Charge

by Carolyn Martin


Photo by Cas Holmes on Unsplash

Crimea – Battle of Balaclava

Lord Raglan, British cavalry commander, sat high on a hill and watched the Russian soldiers withdrawing naval guns from the captured redoubts. His plan was that the action of the light brigade, the British light cavalry force, could force the Russians to abandon the cumbersome guns as they fled the swift cavalry riders. He sent out the order: “Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front, follow the enemy, and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Troop horse artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. Immediate.”

Down in the valley, General George Bingham could not see the Russian movements on the causeway redoubts. He only had the mass of Russian guns at the end of the valley in his line of vision. The courier bringing the order vaguely indicated those were the guns meant by the order.

Lord Cardigan was charged with the capture of the Russian guns and led his 670 troopers of the light brigade charging into the battle fray. The resulting battle, bravery, and military disaster are captured in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”.

September 2022

Christian schools across the land

School teachers stand in the doorways of their empty classrooms, surveying their goals and plans for the year. They have been given a charge, a responsibility, to take their students through the school year. They cannot see around the bend and what the next 180 days will bring. Teachers have been given a charge to be in charge of their classrooms and students. But the charge is not given so that teachers charge recklessly or timidly into the year.

The word “charge” stems from a Middle English word that means in a general sense ‘to load’ or ‘a load’, fitting for a schoolteacher’s responsibility. Charge as a noun can mean the responsibility of taking care or control of someone. A charge can be a person entrusted to the care of someone. Charge as a verb can mean entrusting someone to a responsibility. It can also mean to rush forward in an attack, among various other meanings. Being given the charge of a classroom is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. However, a successful teacher is one who takes the charge seriously and takes charge of their classroom, not charging ahead with their own ideas and self-importance but relying on God’s grace and guidance.

Boundaries

A teacher in charge will set boundaries with confidence and kindness. A teacher in charge knows where they want their boundaries—what they want to happen with the students they have charge of. Maybe the school has some guidelines in place. A teacher in charge will know those boundaries and keep them. Most teachers, however, need to decide on many details of classroom life. A successful teacher knows what they expect, and they make their classroom management plan accordingly. And then the teacher needs to keep the boundary lines where they have been drawn.

Being in charge does not mean being stern, strict, grumpy, or carrying a big stick to enforce the boundaries. It merely means being consistent in enforcement. Yes, merely being consistent. However, consistency can be elusive, especially if the teacher is unsure that they are handling things correctly. Students need to know that a teacher will treat everyone the same, every time.

A teacher in charge communicates their expectations to their students. Just reading over the list of policies and expectations is not enough. Students tend to tune out or forget. Model and practice the expectations. Engage the students. Repeat as necessary (more often for younger students). A teacher should not let it be their problem that the students don’t know the boundaries.

Once the students know what is expected of them, hold them to that standard.

Confidence

A teacher in charge exudes confidence with humility. Students come into the classroom expecting the teacher to be in charge. A teacher who appears confident can lead their students where they want them to go. Students are unsure if they can trust and follow a teacher who does not appear confident. Students want a leader, even if they don’t always think they do.

Appearing confident and actually being confident is not always the same thing. A teacher in charge has been given the charge to be the leader. Even though one feels very unconfident, it is possible to pose confidently. Practice confidence. And most of all, pray for confidence.

A confident teacher is not a steamroller teacher. Confidence should also bring with it the humility to be entreated and to admit being wrong. But a confident teacher is not a wishy-washy teacher. They have grounds to stand on and are not swayed by student wants or demands.

A confident teacher in charge will not need to be the students’ buddy. A confident teacher will let the students respond to the teacher’s requests rather than feeling the need to meet the students’ wants.

Teachers should teach the material confidently. They should know what they are teaching and be enthused about learning. Confident teachers engage the students in learning. They help students be successful.

Pleasant

The teacher who is in charge is pleasant to be around. They treat everyone with kindness—even the child who tries their patience. One can be pleasant and still address wrong done and correct misbehavior. Calmly calling out misdeeds gets the same effect as a raised voice or angry tone. Raised voices and angry tones allow the student to deflect responsibility for their misbehavior. A teacher who can deal with misdemeanors in a matter-of-fact manner puts the responsibility back on the student.

A pleasant teacher is not moody. They are not grumpy. They do not need to be stern. A pleasant teacher in charge will be calm, be kind, and be consistent.

Teachers, you have been given a charge for this school year. With God’s help you can confidently step into your class to meet that charge. He sees the battles and victories of the whole year. His orders are not faulty, though sometimes we misread them.

Sometimes teachers may be given short-sighted or vague orders by their superiors who give them the charge. Before you charge recklessly or blithely forward make sure you are working to follow the Ultimate Order Giver.

Becoming a confident and kind teacher who can set and enforce boundaries makes you a leader your students will want to follow. At times you may find yourself in the thick of the battle with sabers flashing all around, but with God as your helper you can emerge with victory.

Go forward to meet your charge!

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CONTRIBUTOR: Carolyn Martin

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