As a child, I never enjoyed school or the conventional and uncreative curriculum my teachers frequently used. I would try to be creative and spent a lot of time drawing pictures all over my school work. Consequently, I felt teachers were mean. I decided at a very young age, that I would NEVER become a teacher. As I grew up and set out to find a career, I met a college student who was able to draw pictures and be creative within her course work. I decided I wanted to major in whatever she was doing. Ironically, she was an elementary education major. After four years of college, I discovered curriculum did not have to be dictated and traditional. Students learn best when teachers use techniques that best serve the learning needs of their students, because many different learning needs exist in one classroom. After college, I began to look for a teaching job where teachers were given the freedom to teach each of their students in different ways. I was faced with two options: a private Christian school or a larger public school system. At that time, the choice was clear. The Christian school strictly followed assigned textbooks and did not allow teachers or students to deviate from a strict syllabus. The public school system worked to address the needs of a very diverse group of students. I said I would NEVER work in a Christian School. At that time, the challenge for public schools was to know if all students, regardless of the teaching techniques, family backgrounds, and socio-economic status, were given the same expectations. As a public school teacher, I joined forces with other educators across the state to develop these standards. Little did we know these standards would one day become a constrained curriculum of their own that would stifle the creativity of both teachers and students. I loved being a teacher. As the years passed, some of my colleagues suggested that I go into school administration. I said I would NEVER become a school principal and planned to be a classroom teacher forever. God, however, had a different plan. After I had three children of my own, I knew He needed me to spend more time taking care of them and less time being a teacher. I reluctantly left the classroom to stay home and care for my own children. While at home, I continued to write creative and non-traditional curriculum for schools. I began to run my own business where I was able to develop these materials and sell them to schools. I discovered that I was pretty successful at running a business, except for one important aspect: sales. Since I was a terrible salesperson, I did not make much money and eventually needed to go find a new job. I knew I would NEVER be a salesperson. I began to talk with a publishing company who wanted to hire me. I was very excited, thinking I would be able to continue to write books and curriculum for them. When they offered me a job, it wasn’t to write or develop curriculum; it was to sell their books. I guess they didn’t know that I was not very good at sales. I accepted the position and was asked to sell Christian books to Christian schools. To make sure schools would buy the books, I did the only thing I knew and continued to write activities and develop fun ways their books could be used in classrooms. With the materials I was creating, schools were buying more and more of their books and I became an instant success as a salesperson. I shared my activities with other sales reps and quickly moved up the corporate ladder to regional manager, and eventually to national sales director. Best of all, Christian schools across the country were now breaking out of their traditional textbooks and teaching creatively through literature. Due to structural changes within that publishing company, the program did not last and I was once again removed from a job that I loved. I was left feeling very upset with God. What was the point of continually trying to serve Him if each time I became successful, He stopped using me? It was through these experiences that The Little Pot story originated. In the story, the potter creates a vessel and explains that he has a special plan for it. The little pot is excited to see what it will become. The potter fills it with papers and the little pot believes its purpose is to be well educated. It feels smart and thinks paper pots are the best pots to be. The potter removes the papers and creates another vessel to hold his important papers. Little Pot is empty and unfulfilled. Next, the potter fills Little Pot with coins. Little Pot feels rich and believes its purpose is to be wealthy. The potter makes another vessel and removes the coins. Little Pot is empty and unfulfilled once again. Finally the potter gives the little pot dirt. Little Pot does not want to be a dirt pot. After the Potter plants something inside the dirt, Little Pot realizes it can grow beautiful flowers. It then believes its purpose is to be beautiful. Shortly after the flowers bloom, however; the blossoms turn hard and green. No longer smart, rich, or beautiful, Little Pot worries once again that it has failed the potter. The potter explains that the hard, green objects are turning into bright, red berries and that Little Pot’s true purpose is to bear fruit. It took me many years and many jobs to learn that God created me simply to be a vessel in which He could grow His fruit. His fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I was so focused on the things God allowed me to hold in life that I allowed them to define who I was. I had been a teacher, a mom, a business owner, and a sales director. Had I spent those years cultivating the fruit of the Spirit? Once the story was published into a picture book, I became an award winning author and my nature began to, once again, value the accolades and position I held more than what God was able to grow through me. It was then that I was asked to be the administrator of a local Christian school. I had a choice to make. Would I hold onto the success God had given me, or willingly empty myself this time so God could use me to grow the fruit of the Spirit? I accepted the position and figured I had probably better stop announcing the things in life that I would NEVER do. As I moved into the school, I still carried the educational philosophy that students learn best when teachers use techniques that best serve the learning needs of their students. The traditional Christian school curriculum wouldn’t allow us to do that. We began to develop our own. Our purpose was for every child at the school to not only be well educated like the paper pot, financially stable like the coin pot, or beautiful like the flower pot, but vessels that allowed the potter to grow the fruit of the spirit through them as fruit pots. To accomplish this purpose we needed to create an environment that fostered love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We used Little Pot’s process to help us understand what it takes for fruit to grow from us. The process is as follows:
First, we have physical growth.
Little Pot is a uniquely shaped vessel made by the potter. We are different shapes, sizes, and colors made by the potter: God. (Isaiah 64:8) We have various talents, gifts, and abilities. God has designed each of us and expects us to care for ourselves so our bodies can be a vessel useful to Him. Therefore, we must monitor our physical growth.
Then, we need spiritual growth.
The word humility comes from the Latin word humus, which means “good soil.” Little Pot must contain fertile dirt and we must be humble if we are to produce the fruit of the Spirit found in the Bible. (Galatians 5:22-23)
In the Mark 4 and Luke 8 parable, Jesus defines the seed as God’s Word. For Little Pot to grow fruit, it starts with a seed. For us, it begins with planting the Word of God in our lives. The Bible is the source of truth and a part of everything we learn.
Next, comes social growth.
From the seed a stem forms in Little Pot. A stem is straight and upright. In Proverbs 10 and aa the potter tells us that those who walk upright and straight have integrity. We must be people with integrity. No one looks at a plant and says, “Wow! That is a nice looking stem,” just as no one really notices our integrity. However, if a small crack is made in the stem, it will be unable to continue to grow fruit. We only need a small crack in our integrity to stop the fruit of the Spirit from growing through us.
A life of integrity will foster strong relationships. Little Pot needs leaves for photosynthesis (how a plant uses light). Central allows us to grow strong relationships that bring the light of Christ into our lives. A plant can have any number of leaves, just as we can have a lot of friends. Bad leaves need to be removed so they don’t drain the plant of its nutrients and our bad relationships sometimes need to end so we can foster new growth in Christ.
Last, we are able to have academic growth.
With hearty leaves growing, Little Pot blooms flowers. Flowers bloom in different seasons, just as each child learns at a different pace. Through 21st century learning techniques, advanced technology, and individualized instruction, children continually bloom new knowledge
As a result, we bear fruit.
The flower turns to fruit. With physical, spiritual, social, and academic growth, the Potter is able to grow the fruit of the Spirit through us. At Central, each classroom is a fruit stand where love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control prosper.
After ten years of working in this school and growing the fruit of the Spirit with teachers, students, and their families, God replanted me in Raleigh, North Carolina where I continue to write, illustrate, create resources, and most importantly … grow fruit!