Near the end of her book Before the Bell Rings: 180 Inspirations to Start a Teacher's Day, Vicki Caruana says, "Education is all about relationship. You can know the content, but if you don't know the kids in the seats, your message falls on deaf ears. There is a necessary distance between student and teacher, but we should never be so disconnected that we don't know the inner workings and struggles of the students assigned to us" (p. 354-5). To this end, Caruana has prepared a series of daily devotions for the full academic year, designed to keep teachers upbeat, positive in nature, motivated to serve, and focused on success.
Admittedly, not all teachers will be in full agreement with the "lessons" presented here. For example, Caruana tells a story of a young teacher who applied for a job but was not hired because she had a tattoo on her ankle. The principal felt it would send the wrong message to youngsters, but Caruana feels that teachers should not be judged by the rings in their noses or the motorcycles they ride to work on. Hmm, why not? Role modeling is a very important aspect of teaching.
I've been married to an elementary school teacher for more than 34 years. My married daughter is a high school music teacher. My daughter-in-law is a school counselor. I'm a college professor. So, from these many perspectives, I can tell you that the majority of Caruana's book rings true. For example, the second devotion laments the fact that no two years of teaching are ever the same -- new textbooks, new teaching fads, new students, new government reports. She's right. Just as soon as you get comfortable with one system or procedure, it gets replaced by something else. But she is also right in saying that the love of Christ is constant, and our decision to be teachers is unwavering. By serving students and reflecting the love of Jesus, we are also serving the Lord.
Each day's devotion features a passage of Scripture, a "Final Thought," and a closing prayer. The book is hardly bigger than a billfold, so it can be carried easily in a purse, briefcase, or tote bag. The devotions are gender neutral, not favoring females, and the topics are equally valuable to novice instructors or highly experienced teachers.
One section of Caruana's book that made me stand up and cheer was her tirade found on Day 118. Here she aggressively attacks the idea found in so many schools today that "everyone is a winner." She tells of how her own sons joined a soccer league and their team lost the championship, but everyone got a participation trophy anyway. Huh? Why? Life isn't like that. The “A” students get into the best colleges, the people who close the most sales get bonuses and raises, and the person with the most votes becomes the new governor. That's how life really works. The sooner students learn this, the sooner they will buckle down to serious studying. Teachers need to teach life lessons as well as math, geography and spelling.
Anyone looking for a Christmas or birthday gift for a teacher should buy one of these books. Teaching can be wearying at times, and a little pick-me-up at the start or end of a day can be mighty welcome. – Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, Christian Book Previews.com
As a seasoned classroom teacher and deemed “America’s Teacher,” Vicki Caruana knows all the blessings and challenges of shaping the lives of students. As a motivational speaker on education and the author of the popular book Apples and Chalkdust, she knows what touches the heart of a teacher.
Centering on the privilege of following this undervalued calling, her inspirational book delivers a full school year’s worth of brief reflections each culminating with a “final thought” and a prayer. A heartfelt gift and a refreshing way to bring focus to each day, Before the Bell Rings will ring true to any teacher.