When I was in sixth-grade, my science teacher was Mrs. Dorsey. She had blonde hair that looked like cotton candy and a slightly mischievous glint in her eye. Mrs. Dorsey stood on her desk and sang memorization songs about mitosis while pointing to her bare feet and repeating “my-toes-sis.” In addition to school work from our textbooks, each week we were required to turn in two current event articles from newspapers or magazines along with a few sentences about our reactions to the events. They were never graded with numbers or letters. Instead, she hand-wrote encouraging words about how we might take action and change the world. We did reports about very important people: our classmates. We also had a mailbox in her classroom for sending other students personal notes of encouragement—anonymous or signed—as long as they were positive. She called them “sun-shines.”
I don’t remember my seventh-grade science teacher’s name, but I do remember she wore Fila sneakers and quit mid-year.
When we went back to school for eighth-grade, we got the greatest surprise: Mrs. Dorsey had moved up to teach eighth-grade. We had her for a second year, and what a year it was! Over the next 180 days, we built a nature trail and outdoor classroom space that the entire school could use. Every day we went outside and worked. We were trusted to use actual farm implements, and we cleared the trees, brush, and briars ourselves. We made little stools from the tree trunks and a podium for a teacher. We hauled off trash. We identified plants, flowers, and trees—then found them in the taxonomy books and labeled them for the younger students.
I don’t know about you, but at the beginning of every school year I feel like Mrs. Dorsey. Our books smell new. The words from last year’s conference are still resounding in my ears, and I am ready to inspire! But around the end of February, I turn into Mrs. Fila Sneakers, and I want to quit.
Here are four lessons I have learned to help keep a Mrs. Dorsey mindset all year:
- Write yourself a sun-shine. Write yourself a note today! Tell yourself how excited you are for this school year. Ask your spouse and children to write sun-shines and keep them somewhere you’ll remember. Include a few sun-shines from God, too, like Psalm 37:23-24 or Psalm 90:12. Re-read them when you are feeling uninspired.
- Go outside. Blaze a trail! There’s something about the unplugged, unfiltered beauty of nature that refreshes us down deep in our soul. Sit still. Observe creatures in their surroundings and habits. Watch a sunrise, or search for nocturnal critters. Praise God for the wonder of creation that declares His glory.
- Color outside the lines. Step away from the lesson plan! I repeat: close the pinning app! Ask your kids what they want to do for school today and do it. Watch them make a costume, write a song, build a model, bake a treat, or dramatically re-enact something you’re studying.
- Serve others. Take fresh flowers to a shut-in, and then sit to listen to her tell you about history. Plant a garden you can study, and then share its fruits with your neighbors. Mrs. Dorsey knew, as you and I do, that one day children will leave our classrooms. Perhaps, watching her students grow, not only in knowledge but also in virtue and purpose, was what made Mrs. Dorsey such a memorable and optimistic teacher.
And whatever you do in word or deed,
do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him!