Harmony in the classroom

For one special education teacher, what she’d learned about the real nature of God and His children empowered her to respond to challenges in the classroom with patience, compassion, and calm.

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When I was in college, I transformed from being an unhappy, discontented person into a more joyful, loving individual. It wasn’t an easy road, but the change naturally took place through what I was learning in Christian Science. I came to understand God as Love itself, who created everyone in His image. This brought a fuller love for God, for my fellow man, and for myself.

This desire to express God’s love toward others later led me to become a special education teacher. It wasn’t always easy to maintain a happy and harmonious classroom, but I’d seen in my college experience how an understanding of the real nature of God and of man can make a meaningful difference.

So every day as I entered the classroom, I saw my students as having a deeper individuality than appeared on the surface, and I refused to accept disruptive behavior as a depiction of their true identity. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, explains: “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick” (pp. 476-477). Because everyone, in their true identity, is made in the spiritual image and likeness of God, any aberrant, inappropriate behavior is not a part of anyone’s true, spiritual nature.

Mentally embracing God’s view of these dear students helped in tangible ways. For example, one day a student (let’s call him Andrew) stormed into my classroom and slammed his open cup of soft drink on the floor. I knew that what he needed was love, understanding, and guidance, not anger. In that moment I thought of Andrew’s true spiritual nature as not an angry teenage boy, but a calm, satisfied, loving, peaceful, and productive (not destructive) spiritual idea – God’s loved son.

This calmed my fear and shock at that startling event, enabling me to respond with patience and compassion. Andrew calmed down and was even able to complete assignments during the class session. And during Andrew’s tenure in my classroom, he expressed greater and greater joy and dominion over disruptive, angry behavior. Those who had known him before commented on the great progress they were witnessing. And later, after Andrew had transferred to another school, he came back to visit me and expressed gratitude for the loving, encouraging environment he had felt in our classroom.

Whether or not we’re teachers, each of us has a choice concerning how we respond in any encounter. We can react with anger and impulsiveness, or we can hold calmly to the truth of each individual’s spiritual nature. Time and again I’ve seen that it’s the latter that brings forth the most meaningful improvement on the human scene.

Not only is seeing others in this spiritual light beneficial, but it’s also important to view ourselves the same way. We can recognize that our capacity to help others is ours from God, whose love is expressed in all of us, bringing comfort and guidance. And we can be willing to let go of any tendency to ruminate about past conflicts; instead, we can approach each day as a new opportunity to see ourselves and others the way God sees and loves us. This lifts fear, frustration, and resentment – and opens the way for healing.

We can trust God to lead us forward in harmony every new day. As the Bible says, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22, 23).

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.