Dr. Joan Elango

Principal at Anita Methodist School, Chennai

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In this powerful and heartfelt video, Dr. Joan Elango, a visionary school principal and faithful Christ-follower, shares her inspiring journey of celebrating children and embracing God's love in education and parenting. She opens up about her experiences as a dedicated school principal, driven by the mission to celebrate, nurture, and cherish every child under her care. Through her story, she emphasises the importance of instilling Christian values, developing empathy, and empowering children to become the best versions of themselves.

Discover the incredible impact of Dr. Elango's faith-driven approach to education and parenting, where each child is seen as a precious gift from God. Gain insights into her unique teaching methods, the power of worship in the classroom, and how she encourages her students and fellow educators to fight against worldly pressures and focus on God's purpose for their lives.
This uplifting video demonstrates the extraordinary influence a school principal can have when guided by faith in God and a genuine love for children. Dr. Joan Elango's story will inspire parents, educators, and anyone passionate about Christian education to set their crowns right, celebrate children, and embrace God's transformative power in their lives.

Dr. Joan Elango is the Principal of Anita Methodist School, Chennai. With over 30 years of experience as a teacher-trainer-educator and a Ph.D in Education, she’s passionate about facilitating Christian value-based education in schools.

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The Joy of Celebrating a Child: Dr. Joan Elango’s Legacy Of Love

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The Joy of Celebrating a Child: Dr. Joan Elango’s Legacy Of Love
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I stood with a cup into which was poured the wrath of God, because I was a sinner. Then my Father took that cup of wrath and poured it over Jesus, and that is why I’m here as a rescued sinner. That’s not all. Jesus took me to the changing room and gave me a robe of righteousness. And so, I’m here setting my crown right because I am royalty. I belong to a King.

She was eight years old, and there was a debate. So, the teacher put her name, and she went up. She had prepared well, but oh my God, she messed it so badly she got down crying. What would a teacher do the next time? Find somebody else who can talk? This teacher, the very next debate, she said, “Bring her back on because that is not how that story should end.”

Jesus took me to the changing room and gave me a robe of righteousness. And so, I’m here setting my crown right because I am royalty. I belong to a King.

She was 11 years old. The father pushed her from Tamil medium to English medium. When she sat in the English medium class, she did not understand anything. So, she escaped from the English medium class and went and sat in the Tamil medium class. Just a bit too mischievous, so she got caught with the teacher. And she said, “What are you doing here? You don’t even belong here.” So, with tears in her eyes, she walks out of this safe zone of hers, only to be met by a teacher who put a hand on her shoulder, took her under a tree, and said, “Try it, give it a shot. I will be with you. Try the English medium.” She was 16 years old. She saw her class teacher with the attendance register open during the lunch break, on her knees, praying that every child in that register would find Jesus.

She is 53 today, and she’s here thanking Mrs. Jana Selvam, Mrs. Lily Sonambol, Miss Lily Paul, teachers from Bentik who made a difference because they knew Jesus, and they knew what a Christian teacher could do in education. Bentik, that is where I found my Jesus, and my story is a story of stories. And I’m going to tell you a few today. If you say, “I’m not a teacher, and I never want to be one,” or if you say, “Not even Sunday school, no children,” but come on, I am sure there are children around you, right? A teacher or not, we all have children, and I hope you’ll pick some principles when you deal with a child in your life.

Children know when they are celebrated, they know when they are treasured.- Dr. Joan Elango Click To Tweet

I was teaching Tamil with all my life because it was one session like this afternoon after lunch, and you know it’s not easy to keep people awake after lunch, and not students for sure. And Sofia was not listening to me. She was scribbling on the table, and I was angry. I walked up to her, grabbed that paper from the table, walked back to my table, threw it on my table, and said, “Listen.” I did not see Sofia crying because I went back to the blackboard. When I returned to the staff room, I saw the paper that I had grabbed from Sofia. In that was a drawing of two stick figures, you know, a man and a woman holding hands. And Sofia says, “Mama, I hope you’re happy with the new uncle. In the hostel, at night, I am scared. Mornings, the akkas are refusing to plait my hair. And I hope daddy gets food three times in jail.” I lost the child. I was teaching Tamil. God taught me that day, ” Joan, eyes on the child, celebrate the child.” In Tamil, there is a phrase, “Thalayila vechu kondadu” (place upon your head and celebrate).

