girl, redeemed

{Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story. Psalm 107:2}
My story Redemption Room 223 Teaching

Redeeming Love: One student at a time

{girl, redeemed in room 223}

Many people are afraid of high school students, with good reason. They are big. They have attitudes. They have a crazy amount of hormones coursing through their veins. They are apathetic. Their emotions run strong.

Of course, there are many students who make teaching a breeze because they are ready and eager to learn, they have supportive parents who will make sure they keep their grades up, and they behave in the classroom because they respect the teacher.

But then there are the others who make teaching difficult. Some are hungry. Some are abused. Some are tired. Some have been belittled all of their lives and have no self-confidence. Some have been taught that you don’t give respect until you get respect. Some dream of the day when they can quit school and get on with real life. Some don’t believe they will ever need what you are trying to sell (teach).

(BTW, this kid here is pretty awesome. He just really wanted me to take his picture.)

Some students refuse to follow directions. Some students dare you to say anything about it. Some proudly announce that they have never read a book in their life and aren’t about to start now. Some students make fun of other kids in the class or talk incessantly. Some will even say awful things about you under their breath or loud enough for you to hear.  All while you try to teach today’s lesson.

Knowing how to overcome all of those obstacles in a day is pretty overwhelming. Learning to teach the content is one thing. Learning to win over the student is another.

I yearned for peace and joy, but I also wanted to love the students. I had taught at an alternative school for three years, and I learned strategies to get beyond students’ prickly attitudes. I learned not to argue with students. I learned to never let them know they had gotten to me (most of the time). I learned when to be tough and when to be lenient. But there are some students who are just plain hard to love. They make sure you won’t even like them. That way they can fail your class without feeling like they have let you down. Or they can blame their failure on the fact that you don’t like them.

Honestly, I fell in to the trap of not liking certain kids, and I certainly did not love them. Planning lessons and teaching classes took all my energy. I knew that having a better relationship with the difficult students would make us both more successful, but by the middle of the year I found myself giving up. And sometimes I just let them fail (I can’t make them do the work, etc.).

When I allowed God to redeem my classroom, He began to speak to me. The Holy Spirit (probably through the mouth of my twin sister, Beth) told me to pray that I would love those difficult students. That I would see them through the eyes of Jesus. That I would have compassion for them in some way so that I could smile and genuinely say “I missed you yesterday when you were home sick/suspended/playing Xbox.”

When I started praying to love the difficult students, my teaching world changed. As I stood by my doorway in the hall during between class periods, I would see one of my rough kids (let’s name him “George”) coming toward my classroom. As soon as I felt the dread rise up inside me, I would pray, “Bless him, Jesus. Give me your love for him.” By the time George reached my door, I honestly loved him. In fact, sometimes I wanted to cry because I felt such a strong godly love for the student. Did George act any better in class? Did he work harder and turn in assignments on time? Not right away. And sometimes not at all. But after a while, George’s prickly demeanor would smooth over and he would stop challenging me in the classroom. He would not stiffen when I walked past him or when I asked him a question.

George would sometimes come up to my desk at the end of class just to look the pictures of my family. Sometimes he would stop missing so many days of school and say that it was because he wanted to be in my class. Y’all, that is a miracle.

That same scenario happens year after year. The names change, but God’s love remains the same. God redeems the hard places, and he started with me. I cannot love these kids on my own. When I feel the anger and dislike rise up inside of me, I automatically pray. And prayer has the power to change me and to change the student. I pray for their salvation. I pray that the love of Jesus will be evident in my classroom. And God answers those prayers one student at a time.

Every time you find yourself loathing a student in your classroom, pray right away. It can be as simple as, “Lord, give me your love for this kid” or “Jesus, let me see this child through your eyes.”  Also, remember that it is hard to dislike someone for whom you are praying. So pray, “Lord, bless this student. Give him/her good things from your hand.” Those words will automatically start changing your heart. And when a fellow teacher makes life harder for you than is necessary? That’s right. Pray. “Father, bless her. Give to her from your abundance. Walk along side of her and give her your wisdom, peace and joy.”

Most of my all-time favorite students are the ones that were the most difficult at first. God changed my heart through prayer and created positive relationships that never would have happened without it.

And if you’re wondering, yes, there really is a George who tried to make my life h***. But God had other plans. 🙂

 

John 13:34-35 (ESV)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Proverbs 16:7 (ESV)

When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

 

 

 

4 Comment

  1. Keep writing (from a old retired teacher). I learned about hard-to-love young people – when I married Walt.
    His middle child, Dan, was rebellious, sneaky and very, very smart. My Mother said to me one day, ‘ You have two Dan’s in your life. One whom you love with all your heart and soul (your brother, of course), and Walt’s son, Dan. God loves them both – equally. So should you!’ That was it. Hard lesson to learn. . . and I don’t know if I every won the battle – but it was a lesson I never forgot. Your Aunt Kerry loves you.

  2. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit can change our hearts and help us to love others when we let Him! I need that reminder even as I struggle some days to teach my own kids.

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