John Maxwell – a leadership expert – wrote “How can you lead people when you don’t like or respect them?” (Winning With People p. 21) As you know, Teach One Reach One strongly believes every volunteer who works with children or teens is a leader. So my question for you is “Do you actually like the kids or teens you teach?”
Your students don’t all wear the same shoes. They were created by God to be individuals. Their environments and experiences also make them different. Even identical twins are not exactly alike. Some of those differences will naturally create an emotional distance between you and some of your students.
If you have a student who misbehaves or is disrespectful or even reminds you of someone (possibly yourself) you don’t like, you may bristle every time you see him or her.
Yet to really effectively point your students to God, you absolutely must find a way to like each one of them. For some, that will be easy. For others, you may always struggle with liking them. Yet, try you absolutely must. As John Maxwell might say – they can tell if you don’t like them and they won’t want to hear what you have to say – even if you are quoting God.
If you find yourself struggling to like a student, you might want to try some of these tips to help.
- Pray for the student and your relationship with him or her. Ask God to help you see what He sees in the child. Ask Him to open your eyes to the positive things about the child. Pray for Him to help you really understand the child and what he or she needs to build a strong spiritual foundation.
- Connect with the student outside of class. Try to find something you would both enjoy doing, even if it’s eating an ice cream cone. Ask questions to help find things you may have in common. If nothing else, the outing itself can start building a bridge.
- Keep a secret list of things you like about the student. Make yourself add at least one thing to the list every time you teach the child. It can be a great answer they gave to a question or the bright smile on their face. Force yourself to look – hard – for positive things. When the list gets long enough, you may even want to share it with the child. Tell him or her you know you have both struggled with your relationship, but that you really appreciate these things about him or her. The list could not only help your relationship, but could change the child’s world.
- Remind yourself how God sees this child. Sounds trite, but it’s true. God loves that child as much as He loves you. A part of your own spiritual growth is learning to see others the way God sees them – lovable and worthy of learning about the Gospel.
So the next time you feel yourself bristling at a student, don’t just push it away or excuse your feelings. Work on changing them. It could make a huge difference in the life of your students – and in yours.