Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Word of Encouragement

“Would you stop being a brat?” Against my better judgment, I turned slightly to see who was the recipient of such harsh words. A cute little boy, no more than two years old, sat quietly on a booster seat in a nice restaurant. The only infraction I could see was that he was looking around the room while his apparently tired mama tried to figure out the menu.

Only days before, a grandmother confided in me that her daughter-in-law frequently degrades her children, telling them they are stupid and won’t amount to anything, that she is uber-critical of what they try to accomplish.

As teachers, we have no idea of what happens behind the closed doors of the family homes our students leave each Sunday morning. Mark Holmen in his book “Faith Begins at Home” tells of a horrendous fight his family had in the car on the way to church one Sunday, yet when they walked into church and the pastor asked how they were, they chorused, “We’re fine!” Holemn’s family was known as a strong Christian family, yet his dad was a closet alcoholic. Our students walk into our classroom wearing masks over the hurt they bear. They need, they crave someone to listen to them, someone to care about them, someone to think they are worthy to exist on this earth.

I’m a purpose driven, goal oriented kind of gal. Sometimes I’m guilty of plowing through my lesson plan, eager to get to the punch line so the kids “get it,” I forget to use my peripheral vision to catch the needs of the kids surrounding me. Yet, scenes like these remind me that our kids, like anyone else, need encouragement. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Encourage one another and build each other up.” That applies to the children you teach inside your classroom as well.

How can you encourage your kids this week? You can:
Give them a hug.
Ask them about their week.
Praise their efforts.
Give them a special job to do.
Offer to pray for upcoming tests in school

To be fair, that mama in the restaurant looked tired. I noticed that every table was filled with happy couples but she sat alone with her small son. Where was Dad? Only the Lord knows the story of why she was alone on a Friday night in a nice restaurant. My heart constricted with compassion for her. I prayed that God would give me the opportunity to encourage her and have the boldness to be a little “nosey.”

After we finished our meal, I approached her table with a smile. “How old is your child?” “Two,” she responded. “Two is such a wonderful age,” I said. “I don’t believe a word of that terrible two stuff. My daughters are in college now and I miss those years so much. We need to make the most of every moment we have with these precious ones.” The mom nodded, “They grow up so fast.” I quickly recognized that her comment to her son was possibly more out of fatigue and frustration than true sentiment.

That mom was no different than the rest of us, for we all need periodic attitude alignments. How can you encourage your students’ parents? You can:
Tell them something good their child did during that session.
Ask them about their week.
Show concern for what is happening in their family life.
Send birthday cards, get well cards, thinking-of-you cards to different members of the family.

When you teach children, you are not just teaching a specific age group. You have the chance to minister and influence entire families with the love of Jesus.


Brenna said...

Nice article. It is so true that all people need encouragement and we never know what is going on in their lives and what their situations are.
I try to take each family's needs into consideration when a student acts out, especially one that is normally very cooperative in class.
One of my students doesn't respond to change very well and her home routines/schedules have been changed due to dad's new work schedule, causing this little girl to be at school longer in her day.
And of course the weather has a great effect on children. Yesterday's rainy day combined with Friday-end-of-the-week fatigue caused different attitudes in another little girl.
Thanks for the encouragement reminders.

Karen Wingate said...

Thanks Brenna.

So many things can impact a child's ability to learn. After we've done the best we can, we have to accept that their acting out is no reflection on the quality of our teaching. We need to keep consistant with the boundaries and keep loving them as they are.

Sue Tornai said...

Karen, thank you for the reminder to be more observant and compassionate. The mom with her toddler in the restaurant probably appreciated your encouragement more than you know.