August 9, 2018

Six Lessons Learned at Teachers’ Convention 2018

Sandra Blackmer, Adventist Review

As I write, I’m attending the 2018 North American Division (NAD) Teachers’ Convention in Chicago, Illinois, United States. Held every six years and organized by the NAD Office of Education, the event is an opportunity for some 6,000 Adventist teachers — through keynote meetings and hundreds of breakout sessions — to network, learn, grow, and gain tools and resources to help them to become more effective educators.

For those who interact daily with young people in one- and two-room schools in more remote regions of the division, it is especially gratifying to connect with colleagues who share similar struggles and successes and know they are not alone in their challenges.

AR TeachersConvention 1

I’m here helping at the Adventist Review Ministries booth but also with the main event registration. A snafu with a lost box of printed name labels needed for registering the participants left us scrambling for “creative” ways to solve the issue and caused some backup and confusion at the NAD registration desk.

I was prepared for criticism from weary, frustrated travelers who wanted only to “sign in” and get their name badges. Contrary to the usual reaction to such situations, however, I experienced none of that. Their patience, courtesy, and willingness to “flow” with the situation struck me as exemplary and helped me realize that even we adults can still learn from teachers.

Here are six lessons I came away with:

  1. Never “butt in line,” but patiently wait your turn. Jostling, arguing, pushing ahead of others, impatience, obvious signs of frayed tempers — none of that manifested in the lines I worked. The “waiting in line” manners that teachers regularly strive to instill in their students obviously haven’t been lost on them.
  2. Be kind to one another, even when the other person is at their worst. Instead of berating or words of sarcasm during what was obviously a challenging moment for us desk workers, the teachers responded only with smiles and words of appreciation — not always an easy thing for we humans to do!
  3. Remain calm in the face of chaos. As with any event involving thousands of participants, numerous challenges have arisen that required fixing or “adjusting,” and the leaders and organizers I’ve personally witnessed have handled them with calm, candor, and courtesy — a tone that then permeates throughout the group.
  4. Help others in need. People in need include more than those in extreme situations; they also involve workers at a convention who don’t have enough “hands.” Volunteers who simply step in and say, “How can I help?” — even sacrificing meeting time — are gifts from God.
  5. Be grateful for what we have. This is the third teachers’ convention I’ve attended, and what has unfailingly stood out each time is the teachers’ gratitude for what is being done for them. They don’t seem to view the convention as something they have to attend, but rather something they get to attend and to learn from — and they don’t hesitate to express appreciation.
  6. Never neglect prayer. There is no success without the presence and blessing of God, a fact realized by the teachers I see praying together in small groups in the hallways and during meetings. Their goal, they say, is to invite God into their hearts and their classrooms.

Few jobs hold more value and importance than that of teaching. Teachers both within our parochial system and without have a strong and profound influence on our most precious possession — our children. In Adventist schools, we entrust them not only with their education but also their spiritual guidance.

So let’s not neglect to express appreciation to teachers for what they do and the difference they make in young lives — and let us adults continue to learn from them as well.