A Teacher’s Advice on Starting the School-Year Well


School DoorThe following is advice from my wife (a teacher at a public Middle School), with some elaboration from me (a youth pastor). Hopefully this will prove helpful for students and parents at the beginning of the school-year.

1. Be Organized
It’s the number one thing for success. Even more than being really smart! I’ve seen a lot of disorganized smart kids struggle because they didn’t keep track of projects and assignments. And I’ve seen a lot of organized kids get excellent grades because they were organized and kept on top of their work.

If there’s one piece of advice about school that I’ve learned through experience (high school, college, and grad school) it’s this… you won’t become a good student by accident. 

2. Show grace to teachers who have bad reputations
You don’t want the teachers to hold your reputation against you. Don’t do the same to them. Give them a shot… you might find out that you really get along with him/her! C

The Christian life is one filled by grace. We need to receive it. We need to give it.

If you want to be Salt & Light (Matthew 5:13-16) in your school, then treat your teachers differently than everyone else. Show them respect and give them the grace you’d like to receive.

3. It’s ok to be “the Christian kid”
Be the Christian kid. It’s only awkward if you make it that way. But if you’re confident in who you are in Christ, then own it. Be different. Sure, some people might treat you differently or give you a tough time, but most people will just accept you for who you are if you’ve accepted you for who you are.

The Apostle Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for all who believe” (Romans 1:16). Honestly: are you ashamed, or are you proud of the gospel? Do you get embarrassed when people find out you go to church and youth group? Are you ashamed of Christ, or are you living on purpose to make Christ known?

4. Learn to say “No”
You can’t do everything you want to do. The sooner you learn that, the better. You don’t need to keep playing soccer because you always have. You don’t need to join that club because all your friends are. You don’t need to take that extra AP class. You don’t need to go out with your friends to that movie.

Remember this: every time you say “Yes” to something, you’re saying “No” to something else. You cannot go to the movies and spend all your time with your friends and still have time to get that project done. You’ve put it off long enough. You need to say “No, sorry. I have a project I need to work on.”

You can only spend time once. Learn to say “No” to things because you’ve said “Yes” to more important things. Take some time to figure out what your priorities are, and then choose how to spend your time and energy.

One of our youth leaders is also a teacher, and he added a sixth word of advice:

6. Be a Leader
You can be a leader, or you can be led. Choose to be an influencer. Don’t follow the crowd.

Think about your friend groups and look around, asking, “Who’s leading who?” and “Do I want my friends leading me, or should I be leading them?”

Finally: Remember your worth comes through your identity in Christ, not by your grades or accomplishments. Work hard. Study hard. Be smart. But do those things because you’ve been accepted by God. So many teens do those things in order to prove their worth. You don’t need to do that. Live in the freedom of God’s grace, knowing that you don’t need to live under insane amounts of pressure to perform.


A New School-Year’s Coming… (sorry)

Yup, it’s almost here…

Older siblings and friends are heading off to college.  You’re starting your senior year and are stressed about what you’re going to do after graduation (and what will happen to your friendships).  Maybe you’re switching schools and are nervous (or excited!) about starting fresh and needing to find a new group of friends.  Perhaps you’re entering Junior High or High School and you have no idea what to expect.

My advice: PRAY.  And start praying for your school-year now, while it’s still a few weeks away.

  • Pray for God to give you boldness this year to live for him and to not be conformed to the world around you (Romans 12:2).
  • Pray that God would help you to relax and truly enjoy the next few weeks before the busyness of school starts up.
  • Pray that what you learned and experienced at summer camp or on a missions trip would stick with you and that they wouldn’t just become “summer memories.”

Here’s a link to a site with some good, short prayers to pray about the beginning of school.

Stressed-Out Teenagers

I remember one day when I was a teenager and complaining about how stressed out I was to my mother and brother, and my brother said sharply, “That’s stupid!  You’re too young to be stressed.”  That’s the last time I mentioned my feeling stressed out while in high school.  But as I interact with more and more teenagers today, it seems to me that way too many teenagers today are living with an unhealthy amount of stress.

This morning I came across an article on the New York Times’ website by Lisa Belkin entitled, “Helping our Children With Stress.”  It’s a great article, I strongly encourage every parent to read it (especially if you think your child/teen is NOT stressed… then you definitely need to read it).  Belkin points to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) recent report entitled Stress in America and writes the following:

“The study, released earlier this week, found that a third of the 1,206 children in the survey (ranging in age from 8 to 17) reported feeling more stress than they had a year ago.Nearly half are worried about school, while only a third of their parents thought their children saw school as a problem. Thirty percent are worried about family finances; just 18 percent of parents think that’s on their kids’ list of stressors. Twenty-nine percent of teens report worrying about what comes after high school — getting into a good college or finding work — but only 5 percent of the parents of teenagers think that is causing stress for their children.

In fact, stress is quite literally making children sick in ways that haven’t registered with their parents. According to the study:

  • Tweens (30 percent) and teens (42 percent) say they get headaches vs. 13 percent of parents
  • Tweens (39 percent) and teens (49 percent) cite difficulty sleeping vs. 13 percent of parents
  • Tweens (27 percent) and teens (39 percent) report eating too much or too little vs. 8 percent of parents”

Is your son or daughter stressed about school?  Probably, especially if he or she is a Junior or Senior!

The APA has provided the following guide for parents to know how to help their kids deal with stress in a healthy way.  Please read and print out this guide.  Here are some of the main points, but let this only whet your appetite, read the guide linked to below.

Talking with Your Children About Stress

  1. Be Available
  2. Listen Actively
  3. Respond Thoughtfully
  4. Consider
  5. Seek Additional Help

Parents, this is a great opportunity for you to take initiative in discipling your son or daughter.  Teach him/her that being a Christian doesn’t make stress non-existent, but that our faith in Jesus Christ overcomes our stress.

““Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.””  (Matthew 11:28–30)