As a retired public school teacher with 23 years of experience, I was deeply disturbed by a recent incident in McCordsville, Indiana. A first grade public school teacher there wrote a polite but terse letter to the parents of several students who had used words like Jesus, God, and devil in class discussions. The teacher had already asked the children to not use such religious terminology, but the words continued to pop up in daily class time.
The teacher wrote to parents that “If you go to church or discuss these things at home, please have a talk with your child about there being an appropriate time and place of talking about it.” Apparently, she felt the parents should teach their children to use more inclusive language at school so as not to offend non-religious or non-Christian classmates. Parents failed to comply, as did the local community. After garnering national attention, the teacher’s statement has since been retracted, while she and the district superintendent both issued apologies for this unintentional violation of the students’ first amendment rights.
I will venture to say this teacher felt she was doing the right thing in our politically correct and emotionally charged culture. As a fellow educator, I highly doubt this second-year teacher intended to harm any of her students. Instead, she is a product of our times. She has been successfully indoctrinated to erroneously believe that freedom from religion is the same thing as our constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion.
This entire incident caused me to ponder and pray. It also left me with a nagging conviction that I failed my former students. I too should have written a parent letter addressing this timely topic, but I didn’t. So, here’s the letter I should have sent to the parents of a child I shall call Margo. She is an amalgamated composite of many real and overtly Christian children I taught through the years.
For all those Christian parents who send their greatest earthly treasures into a public school setting each weekday, please know that many teachers recognize and appreciate His loving presence within your children. We forget to thank you enough.
And to my former Christian students, I apologize. I admired you; I enjoyed you; and I remember you. And I am so proud to have been your teacher. You taught me so much.
During the past few days, we have had several incidents in which your child, as well as a couple of other children, used the words Jesus, God, and devil in class discussions. So, I just needed to let you know of the effect this behavior has had on your child’s classmates.
But first, let me say it was evident from the moment Margo entered my classroom that she was going to influence and impact our class. Margo’s behavior and demeanor are quite unique - and equally impressive.
Thank you for teaching and guiding Margo in the years before I met her. You are doing an awesome job of parenting her. I assume that your religious beliefs are a continual part of her daily family life, because I see the fruits of that training in Margo’s interaction with other students.
First of all, Margo is a loving child. She quietly shows Christ-like compassion and love to all of the other 21 ethnically and religiously diverse kids in our room. I watch her repeatedly include other children in her play time, especially the two girls in our class who speak very little English. Margo has become their protector, mediator, and interpreter, as well as their favorite friend.
She also is the peace maker in our little class. Margo takes every disagreement and argument between classmates to heart. I witness her, time after time, soothe hurt feelings and use bridge building tactics that few adults I know possess. With 22 tiny, but powerful individuals, a peace maker is a big blessing.
Margo’s confidence in who she is and what she believes is also impressive. If only more Christians had her boldness. Jesus is real to her, and she sees Him in every situation we encounter. She convicts me with her passion and love. And yet, she has no problem whatsoever with other kids sharing their beliefs, no matter how different they are from her own.
Usually, Margo is the first one to interject Jesus into our conversations, but she merely opens the door for others to confidently share, agreeing and disagreeing equally. In doing so, Margo affords me the chance to legally explain literary allusions to the Bible. She also gives us the opportunity to explore the rich Christian heritage of our nation. So, for this teacher, she is an answer to prayers.
Now, let me also say that Margo is by no means perfect. None of my students are, and neither is their teacher. She makes the wrong choices at times, and her behavior is very much age-appropriate. She gets her behavior clip moved at least once or twice per week, as you already know.
But here’s the thing—Margo accepts correction well. It is apparent that she has been taught ownership of her actions. I rarely hear her blame another child or blame circumstances for her errors. She simply confesses her mistakes, takes the assigned punishment, and keeps on going. She is not a pouter or a whiner. She even corrects herself at times, right before I need to step in.
To be honest, I wrote this letter out of some similar self-assessment. I realized that I rarely write GOOD things home to parents. I occupy every minute with teaching, and then I send notes home for things I deem most important—like discipline issues.
But today, I choose to be like Margo. I am looking for the good things in our classroom and focusing on those. And Margo is definitely one of those good things. She is such a blessing to my classroom. She is amazing!
Thanks for sharing her with me. You are doing a great job as her parent, and I salute you. May God bless you! And may Margo continue to stand up and live for Jesus—everyday of her life!