Reinhold Niebuhr was a theologian who wrote what is known as “The Serenity Prayer” for a sermon back in the 1930s. The fact that this prayer dates back to the 1930s, yet we are still repeating it today, shows you the timeless message it carries.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
There are so many things in life and in education that are beyond our control. This fact came up in a conversation I was having with departments just last week and has caused me to reflect on the message.
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
As an educator, have you ever thought about the many things that are beyond our control? When you focus on just the things we can’t control that involve our students, the list is endless. We as teachers can’t control which students are in our class. We can’t control whether students eat before coming to school, or how much sleep they get at night. We can’t control our students’ parents and the amount of support they give their child or the school. We don’t control our students’ thoughts and actions. The list could go on and on, but I think you get the point. We can’t let these facts discourage us or cause us to accept failure on the part of our students.
“Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.” – Annoyomous
Courage to change the things I can
Despite all of the things we can’t control when it comes to students, it is our job to minimize the impact those things have on us and on the success of our students. The most powerful thing we can change is ourselves. We can change the way we teach by making sure we have engaging lessons and challenge students with relevant material. We can change how we interact with students by ensuring we connect with each student on a daily basis. We can show respect to all students despite the times when they show us a lack of respect. We can be proactive in our discipline rather than always being reactive (PBIS). We can change teaching from being about teachers covering the material to being about students mastering the content. We can be collaborative and work together to come up with solutions. These are a few things that are in our control and things that can have a huge imact on students’ success.
“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” – Steve Maraboli
Wisdom to know the difference
It’s important to know the difference between the things we can control and the things we can’t control. In the book Deliberate Optimism, Silver, Berckmeyer and Baenen state, “One of the most important factors in reclaiming our optimism is to acknowledge those things we cannot control and go around them.” They go on to say, “The optimism we support is not some vague hope that eventually things will all work out, but rather a positive, realistic conviction that we have control over certain aspects of our jobs and no control over others. Most of us have a lot more power than we realize, and all of us can choose how we will react to those things we cannot control.”
“Wisdom is a treasure, the key whereof is never lost.” – Edward Counsel