Christi Savoy (Part 1)
Educator —The Golden Rule in School, Seeing God's Children
Categories: Education, Golden Rule
Christi Savoy has been teaching for 26 years, most of which has been spent with first graders. To her, education is all about character. She shares how she helps her students follow the Golden Rule, how she listens to God for guidance, and refuses to label her students. In Part 2, she addresses fears, mistakes, and more.
What, to you, is the purpose of education?
Building character. Without good character, it's really hard to maneuver in the world—to make friends, solve problems, speak up for yourself so you're not victimized. There are all sorts of little ways to solve problems. Rock, paper, scissors is one way that works for my kindergarten or first grade students. And then they get the opportunity to learn how to deal with disappointment. We have to teach children how to deal with each other and with different situations that come up in their lives, such as who gets a certain item or how to respond when you don't win the game.
How do you teach them about character?
We have a program at school called Character Counts. We have pillars (concepts) such as respect, responsibility or perseverance—qualities that constitute good character. Each month, we highlight a different pillar. If the quality for the month is perseverance, then the teachers share statements dealing with perseverance from famous people like Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison and how many attempts he tried in order to make something work. And we work with the pillar all month so that the students understand it. I help them learn the words and what they mean, what character is, how to apply these concepts, and what it all looks like.
I help them take in all this information so they can make better choices. I ask the children, "Is that a smart choice?" If they've made a mistake, I ask them how they can fix it. I help them realize what a smart choice is. One of our class/school rules is to learn to make smart choices.
What other classroom rules do you have?
- Follow directions quickly.
- Raise your hand for permission to speak.
- Raise your hand for permission to get out of your seat.
- Make smart choices.
- Keep your dear teacher happy.
The other classes have these 5 rules. My kids insist on a 6th rule—the Golden Rule.
How did the Golden Rule become a classroom rule?
I started talking about it early on. Just about every culture has the Golden Rule in some form. It's a good way to help us think before we do something. It's a good way to measure whether what we're thinking about doing is appropriate, if it's really going to bless. We're constantly talking about the Golden Rule in respect to each other. I'll often ask, "Would you like it if s/he was doing that to you?"
My kids love it, and that's what they say without prompting after we've gone over the other rules. In our school song we have the phrase that "we live by the Golden Rule," so it's part of our school culture. My principal says that we live by the "Platinum Rule"—not only do we treat people the way we want to be treated, but we give people what they need. If we see someone who needs attention or has hurt feelings, we go above and beyond and give them what they need that day. So he's amped it up.
I also think about the "Three Gates of Gold," which a friend told me about: 1) Is it needful? 2) Is it necessary? 3) Is it truthful?
One point I'm always making, especially when one child is correcting another child or tattling, is, "Just take care of yourself." It may sound simple and rudimental, but we need to be less of busy bodies. It's a full time job to mind our own thoughts and lives. If we work on being the best we can be, then the world will be a lot better place.
Are there any ideas from the Bible that help you teach effectively?
One verse that I use a lot is, "Be still and know that I am God" (Ps 46:10). When you're teaching, there are all these other voices that try to make you think there's another power beside God, that the problem or reason a child isn't doing well is related to parenting, or socio-economics, or lack of capabilities. I am always challenging these voices or opinions and telling them to be quiet. I want to be still and listen to what's really going on here, and refuse to let the noise distract me from my purpose, which is to reflect God and see these children correctly—as whole, complete ideas of God who reflect God. I really believe this.
What do you mean by seeing them "correctly"?
I mean seeing the children correctly from a spiritual perspective. I see all the children as God's "image and likeness" (Gen 1:26). Because they are God's image, they have, express, reflect all the qualities of God. I don't want to label them as victims of circumstance. I think it's more productive and healthy to see them as God's children. That is their birthright, their inheritance, even if they don't know it.
How wonderful that you don't attach labels, that you see them as God sees them.
It helps me help them with behavior. Behavior is all about learning. It's really important in kindergarten and 1st grade to learn what's appropriate and what's not appropriate. If a child is always having the teacher upset at him, he'll feel that school's not a good place and won't want to be there, and so he won't finish school. So behavior needs to be corrected right away, especially since those issues follow him or her throughout the educational career as files get passed from one teacher to the next.
For instance, when this one little girl came up from kindergarten into my first grade class, her kindergarten teacher told me all the things she had done wrong and how horrible she was. I didn't want to accept this assessment. I believe the way we are treated has an impact on us. So I'm trying to treat her as God's child. I'm not identifying her as a monster or as someone who can't behave herself. When you make someone else out to be a monster, in reality, you're being the monster. So I take a lot of time explaining and helping her make better choices. It's a constant challenge to identify her correctly, spiritually. But some people don't even make the effort.
When my students do something they shouldn't, I help them think of themselves differently. I tell them, "You're too good for this. You're too smart to be doing this." I want them to know that they can and do make good decisions and are able to think of different ways to solve problems.
I think when you help children feel good about being themselves, it makes a difference in their lives. They begin to see themselves as capable, complete, and able to make wise, good choices. When they don't feel good, the acting out happens. But they should feel good. They're children of God. Isn't that amazing—to be a child of God! That's the highest honor, and everyone has it.
It is amazing to be God's children!