That is what God taught me, celebrate a child. You know, one day a mother calls me, and she says, “My daughter is refusing to wash her face after she came back from school.” I said, “I mean, why are you telling me this?” She said, “It’s because when she wished you a good evening, you patted her cheeks, and she didn’t want to wash her face.” Children know when they are celebrated, they know when they are treasured.

Jesus taught me to walk into their lives. It’s not easy sometimes.

I was a class 10 physics teacher. I loved teaching physics. I miss it so much. So now, I had some students there. They knew I was quite firm, very strict. And there was this boy who missed special classes. Deserves eternal damnation if you miss special classes. So, I sent the peon to the house, and I called him, and I said, “Why did you not come?” He says, “My grandmother died.” “Your grandmother died, and for those three days, you’re not coming for special class? How dare you?” And then the Spirit of God is telling me, “Joan, walk into his life. Walk into his life.” So, I called him into the staff meeting. This boy’s mother is a commercial sex worker. He does not know who the father is, and the grandmother was a Noon Meal Scheme aayah. She was the only person who was giving him food. And because she died, he had no food. You know, he was living off of tender coconut that some fellow who was on that road, who was selling tender coconuts, was just giving him some tender coconut to eat. That’s all. He was living off it for three days. You know, I had to walk into his life. And I’m so grateful I have a husband who walks into these lives along with me. And then, slowly, we had to nurture this boy back. Today, he’s married with two children, doing really well. 

That is what God taught me, celebrate a child.

You know, Jesus taught me to walk into their lives. It’s not easy sometimes. You know, my daughter used to say, “I have no privacy in this house because there is always somebody at the dining table with my mother.” But you know what? When the son of your student calls you “Joan Miss Pattima,” that’s worth it. Walking into students’ lives is something Jesus taught me. And you know, there is a story in my school about kesari. The support staff were having a lot of issues, fighting or bad-mouthing each other. One day, we just sat around and said, “Let’s see how Jesus will want us to deal with this.” And one of the sweepers said, ” Amma, if we fight with somebody, we’ll make kesaris for them.” And you know, from then till now, even kesari is about God in our school. We fight with somebody, we just have to make kesari.

Everything we do for a child should be done as an act of worship. That is how we worship, and that's what gives us excellence.- Dr. Joan Elango Click To Tweet

In our school, we have a very strong student senate. These children come from very difficult backgrounds. So when they wear a blazer and walk into the school, I have seen their parents tear up. You know, in fact, I tell my teachers, “Let’s remove the tie. Why are we asking the children to wear a tie in the Chennai summer?” And then one mother comes and says, “My son looks like a king whenever he wears a tie.” I said, “Okay, keep the tie.” You know, these senators, they wear the blazers and they come in. And we recently had sports, we do one week of sports, we have fun. We were discussing how to hoist the flag, who’ll hoist the flag. Then one of the game captains said, “But ma’am, we are the captains. Can we raise the flag?” And then we sat down and we said, “Okay, this is how the world does it. Let’s see how as God’s children, we have to do it.” I’m telling you, children are very, very smart. For a reason why we adults are threatened, and we don’t give them the rights and responsibilities that they rightly deserve. And these children, we sat down together. And you know what happened? For the five days, my senators, in their crisp suits, went and escorted a peon or an ayaah, took them to the flag post, and the flag was hosted. Every day I had goosebumps.

Whatever I do, I report to an Emperor. How can it be less than excellent?

