Separate the Tares from the Wheat

A professor shares how they used the parable of the tares and the wheat to bring out the good in his/her students and begin to enjoy teaching again.

By Genelle Austin-Lett

Categories: Abundance, Guidance, Jesus (Parables), Loving and Forgiving

Thirty-five years ago, I started teaching at a community college. It was a dreadful experience. I didn't like the students, they didn't like me, and interaction with my colleagues was edgy at best. By the time Christmas break rolled around, I wanted to quit.

A friend, who was a professor at National College of Education, invited me to spend the Christmas holidays with her family. When I explained how I never wanted to teach again, she told me it wasn't wisdom to break a contract no matter how unhappy I was. She suggested I go to the guest room, make myself at home, and start praying for an enlightened view of teaching. The next day, I came bounding down the stairs, ready to hit the malls and experience the Christmas cheer of Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, when she asked, "Well, what did God tell you?" I paused as I moved toward the door and said, "Nothing yet." Her response was instant. "You're not going anywhere until you and God work this out." I thought she had to be kidding. But she was serious. I realized that if I had any hope of enjoying the holiday spirit, I'd better get busy, or I'd be seeing plenty of the guest room.

Unhappily, I dragged myself back upstairs and opened my Bible to Jesus' parable of the tares and the wheat (Matt 13:24-30). Jesus was explaining that the kingdom of heaven was like a man who sowed good seed in his field, but an enemy sowed tares among the wheat. The servants were dismayed and wanted to know if they should dig up the tares. The householder wisely told them to be patient and wait until harvest. That day, the parable seemed to be telling me to be more patient and leave judging to God. I also opened to the Nativity story. The verse in Luke 1:46 mentions that Mary said her soul "doth magnify the Lord."

I took these simple statements and began to honestly examine my teaching style. When I critiqued students, I was quite harsh in pointing out all they did wrong. These statements from the Bible were suggesting that I needed to magnify the good in my students and bring out their wheat. This realization was actually a relief to me - it gave me a wonderful sense of hope for the next semester…and I got to leave the room before Christmas!

When I returned to teaching in January, I prayed before every class to be guided by God to magnify the wheat in my students. I started telling them what they were doing right, and I lovingly but firmly pointed out how they could eliminate the "tares." My experience in the classroom was transformed. My students were happier, and my colleagues saw the changes in the students and in me. To me, the transformation brought about an increased love of teaching. To this day, I frequently discuss with my students the fact that it is my responsibility to bring out their wheat and to magnify their good. These Biblical messages turned teaching from a chore into a joy.