Meet our school dog – Amber. I can confidently say that she has been a popular appointment and part of the St Paul’s family. In fact more people came to find out about her than anything else in the last year. In reality she has come a long way, now she is aged nearly 3 years old, having started at school at about 12 weeks…
When she first arrived it became really clear that it was us that were being trained and not really her at all. We were blessed by being introduced to the wonderful Michelle, from Essentially Paws, who was the trainer who taught us how to get things right and set her off in the right direction.
So what does Amber do? Well essentially she is there to make people happy and content. She listens to reading, goes to some classes with specific students, can help brighten up someone’s day or change the mood or atmosphere if things get too intense.
In a simple way I have learnt to think about teaching (and parenting!) in a new way through this experience. To make sure Amber is successful there are two simple ingredients;
- Make things interesting and give opportunities to learn and praise
- Be consistent in expectations and routines
This ultimately is good for our human relationships too and can bring us a long way. It probably can lead to the loyalty, commitment and engagement we can see as the fruits of her training.
The reflection below is based on the thoughts of one of my best friends James which he shared in their school this week.
The Gospel this week tells us about a man who asks his two sons to go to work and neither gives an ideal response. The first flatly refuses but then thinks better of it, the second says “yes” but doesn’t then follow it through. The point being that it’s better to come to your senses later and do the right thing rather than pretend that you’re onside when you really have no intention of complying.
Obedience in education is useful; it helps us to get things done efficiently and makes life a little easier. We are not however seeking to cultivate a generation blindly following instructions or authority. The young people in our care need to be able to question respectfully but only where they see genuine injustice, rather than when it just doesn’t suit them to follow the rules. They need to be able to take a stand at the right time.
Some rules tend to make more sense as one gets older but in the meantime good listening and discernment are skills that we need to develop in young people in order for them to understand why we are called to act in certain ways. Deepening our understanding leaves us less likely to agree to do something that we later realise we either can’t or won’t follow through on but more importantly it helps us to understand why being appropriately obedient is good for us.
As teachers and parents we tend to think that we know what’s best for them and that if they do as we say things will turn out well. To a far deeper extent, God really does know what’s best for us and if we are to be truly happy, we really do need to listen to and follow Him no matter how much we feel like being disobedient.
Listening to God through prayer is the best way to understand what we are being asked to do. It’s then up to us respond appropriately and once we do, the Kingdom will be well on the way to being built. Finding the time for this reflection is key too if we really try to hear the message.
Things to think about when obedience isn’t easy:
- What am I being asked to do that I don’t really want to?
- Why don’t I want to do as I’m asked or struggle to respond?
- Why am I being asked? Have I really listened? Do I really understand what I’m being asked to do? Where does it fit in with the bigger picture and purpose of what we do together?
- What would (insert name here e.g. Jesus, Saint Paul, the nicest person I know etc.) do?
- What should I do when I face these challenges?
In essence we need to go back to Amber – if we want obedience we should ensure consistency and opportunities for learning and praise. We too need to build in routines and time to train and bring us closer to God, it is only then that we can listen to His plan for us.
Enjoy the week ahead.