Set your Mind: Faithful Learning in the exuberant busyness of the ES classroom

By: Sandy Arensen (ES Art Teacher)

Mark 1:35

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

As Elementary School teachers, we look at this new year before us, hopeful that God will use us in the lives of our students.  My prayer, and my desire has been to have eyes to SEE when God wants to use me to share his truth with my students.  I know that bringing faith into my classroom is not something that needs to be fabricated or coerced, and I agree that, because ALL TRUTH is GOD’S TRUTH, his essence is on all the material that I am presenting in my classroom.  But I also know that while He is GOD, and his truth is present and profound, and that it can make itself evident in spite of me, I know that I am human.  I am frequently more concerned about the fact that that child is actually painting his tongue, or that someone has spilled the rinse water all over their classmate’s paintings (again), or whether we will have time to clean it all up and get the next load of supplies changed out for the next set of twenty students that will be at my door any minute!  My mind is perfectly buzzing.  It is not quiet or slow or poised to grasp the faith-filled moments that present themselves.  It is not slow, unless I slow it, or quiet unless I quiet it…  Or unless God does.

Colossians 3:1-2

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

I have to SET my mind and heart to be ready to see and grab the opportunities in which God’s spirit, and the content I am teaching, and my students meet.  Scripture tells us we must do that because God knew (and still knows) that our human default is to be concerned with and distracted by Earthly Things.  The two students in the corner who won’t stop chatting.  The technology failing to work just right.  My failure to explain a step well, and a messy lesson derailed.  These things will be the first to grab the attention of the unpoised mind.

So – my desire, and the desire of my fellow teachers at Rosslyn, is to be used.  My DESIRE is to bear witness to, and be an active facilitator of God’s sweet presence infusing our lessons in a revelatory way for our students… but it won’t “just” happen.  I need to set my mind.  I need God’s help, each day, to guide me into a state of mindfulness.  How can I expect to connect my students with God if I do not first connect with God?

Makrina Wiederkehr is a Benedictine monastic and a thoughtful author.  She wrote a book called “Seven Sacred Pauses” which she calls “A guide for those who would like to move through their day with greater mindfulness.”

In it, she says:

“When I pray the gospels, it is crystal clear that Jesus had a rhythm of prayer in his life.  He lived mindfully.  We see him withdrawing from the apostles and from his crowds of followers.  He takes time for solitude at critical moments in his life.  He goes away at significant times of the day– dawn, for example.  Sometimes he spends the whole night in prayer.  He seeks out lonely places where he can be silent and in communion with God.  Often he slips away at crucial times of strife or moments when decisions need to be made, yet he always returns to his ministry of compassion and love among the people.” (Seven Sacred Pauses, Pg. 3)

I am privileged with a Holy Calling to point my students to God.  I owe it to my students to clear my mind to see the opportunities when, and how, and where He presents them.