“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” Psalm 1:3.

I bought some new bulbs today at the hardware store—the kind you plant, not the ones you put in a lamp. Bulbs are amazing. God has built in a resilience that will overcome less-than-perfect conditions. They take just a little work and patience to grow.  I prepared a large pot with a layer of rocks for drainage and the best potting soil I had. I placed the tulip bulbs at just the right depth and spacing, watered it thoroughly, and put the pot in the sun. Now I wait for the results.

Day seven – nothing but dirt.
Day fourteen – nothing but dirt.
Day twenty – nothing but dirt.
Day twenty-one – tiny green shoots are pushing up.
Day twenty-eight – the first beautiful blooms!

Teaching students is a lot like raising a bulb garden. You will do a lot of work upfront, and don’t see the results for some time. It is not that there is nothing changing; it is just that it is all under the surface. All that time waiting, those tulips were busy developing roots and structure. It is like the rote habits we build with drill and review. Those are roots that will allow our students one day to blossom.

Some time ago I talked to a younger teacher. We discussed a student who was failing miserably. There are many reasons that cause failure—multiple transfers, prolonged sickness, family distress, even personal learning disabilities. If other teachers pass the problem to the next grade, soon you have a disaster. The bottom line was that the student had failed so many times that he had lost hope and quit trying. It was safer and easier on the ego to fail without trying than to fail with effort.

The prescription for correction was the same as that taught to me by many true teachers over the years:

  • Discover what level the student has mastered.
  • Customize his lessons to begin at that level.
  • Build his confidence with success.
  • Then wean him up the grade levels until he catches up.

Correction won’t happen overnight, but with a little work and patience, he can catch up. The greatest force for transformation in this world over time is erosion: a slow, unceasing agent of change. So, a stubborn, persistent, loving teacher can see amazing change.

We met for a follow-up meeting last week and the rookie teacher was discouraged with the lack of progress over the past months. It took a month to discover that the student was working at three grades below class level.  It took another month to coax him into trying and to build a little confidence through success, but here was the magic: the student was passing tests at his level! Yes, he will probably have to repeat a grade, but we were making incremental progress as he was trying again for the first time in years. The roots were starting to grow; nutrients were beginning to flow. You are not going to see a full blossom for some time, but with the right water and sun, that old withered bulb was beginning to move. It may take a little while to see the flowers, but with a little work and patience, you will have a wonderful garden.

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Jim Carey, Christian School Teacher

Jim Carey was the first staff member hired by Pastor Trieber in 1976. For over 40 years, he has served in many capacities. He has taught in the Christian school since its inception and has taught junior church every Sunday for that entire time as well.