He seemed determined to misbehave multiple times – every – single day of my student teaching. My supervising teacher and I tried every behavior management trick in the book and then some. Several months into the school year and he was just barely beginning to settle down. Yet on my last day in their classroom, he came up and asked me if I would name one of my future children after him!
At the time, I filed it away in my head as another funny teacher story. As I continued working with children over the years, his story took on new, deeper meanings. He was a child from a home with financial struggles. At a time when all parents still attended parent/teacher conferences, I don’t remember anyone coming to learn how he was doing in school.
At the time, I couldn’t figure out why a child I had to correct and give consequences to so many times seemed honestly so attached to me. Now, I understand he could probably tell that through all of the correction and consequences, I sincerely loved and cared about him. Since it was a public school situation, I never actually used those words, but somehow he knew.
If I had a child like him in one of my Bible classes at church or in faith-based tutoring, I would have been more intentional about getting to know him. To helping him discover his gifts from God. To finding ways to help him develop those gifts. To finding out what interested him outside of school and making sure to connect with him daily on some of those topics.
I would have spent even more time and effort working with him individually to come up with a strategy to manage his behavior without having to be corrected by an adult. If he had been in my Bible class at church, I would have found Bible lessons about people like Peter who grew spiritually over time and shared them with him. I would have spent time teaching him how to ask God for help and how to focus on being the person God wanted him to be.
I would have spent a lot of time tracking down the adults in his life and providing the support they needed to help him at home. I would have found him a godly Christian man to mentor him. I would have done some intentional mentoring by providing help when he obviously struggled with his choices.
You can be that person for the “difficult” child in your Bible class or faith-based tutoring program. You aren’t a public school teacher, so you can actively teach about God. You can learn from my naive mistakes and be intentional about developing a relationship, teaching and mentoring your “difficult” student.
You can really reflect God’s love to that child. Your “difficult” student may not ask you to name one of your kids after him or her, but your active love can make a huge difference in that child’s life. It really is worth your time and effort – even when it doesn’t seem like it is making a difference.