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Back To School

Faith Story: Harlan Sullivan

I am a teacher. It is not merely what I do for a living. It is who I am. It is hard to remember a time when I didn’t want to be a teacher. I have always loved school, and the first day of school is one of my favorite days all year — it’s right up there with Easter and Christmas!

Quite a few of my former students have gone on to be teachers themselves. Hopefully, their time spent with me had at least a small influence on them and nudged them to choose teaching as a profession. The key to successful teaching is building relationships. The most significant factor in determining whether a student is successful and learns in a classroom is the relationship formed between the student and the teacher. For this reason, my main goal, beginning the first day of school, is getting to know my students and building relationships with them. It involves sacrifices of time and energy to truly let them know that I care about them as people. It requires listening when I really want to be speaking. It involves being fully present and not thinking about the ten tasks I need to do during my planning period. It starts with walking around the perimeter of my classroom prior to the first day of school and praying for all the students who will enter that room. It means lifting up prayers that God gives me the students who need to have me as their teacher, as opposed to the ones I would want to have in my classroom.

As I reflect on the ways that I hopefully influence my students, it parallels the way Christ United influences my life as a Christian. It all boils down to building relationships. In a recent worship service led by the Living Proof Youth Choir, the opening hymn was, “Here I Am, Lord.” Offering ourselves openly in relationships in ways that stretch our comfort zones is not easy, yet it is vitally important. What a perfect way to begin not only a new school year, but each day of our lives as we strive to build all our relationships — with Jesus and others.