently listening to a book called, "Girl, Wash Your Face" by Rachel Hollis.  First of all, if you are a woman and you haven't read it, you should.  Second of all, if you are a woman and you haven't read it, you should.  She talks about her life with complete openness in a way that is utterly refreshing.  As I have written music teaching blog posts, I have struggled to find my "niche," because it feels like it's all been done before.  However, listening to this book has made me realize that there is one music teaching blog that is totally missing . . . the one with complete honesty about the everyday things, and perhaps a touch of humor.  So from now on, not all of my blog posts will be a cute activity that you can use in your classroom, but more about "the struggle is real" sort of stuff.  Not that I will never share a fun activity--cause we ALL need those!
     So, without further ado, let's talk about faith in the classroom.  Let me start by saying, my first reaction to writing this post is that surely I will get FIRED for writing it.  Surely, some parent or administrator will stumble upon this post, read it, decide I am converting students, breaking my contract, and must be immediately removed from my classroom.  My next fear is that any of you who don't have religious beliefs or who have different beliefs than me will immediately block me from your life (hey, if you really need to, you have my permission!)  Now, before you get all worried that I'm going crazy, that's not what this post is about at all. . .
     I am a Christian.  There, I said it.  I go to church on Sunday to worship God.  I am not the best Christian, I don't do devotions everyday or volunteer for 10,000 things at my church, but my underlying belief is that God created us, He's in control, and I am not in ultimate charge of my life (cue the internet trolls). 
    I teach in a public school.  I also believe in separation of church and state.  WHAT??!!  Yup.  I think it's a great concept . . . but hear me out.  Our country was based on the idea that you can hold (or not hold) whatever religion you want to and that the government can't force you to change that.  Our schools are funded by the government and therefore, they need to stick to that belief.  Wow, now you think I'm a SUPER terrible Christian.  But I love separation of church and state because it protects my own family.  I don't have to worry that a teacher at my child's school is going to tell them they have to have certain beliefs.  I value that SO much, that I want that for other people's children too.  I'm not talking about what music you program, that's a completely different post.  So, why is this post titled, "Faith and the Classroom?"  Because my faith changes everything about my classroom.
     Note:  I will never present my faith in my classroom, period.  I might mention that I saw a student at VBS over the summer, but that's making a personal connection, not spreading the gospel.  I think all good teachers make personal connections, so it's okay to ask students about their church if they mention they go to one.  And if they mention they are a Jehovah's Witness, though you may totally disagree with their religious beliefs, it's super important that you honor their religion, because chances are, another teacher out there is honoring your choice of religion with your child even though it contradicts theirs.  

     So, how does faith affect my teaching?  I pray for my students--especially those little buggers  who can make it challenging to get through a lesson (okay, not really buggers, but you know what I mean).  The result?  I have increased compassion and a deeper love for the kids in my classroom.  I pray that I will love each child who walks through the door of my classroom.  Not some sort of mushy, gushy love, but the kind of love that says, "I will not give up on you no matter what happens."  I think every child deserves that from us, because it's quite certain that not all of them get that at home.  I reflect on my teaching to see if I create an atmosphere with the kind of love Jesus showed to people--not judging, but accepting!  When stuff with co-workers pop up and there's lots of grumbling going around, I try to be a problem solver instead of adding fuel to the fire.  I think that's how God would want me to approach it.  How about the fruits of the spirit?  Have I reflected on how those have been apparent in my teaching?  And guess what, if you believe something totally different than me, how can you use your beliefs to make your classroom a better place for your students?  I'm sure your beliefs can inspire you in your own classroom.   I think keeping this part of our faith (or non-faith) is essential, because then our students get our best!

     So go out there, think about your beliefs, and rock it in your classroom.  You students will never know what's powering you, but boy will they benefit from it!  It will also help keep you from burning out yourself, which is a huge bonus :)
     Catch you next time I have something noteworthy!

PS--If you have other teachers who are Christians (or not--this book is great for everyone) and you want to start reading an awesome book about teaching that also mentions faith, check out this:
Maybe you could meet after school one day each week to talk about what you learned, or pray for your students.   If you really want to dig deep, you could add in the Bible study that goes with it.  Enjoy your school year!
Please note:  Noteworthy By Jen is an Amazon affiliate.  Links may be monetized to help support the upkeep of this blog.  This affiliation does not influence my honest opinion on book reviews or resource recommendations.