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208 pages
Nov 2004
Bethany House

One Heart at a Time: Thoughts for Teachers

by Vicki Caruana

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If only we could get into their hearts! That’s what I used to think would really make the difference with my students. What I realized is that getting into the heart is what makes the difference for all of us.

Education reform is only as effective as the teachers charged with its implementation. Unfortunately, many of us are already discouraged and brokenhearted over what our jobs have become. It is less about teaching and more about policy. But we can reach and teach our students if we first allow God to do a healing work in our own hearts.

Take time either before your day begins or at its end to meditate on God’s truth, using the thoughts in this book. Over the next ten weeks, begin each school day with these thought-provoking meditations. Over the weekend, prepare your heart and mind with Weekend Words to Prepare Your Heart. Renewal happens step by step and one heart at a time. Let the Holy Spirit open the eyes of your heart so that you can then open the eyes of the hearts and minds of your students.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

We can make a difference—One Heart at a Time!

Vicki Caruana

* * *

Words Aptly Spoken


The Lord God has given me his words of wisdom so that

I may know what I should say to all these weary ones.

Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will.

Isaiah 50:4 TLB


This is a verse of expectancy! It is also one of submission. It is so very important that we realize we are not the authors of our expertise and abilities. God gives the words we need. He is the one who makes His will clear to us. We can expect that what He has called us to do He will also equip us to do in His name.

The words we speak to those in our charge should not only be words of knowledge—an exhortation of facts and figures—but words of wisdom. These give life to those who are weary. The weary ones are those with troubled consciences or broken hearts. They need encouragement! They need God’s words on the matter. And in order for us to be able to speak those words, we must first hear them for ourselves. “We must hear the word from God’s mouth diligently and attentively, that we may speak it exactly.”

If we are to speak in a way that sustains the weary, we must do so with care, with sincere thought. We must measure our words so that we do not speak out of turn and cause hurt. We must balance our good intentions with proper preparation.


As a classroom teacher, parent-teacher conferences often unnerved me. Now as a parent, on the other side of the table, the familiar feeling deep in the pit of my stomach returns. That first conversation with a teacher is crucial. I want her to know that I understand the world in which she works. I want her to know that I support her efforts. But I also desperately want her to know and understand the needs of my child and to be willing to find ways to meet those needs.

We homeschooled our younger child for grades one through four. When he went back into public school in fifth grade, it was with trepidation—ours, not his! I prayed all summer about who God would choose for his teacher. I prayed for her and for myself, that I would be what she needed that year.

Good teachers know their subjects, such as reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. Great teachers know their subjects, too—our children! Mrs. Sanchez had my son pegged right away. She even went to the trouble of finding out each child’s learning style, making them aware of it for themselves, and she used that knowledge to teach them more expertly. I was impressed from the very first day.

I met with Mrs. Sanchez often throughout the school year about how to help our son learn to do quality work and to stay motivated to do a good job. Our combined efforts produced a fifth-grade boy who understood the importance of hard work and appreciated the rewards that came with it. Because of Mrs. Sanchez I believe my son is ready to enter middle school. Without her words of wisdom and encouragement, I don’t think he and I would have that confidence.


Words are powerful. Choose them carefully. Offer them gently. Always use that power for good.


Heavenly Father, your words are truth! I know this and treasure the fact. My words seem inadequate and weak in comparison. My words spout my wisdom, and I realize my wisdom is faulty. I want to be a life-giver to my students. I want them to know you. Draw me to yourself, and in the quiet places I will be a student of your Word. Then and only then will I be able to offer the right words at the right time to the right students. Thank you for this opportunity to speak your words. Amen.

* * *

Are You My Mother?


We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.

2 Corinthians 6:3


The ultimate path we all walk is the one to God. God’s Word illuminates the path, but there can be debris on the way that can make us falter and even fall. Sometimes there’s enough in our way that we choose to leave the path marked out and go into the wilderness alone.

As teachers we are leaders in the lives of the families entrusted to us. For some, we may be the only ones who point out the path. Our leadership must be intentional not accidental. We must make the choice daily to lead with truth. If we focus on following the path ourselves, those who follow us will know the way as well. But if we ignore the influence our position holds in the lives of children, we are deceived and may become a stumbling block instead of one of God’s lamps.


