Give Grace: Seeing Christ’s Example During Difficult Times
By Darren Ellwein
Like many districts in the United States and around the world, COVID19 has changed our approach to education. In Harrisburg, South Dakota I work with amazingly-talented people. As we were creating our e-learning action plan, my curriculum director had a profound comment. He said, “We need to offer grace during this time.” That led me to picture Jesus talking to Peter after the resurrection. Jesus asked repeatedly, “Do you love Me?”
What grace to offer to someone who rejected Jesus three times. Notice that Jesus didn’t ask Peter about his doctrine or whether he was following the rules, but whether he loved Him. Jesus is asking us the same question, and is offering grace when we fall short again and again.
For us as educators I challenge you with the question: Do you love kids? Most of us will present a resounding yes, but there are pockets in our profession that view control as a priority over a relationship. They spend most of their time focused on controlling the environment and circumstances of learning and neglect the relationship. Developing a relationship with kids is not about the lesson plan or a seating chart. It is not correlated with your content and how well you ‘know’ it. These will always fall short unless you love kids.
Relationships are not a set of religious acts. In our Christian walk it is about the Person of Jesus. Jesus didn’t ask Peter if he followed the sacred scripture or if he ate the correct food while talking on that shoreline. Jesus asked, “Do you love Me?” In our work in our schools, the handbook is not the driver of our work. We need to let kids know that we love them no matter their circumstance. Loving them doesn’t depend on handing in their homework on time. It involves unconditional terms. Do you check this box?
How does this apply to today? I view our “new normal” with e-learning as a chance to show people that even though we must now use technology to teach, we still need to prioritize connection with students. When we began building our guidebook for e-learning in March, the first focus for me was building an e-learning culture. This culture had to be built on relationships! At South Middle School we find and continue to seek avenues to enhance relationships with our kids even through the computer screen.
Let me end by challenging you to:
- Give Grace to yourself during these new adventures with technology and social distancing.
- Give Grace to others. Parents and kids will have stressful moments.
- Just Give Grace. Allow the example of Jesus with Peter to guide you.
Our calling is to focus on Jesus and build a relationship with Him. Keep your eyes focused on Him. He will direct our work with kids. This is a great opportunity to show the love of Christ to others and grow His Kingdom. Give Grace.
Darren Ellwein is a middle school principal in Harrisburg, South Dakota. He has created a culture of empowerment for adults and learners in his building. His school has embraced the Makerspace movement, created design thinking courses and entrepreneur classes. Kids advocate for themselves by creating their schedules daily through differentiated offerings from teachers. In 2019 he co-authored the book, The Revolution, through Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. In 2017 he was selected Digital Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. On a personal level, Darren is a fourth generation farmer in South Dakota. He is married to Tracee, and they have three children – Caleb, Ella and Ember. Can’t forget their three dogs – Emmitt, Izzy and Olaf! You can connect with him on Twitter and Instagram (@dellwein) and LinkedIn. Check out his website: www.darrenellwein.com to see his book and posts.