I learned a couple of things during the two years I spent as a teacher. First, I have no business being a teacher. Second, friends are overrated.
I should probably explain.
I had just graduated from college and, to my amazement, Fortune 500 companies weren’t lining up at my door to beg me to come and work for them. Through a weird series of events, I was offered a job teaching science and English to middle schoolers. Deep down, I knew that I wasn’t qualified (see: Failed Science in High School, see also: Never Bothered with Learning English Rules and Only Ten Years Older than Students) but that didn’t stop me. I needed a job to hold me over until those Fortune 500 companies started recruiting me.
I was done as a teacher on my very first day of school when a kid asked me a question in front of the whole class.
“Mr. Sanders, are you tight with us?”
This is when I should have responded by saying something like, “What does tight mean?” or “Be quiet and go stand in the corner.” Instead, I said, “Yeah, man. We’re tight.”
The whole class cheered.
And I don’t think they ever got quiet until summer break.
There were a lot of really good teachers at that school. They were the ones that never smiled in front of the students until there was only a week left in the school year. While I was more concerned with being friends with the students these teachers actually wanted to teach them something. I fooled myself into believing that I didn’t need to be an authority figure as long as I was tight with my students. In reality, I was neither.
After it was already too late, I learned my lesson. Kids don’t need an old guy to be their friend. They need instruction and discipline. Not only do they need it. They want it.
By the end of the year, I wasn’t so tight with my students. They were too busy learning from the strict teachers.
Now that I’m a father, I think about this a lot.
Yesterday was a rough day for my sons. I’m beginning to think that the so-called terrible twos begins at the age of two and ends sometime around the age of 16. And that’s part of why my sons don’t need me to be their friend. On days like the one we had yesterday, they need correction. A lot of correction.
Correction doesn’t come natural to me. I’d much rather make up raps with my sons than I would punish them. But if I turn a blind eye to their rebellion, only to engage them when it’s time to have fun or if they’re really getting on my nerves, I’m enabling them in their sin or provoking them to anger instead of raising them up to be disciples.
Remembering this makes it easier when it’s time for me to correct my sons. If I don’t train them up and correct them now, I’ll be doing it a lot in the future. The terrible twos are one thing but they’re not near as bad as the terrible late 20s.
My two sons may not ever say something like, “My dad is my best friend.”
I’d much rather them say, “My dad taught me how to be a man of God.”