I watched this little girl wriggle herself away from her mother and run to my side. We had become close, this redheaded second grader and I. She was the daughter that I never had. But she belonged to someone else, and at that moment I felt like the bad guy.

Admittedly, her mom had some problems. Child services had been involved with this family more than once. Kids are good at giving second, and even more, chances, but something had happened that made this little one say, “Enough!”

“No, I don’t want to go with you!” she shouted. “I want to stay with Miss Vicki.”

The defeat I saw in that mother’s eyes tore at my heart. She didn’t fight back. She just slowly turned and walked out of my classroom.

No matter how much I felt for this child or how much I feel for all of my students, this felt wrong. Had I gotten in the way of their reconciliation? Had I broken up a family? All I wanted was to be a safe place for her. All I wanted was her best.

A mother’s love is irreplaceable. A mother’s love makes all the difference in this world. This mother loved her daughter. She wanted the best for her as well. My job was to be a bridge and not a wall.

I took this freckle-faced darling by the hand and walked her out to the parking lot. Her mother ran to meet us. In the moment of letting go, I didn’t hand this precious one off to a mom who may or may not fail again. I gave her to a God who never fails. She will never be abandoned. She will always be sheltered under His wings. She will never be alone. She is right where she belongs.


Sometimes it’s hard to see where our duty begins and ends when it comes to children. Basically our job is to connect children to God by way of our love for them. Be sure you are a help and never a hindrance.


Heavenly Father, I am humbled by the influence you have given me as teacher in the lives of these, your little ones. Help me to be mindful of this and to walk the path set before me with the intention of only following you!

* * *

Want to Leave a Legacy?


Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:4


By God’s grace alone we are kept alive. We receive all the virtue we need to do His work on earth and to make us fruitful. Most trees, when old, stop bearing fruit, but in God’s trees the strength of grace does not fail even against the test of time and the elements. The latter days of a Christian’s life are sometimes the best days, and the last work the best work: Perseverance is a sure evidence of maturity. God will make us complete and give us all we need in order to finally finish what is set before us.


The demands on a teacher are at times irrelevant and illogical. Teachers simply want to teach! We want to make a positive impact on the lives of children. It’s a difficult thing to remember.

Kim Watson was new to our school, but not new to teaching. Married to a teacher-husband, she had all the support she needed at home. But at her new school that support wasn’t enough. She had a vision for her students and wanted to leave them with something more than acceptable scores on the state test. Support for her vision ended the moment she entered the school each morning.

I watched as she implemented a new homework schedule, and parents balked. I watched as she raised her expectations, and her colleagues raised their eyebrows. I watched as she challenged the students with a new way to reach the state standards, and her principal raised her voice. Finally, when she asked for help on Fridays, I raised my hand. As a former teacher with a vision, I saw what Kim was trying to do—without support. As a parent of one of her students, I wanted to be that support she so desperately needed.

When the year was over and all was said and done, I asked Kim how she thought the year went.

“Not nearly how I’d hoped,” she confided. “I could have taken these kids so much farther!”

Her heart was broken. It’s hard to do what you know you need to do to make a difference in the lives of children when your hands are tied or roadblocks are continually put in your way. Will she stay? Will she try again? I won’t be there this time to help her. My child has moved on. I pray that God will provide just what she needs to do what she’s been called to do.


We are proud of the fact that our students had high test scores, but our real hope is that we have made a difference that will carry students forward into successful, contented lives.


Father, it is so hard to remember that this is the work you have prepared for my hands. There are many days when I question this calling and shudder in frustration. These precious ones that you have put in my care were chosen specifically for me. Help me to know their needs. Guide me as I make choices on their behalf. Grant me peace as I struggle through the obstacle course of school life. Soften the hearts of those who might hinder my work. Reveal to me those to whom I may also offer support. I am here because you put me here. Help me never to forget your Son’s legacy as I leave my own.

Excerpted from:
One Heart at a Time: Inspirational Thoughts for Teachers by Vicki Caruana
Copyright © 2004; ISBN 0764227939
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.