Following Directions

Some of my incredible students. Students who teach me something new about the world each day.

As I prepare for parent teacher conferences, I realize “following directions” seems like a phrase I will utter a lot this week. At times this phrase will affirm a student who follows directions the first time, and other times “following directions” will mean an area of improvement for a student. Pray for me this week.  

I ask my students to follow my directions so that as a collective group we can focus our attention on our learning. Our classroom procedures ensure we transition with efficiency and safety to maximize our time on task. I ask students to follow my directions not in a totalitarian lordship manner, but because I love them. I see things they may not see.

In my mind our classroom functions as a living organism where each student contributes and consumes what they need to survive and continues to grow into the world changers I see in each of them. In order for said organism to survive, each person must work together so that we can all grow. Following my directions as the benevolent dictator, my word is final after all, will ensure we thrive as individuals and a whole. Some students comply and others need more reminders. In execution, depending on the day, it can look like anything from controlled chaos to complete anarchy. The line between the two, very very thin. All in all though, my students rise to the occasion and exceed my high expectations. Some days more so than others.

Exceptional students working together to build a tower.

The great irony in all of this is that I myself despise following directions. If you ask me to do something my initial reply is, “why?” Every single time. If I do not know why, nine times out of ten I will defy your request with a quiet resolve. When you approach me, you must defend your request with the why in order to gain my compliance. Real mature, I know.

When following a recipe I try to cut corners if I think I can ad-lib a better way. Sometimes it works, most times I regret it. When I should trust my GPS, I do not. And I need my GPS. When rules do not make sense to me, I do not follow them. If a procedure or social norm seems unnecessary or unjust , I do not conform. Almost always I defy with a silent resolution. But at times, usually when others are treated unjustly, I will vocalize my concern and advocate.

I see the same thing in my students. If they do not know why I need them to follow directions, they will not. I must build the why for them so they understand the importance of listening to my request. I need to know they will follow my directions to keep them safe. It frustrates me to no end that they do not just listen to me without the why. Fun, I know.

If I know my students will listen and act when we are in our classroom, then I know that if I say, “Stop!” if they are running out into a road with oncoming traffic after something, they will listen. I tell them this. We practice listening with no emergency in sight knowing that if one occurred we would react to stay safe. I remind them of this scenario as to reiterate the why of following directions for them.  

Working hard to observe nature on a field trip. Because I can trust them to go on a field trips.

My reaction to Christ often reflects my students’ reactions to me, and my adult reaction to others. As a person who does not trust with ease, I fight following the directions of the creator of the universe. Typing these words makes me see the ridiculous nature of them. I want to know why. I will not always listen if I do not get a why. I imagine God just shakes His head and sighs with a half smirk, the same way my own father does, before He again explains what He asks of me.

Why do I not just listen to God? Why do I not just trust Him because He is God? My own human flesh balks God’s request instead of just trusting Him. It appears I think I can psyc an omnipotent God out and make Him think I trust Him. Newsflash, I do not fool God. He knows.

Sometimes, God affords me a why, sometimes He does not. My trust should run deep enough to just trust the God I love. The God who proves Himself more faithful than I could ever imagine. The God who sees the whole picture and knows what I do not know. The God who plans something so big for each of us that if He told us the whole thing our human brains could not fathom the scope of His plan (Isaiah 55:8-9, Romans 15:13.)

But yet, I freeze. I resist. I toil.

I know truth, but yet I still put up a fight to trust God with my everything. There lies a difference in dialogue with God and defying Him because we do not want to do what He asks. I believe He welcomes our questions and our doubt. But in the end, He asks us to trust Him. He asks us to take a step, even if it is blind. Take a step even if He does not detail the why of what He asks.

If I stop to reflect, I can see how faithful He shows Himself. There was my sister’s wedding. At the time I did not know why, but God proved Himself faithful as I trusted Him with my pain. Teaching, the ultimate test in trusting God. Every day, sometimes every minute, I rely on God. In a place where I only thought I would teach a year God kept me. I had no why. He kept me and He blew me away with how He uses me to bring glory to His Kingdom each and every day. Those exemplify just a few moments in my relatively short life of how God shows Himself faithful. And yet I still cannot count the ways God shows Himself faithful to me.

If “following directions” got marked on your report card as area of improvement, I encourage you to stop. Reflect on why you struggle to trust God. Spend time in prayer asking God to reveal where you struggle to trust Him with everything. Pray for God to woo your heart to trust Him more and more with each twist and turn. Make a conscious effort to just trust the Lord with all of you. Keep asking questions, but in the end choose to trust.


Two students following directions in order to maximize our learning time.


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