Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dear Future 7th Grader – Part III (Trina Cornell)

Tonight is the last of three parts of a terrific series by my good friend, Trina Cornell, based on her classroom experiences. Thanks for praying for me in Vietnam!

As I shared previously, I have been a middle school teacher for my entire teaching career.  I have just finished my eighth school year of teaching, and my third year of teaching 7th grade English/Language Arts.  7th grade is an interesting age for students – they are learning more about themselves, how to take responsibility for their actions, and who they ultimately want to be.  Many people, when they find out that I teach middle school, say things like, “Bless you,” and “I will pray for you,” citing the difficulty of the middle school age.  I would not teach any other grade – my passion is teaching these young men and women.  My goal is to not only teach them about school subjects, but about life – and how to be the best citizens that they can be.

As an end-of-the-year project, I asked my five English/Language Arts classes to complete the following assignment.

You are on the home stretch of your 7th grade year – you are so close to being in 8th grade!  There is a whole new group of 7th graders that will be in your place next year.  If you could tell them anything about 7th grade, what would you tell them?  

Write a friendly letter on a lined piece of paper and share AT LEAST FIVE THINGS that they should know about 7th grade.

Make sure your letter includes the following:
Today’s date
A greeting – Dear Future 7th Grader, (with a comma after “Grader”)
Indent the first line of your letter – write in complete sentences!
A closing – Sincerely, (with a comma after the word)
Your signature under the closing

Make sure you brainstorm ideas before you begin to write you letter!

I explained to my students that they had something to say to the up-and-coming 7th graders – words of advice and encouragement for those coming to “fill their shoes.”  The responses I received from my students were all over the place – from funny to thoughtful to deeply insightful.  Many students shared cautionary tales to persuade their readers to not make the same mistakes, while others shared tips and suggestions for a successful 7th grade year.

The most intriguing suggestions came from some of my best writers and deepest thinkers; little do they know, many of their tips and suggestions have a Biblical application.

Focus on the important things.
The world in which we live bombards us with so much – with the Internet, smart phones, and numerous applications, we have the world at our fingertips.  Some doctors are actually diagnosing the condition of “text neck,” where people spend so much time looking down at their phones, that they develop a medical condition.  Our society thrives on instant gratification – what they can get right now.  Middle school students, as well as many adults, spend their time worrying about what to post on Facebook, the next picture they will put on Instagram, or the next video they can watch on You Tube.  The Lord teaches us that these things that the world deems important are not – they are miniscule compared to the Lord and His plans.  

Colossians 3:1-2 says, “You have been raised up with Christ.  So think about things that are in heaven.  That is where Christ is.  He is sitting at God’s right hand.  Think about things that are in heaven.  Don’t think about things that are on earth.”  Paul wanted the church at Colosse to realize the temporary nature of the world, and the permanent nature of God.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – these things will pass away, but the promises of the Lord are steadfast and sure.  

Have some confidence.
In many situations, confidence is a trait that is lacking in middle school students.  Every student I teach has a great deal of potential – but many young people fear acting upon it.  For the sake of being “cool” or part of the “in-crowd”, students will purposefully underachieve.  It pains me to see this.  I have high expectations for my students, and they know, from Day One, that I believe in them and their capability to reach their potential.  In the same manner, the Lord wants us to be confident in Him and the plans He has for our lives.  

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.”  God wants us to fully rely on Him, follow His lead, and have faith in His guidance and strength.  Just as a middle school student should demonstrate confidence in their potential, we as Christians need to have confidence in our Lord – the Creator of the all things.  

Respect yourself and watch what you say about others.
“Drama” is a common terms heard in most middle schools.  This word refers to conflicts that are cultivated by at least two people.  Emotions run high, mean words are spoken, and feelings are hurt.  This daily occurrence in middle school stems from one action, and that is gossip.  Merriam-Webster defines gossip as, “to talk about the personal lives of other people.”  Anytime gossip is involved in a conflict, people are hurt, and the end result is a huge mess.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  The Bible tells us that gossip should not be a word in our vocabulary – or an action in which we participate.  James talks about the power of the tongue in chapter
3, verse 5:  “The tongue is also a small part of the body, but it can speak big things.  See how a very small fire can set many trees on fire.”  Watching what you say about others is good advice – for middle school students, and for Christians.   

From the mouths of children…comes a great deal of wisdom!

God bless, Steve Luke 18:1 E-mail me at

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