Jesus taught me, fight the world. Don’t do it the way the world says it. Fight the world. In the last one month, I’ve had at least five to six people coming and saying, “Madam, will you please come and talk in our church about how to prepare for 10th, 11th, 12th exams?” I said, “Why not for third, fourth, fifth exams?” We make it about marks, we make it about trophies, we make it about scholarships. I don’t think that’s how Jesus wants us to do education. I think we need to intentionally fight what the world wants us to do. I think as Christians, we once had a lead in education. I’m not sure if we have that now. We have joined a rat race. We want to put up banners about state ranks. We think our honour comes from big buildings. I don’t think that’s what Jesus wants us to do. The Lord taught me, I mean, I didn’t learn very easily, but my Lord is very patient. He said, “Joan, fight what the world is saying. Resist it.” So think intentionally about how you do education.

I worked under a principal called Mrs. Michael. Oh, what a darling she was! And she used to tell us, when we correct our papers, when we turn the paper, we have to say, “Jesus, to you, I’ve corrected this for you.” And I remember her telling a sweeper, “After you sweep this room and close the door, tell Jesus, ‘Jesus, I finished sweeping for you.'” 

If you want to make a difference, open your Bible first. Open your Bible and study it every morning.

I’m so grateful for these opportunities that the Lord so intentionally built into my life. Everything we do for a child should be done as an act of worship. That is how we worship, and that’s what gives us excellence. You know, resources or lack of resources, that’s another thing. I don’t think we have a lot of money, but you know what? The Lord opens doors. We have an exchange program like no other, with about seven-eight countries. We have digital education, which is really top-notch. You know why? Because the Lord knew our heart. We said, “Lord, we want to do this as worship.”

I remember Santosh was going on an exchange to the Netherlands. The father came to the airport when we were trying to send these children off. The father comes with folded hands. He says, “Madam, I have only seen an airplane in the sky, and today my son got into an airplane.” We didn’t have to pay anything, but the Lord saw our heart. And we wanted to worship Him. We wanted to do it as worship to an Emperor. Whatever I do, I report to an Emperor. How can it be less than excellent? And when I have that desire, then the Lord takes care of it.

Set your crowns right, go find that child in your life, and celebrate the child. - Dr. Joan Elango Click To Tweet

You know, a typical day in our school begins like this: Most of our staff are women, a few men. They come rushing into the school at 8:20. You know, they have to pack sambar dabba for the husband; they have to put the uniform on the child; they have to take care of the mamie‘s medicines, and then they have to get into a bus or a train and then get out and come running. Then we have a fancy app called Jibble in which we have to record our attendance. And we just come running in. And you know what we do? We all assembled in a hall. Oh, you have to see it to believe it. We just open our Bibles. The next 25 minutes is just silence. We open our Bibles. We don’t read the Bible; we study the Bible. We have our pens and notebooks, and some, of course, prefer to do it digitally. But we write every morning for 25 minutes, that’s part of our work routine. That, I always say, is our secret sauce.

We desire God’s Word. We stay with God’s Word. And God’s Word has the power to change who we are.

Let me tell you one thing: You want to make a difference? It might not be to a number of people. You might not be lifting ships or commanding a big army. But you remember a God who said He went after that one lost sheep. Arithmetic works very differently with God. It’s not just about the 99. It could just be one. But if you want to make a difference, open your Bible first. Open your Bible and study it every morning. Fill yourself so much with God’s Word that when they shake you, all that comes out is His Word. That is what has changed how we do life in our school, how we do life at home. We desire God’s Word. We stay with God’s Word. And God’s Word has the power to change who we are. That is the story of my life.

I think there are about 400 million children in India, and if tomorrow India needs to be in safe hands, today those 400 million have to be taken care of. Those 400 million should feel celebrated, they need to feel safe; they need to feel cherished. For that, God wants us to walk into their lives, even if that means inconvenience. God wants us to show them what it is to fight what the world says but do it God’s way. If we can just lift this whole thing as a worship to God, I think that is our purpose. Set your crowns right, go find that child in your life, and celebrate the child.

 

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