A Tale Of Three Teachers (Or, A Tribute to Vivian Fairnot)

5th Grade
5th Grade…

A Tale Of Three Teachers (Or, A Tribute to Vivian Fairnot)

Ms. H. did not like me. It was obvious.
I annoyed her.
My parents told me it was a “personality conflict”.
But when you are 8 it doesn’t really matter why your teacher dislikes you.
You just know that they do – and you shrivel a little – or a lot – inside.

Ms. M. was way less subtle about her disdain.
I not only annoyed her, she actively loathed me.
And it wasn’t in my imagination.
The last day of 4th grade she told me that I was the dumbest kid she had ever taught and that she was glad the year was over.
It didn’t help that she “told” me that at a loud volume in front of my class as the rest of the school was filing in for the final assembly.

I remember those two teachers vividly.
How much they disliked me.
How worthless they made me feel.

But then you had Mrs. Vivian Fairnot.
She gets her full name in this post because she deserves it.
We switched schools the year I went into 5th grade.
And she was my teacher.
What a difference she made in my life!

She liked me.
Enjoyed being my teacher.
Told me so.
And backed her words with actions.
She gave me responsibility.
Listened to my stories.
Laughed at my jokes.
Believed in me.
And basically loved me just as I was.

I didn’t change much at all between 4th and 5th grade.
But I became a different person because of my 5th grade year.
My whole outlook changed because of one teacher.
She wasn’t perfect.
But she loved well.
And for that I will always be grateful.

All three of those teachers influenced who I am today.
How I teach.
What I believe about children.
And why I do things the way I do.

I tell them the truth.
If I believe they can do better, I tell them.
If I believe they gave it their all, I tell them.
But either way, I tell them every day that I love them.
That I am glad they are my kids.
That I am happy God gave them to me.

I tell them to do their work independently – and sometimes to redo their work – because they are smarter than they think they are.
And I tell them to be respectful because I believe they have to ability to do so.
I tell them to love each other because God loves them and I love them.
And I tell them that they can do ALL things through Christ. Even math. Even loving each other. Even the things that feel impossible when you are 8, 9 and 10.

I tell them to ask for help when they need it.
But to push themselves to do better, too.

All of these things I learned from Mrs. Fairnot.
As well as other amazing teachers through the years.
But she stands out as the teacher who made the turning point happen for me.
She literally changed my life.

I never got a chance to thank her in person here on earth.
I found out that God called her home this week.
It makes me grateful once again for heaven.
Because one of the things I plan to do when I get there is to find her and thank her.

I don’t care if you are a teacher, a parent or simply a person who knows a child.
Please, please watch what you say to them.
And how you treat them.
The things you say and do speak volumes to them.
As well as what you don’t say and don’t do.
They may still hear your voice in their head 40 years after the fact.

One final thought – all three of those teachers taught in Christian schools.
All three claimed to know Christ.
But only one showed Him to me through her actions.

Do the kids in your world see Jesus in you?
Do they know He loves them because you do?
Oh, how I hope so!
Because Jesus loved the kids.
Made time and space for them.
Blessed them.
And warned the grown-ups – US – to not give them any reason to stumble.

May you be a blessing in the life of a child today!

And Mrs. Fairnot, thank you.

You always said, “Your walk talks and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.”
Your walk talked volumes into my life – and therefore into the lives of hundreds of children.
Well done, Teacher, well done.

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Lessons From My Classroom

It happens every day in my classroom.
And I am guessing that it probably happens every day in every classroom around the world.

Student: Teacher, I don’t know how to do this.
Teacher: Here, I will show you. (Demonstrates, has student practice.)
Student: Oh, I get it! Thanks.

30-minutes later, turns in paper with all incorrect answers.

Teacher: What happened? I thought you understood.
Student: Ummm…I thought my way was better. (Or some other excuse…)

Or this scenario:

Teacher: OK, class today you will do A, B and then C. Please tell me what you are going to do.
Students: We will do A, B, and then C.
Teacher: Great! Get to work.

2-minutes later:

Student: Teacher, what am I supposed to do?

It happens every day in my heart.

Me: God, I don’t know how to handle this.
God: Here’s the answer in My Word. (Shows me repeatedly, reminding me of past lessons)
Me: Oh, I get it! Thanks!

30-minutes (or less) later, right back at fretting about the issue, making a plan, trying to solve it, trying to figure it out.

God: What happened? Why aren’t you trusting Me and My Word?
Me: Ummm…I thought my way was better…

Or this scenario:

God: OK, Kathy, here is the plan: Love Me first, then love the people I put in your path and as you love them, tell them about Me. That’s is all you have to do. I’ll take care of everything else.
Me: OK, God. I will love You first, then people and I’ll tell them about You. And let You handle everything else.
God: Great! Let’s go.

Two-minutes later:

Me: God, I’m taking back everything I just gave You. I think I can handle it better than You can. After all, do You really know what You’re doing? You are awfully slow. And besides, I just can’t see how You’re going to do it. And it really needs to be done. Feels super urgent to me. So I am going to sit over here and fret about these small things while the world dies and goes to hell with You. Hope that’s OK with You.

Of course, my answer isn’t verbalized quite like that.
It isn’t verbalized at all.
It shows up in my actions.
The rat-race of my brain, trying to figure it out, make a plan, get ahead of the circumstance, wonder what to do.
Instead of doing the three things He commanded:
Love God.
Love people.
Go tell.


At least three times a day I say, “Let me be the teacher, please.”
When a kid takes it upon himself to direct the class.
Tell another kid what to do.
Help me get their attention,
Tattle on someone else.

I have to remind them that I am the one in charge.
I have the plan for the day.
And while I am not perfect, I have more experience and wisdom than they do.

At least thirty times a day God has to say to me, “Let me be God, please.”
When I start to fret.
When I problem-solve instead of pray.
When I lean on my own understanding.
When I forget who is in charge.

He has to remind me that He has got this.
He has the plan for my life.
And He IS perfect, with the whole picture in mind.
He is for me and not against me.
He is my judge – but He is also my vindicator.
He is my provider and my protector.
He loves the people I love more than I do.
And He has the best plan for them, too.
HE is the Teacher.
The Master.
The Lord of All.
Sovereign over all.
The King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Not me.

Every morning I greet my kids at the door with options:
Hug, handshake, high-five or fist bump.
Different ones choose different things.
Doesn’t really matter what they choose – in fact, a couple of them think it is great game to duck in the door without me “catching” them.

Every morning, God greets me with new mercies.
New hope.
Fresh messages from His Word.
A renewal of my mind.
A refreshment of my spirit.

Always available – when I take the time to stop at the door of the day and meet up with Him.
He just wants me to know that He loves me.
And that He’s got this.


Classroom lessons.
May I ever be a willing student.
Because He will ever be the best Teacher.