Teacher reading to student

Through the Lens of Eternity

By Jami Courson

Virtual learning revealed to the world what educators have known for decades: teacher-student relationships matter. Research shows that student achievement increases and questionable behavior decreases when students believe that their teacher cares for them.  As Dr. Jon Eckert writes in his book Just Teaching, “We have learned that being present and in relationship matters for each student. Learning in person increases student morale and student achievement. Having teachers who care improves student outcomes and is true at all educational levels” (p17). 

However, as Christian educators, we must view the relationships with our students through a much broader and even sacred lens. Dr. Eckert clarifies, “Life-giving teaching flows through relationships” (p10). Christian educators must view teacher-student relationships through the lens of eternity. 

The One Who Got Away 

As educators, we have the incredible gift and burden of guiding our students out of the darkness but our opportunities can vanish in an instant. When I got the call that my student Maria had wrapped her car around a tree going 100+ miles an hour, I wept for days. 

Thirteen years later, my heart still hasn’t healed, because I had failed Maria in the most permanent way. Maria, who was one of my all-time favorite students, never heard the gospel from me. She never heard about the hope that I have, a hope she desperately needed. God had nudged me over and over to speak to her, but I just never felt that the time was right. I never shared eternity with that precious, broken girl. I have prayed for years that God sent someone to do what I did not do before it was too late. Relationships matter to our students but they become meaningless when we, as Christian educators, do not love them with an eternal perspective. 

Feels Like Home 

When we create meaningful, authentic relationships with our students we have a much bigger impact than we may ever realize. Recently a colleague shared a letter one of his students left him on the last day of school. 

The student said, “Thank you for showing me what it is to be an adult, to be kind, to be respectful, to be caring, and to be someone deserving of care. I moved to Texas seven years ago, but you are the first person to make it feel like home.” When we live out our calling to show grace, model integrity, demonstrate genuine care, and openly display love we are not just making our students feel at home. We are revealing to them a glimpse of their eternal home. Author and motivational speaker, Dr. Brad Johnson, sums this up with the candor of a lifelong educator, “Relationships before rigor, grade before grades, patience before programs, love before lessons” (Dear School Leader, B. Johnson, 2023). 

When we live out our faith in the classroom, God opens the door for us to share the gospel with our students. It may just be small sound bites throughout the year, but we are planting seeds that bear eternal fruit. 

I Got In! 

Five years after walking across our high school stage, my student Sarah called to tell me she had just been accepted into medical school. As we celebrated together, I reflected back on the long journey we had walked to be able to celebrate this moment together. In her four years of high school, I had the privilege of being her soccer coach, business teacher, and Sunday School leader. We also served alongside one another on several mission trips. Ours is a lifelong friendship that started in the classroom. Many of us have attended the college graduations, weddings, and baby showers of our old students but God used my unique relationship with Sarah to prepare us both for a critical time in her life.  

A few days after our celebration of her med school acceptance, Sarah called back to tell me her dad had been given seven months to live. I knew at that moment that God had placed me in this young woman’s life for such a time as this. All of our moments together were just leading up to this one critical moment when she trusted me enough to call and share the most devastating news she may ever receive. She trusted me to pray over her and gently guide her through the tough decisions in the months to come. When we create these lifelong relationships, we have the privilege of walking the students who become our friends through the good and bad times in their lives. God allows us to be the light they need in the darkness. He allows us to hold them accountable and speak truth and hope into their lives far beyond the years we may have them in class. He uses us to reveal His glory and love to each soul that we encounter. 

In Sarah’s words, “I am currently in medical school pursuing my dream and the purpose God has created me for. I know I  am here because of the environment Mrs. Courson created when I needed it the most, one full of guidance, wisdom, mentorship, unconditional love, support, encouragement, and prayer. It is through her own testimony of God’s love in her life that she has become part of my own testimony of God’s love in my life.”

As we walk out our faith in relationship with our students, let Romans 12:6-8 be a gentle reminder that we are called to this purpose: 

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” 

Fellow educators, build those relationships, sow those seeds, and make Heaven crowded! 

What a glorious day it will be in Heaven when we are surrounded by all of the students we reached, listening to them proclaim, “I got in!”

Jami Courson is a 22-year veteran teacher currently serving at Midway High School, a public school in Waco, TX. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and a Master of Education in Instructional Technology. She is a student in Baylor’s Master of Arts in School Leadership. Jami recommends this program to any educator looking to rediscover their passion, purpose, and joy. 

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