His name isn’t important. Although honestly, he would probably be thrilled I remember him all these decades later. He was a student in my secular student teaching class my senior year of college. Bless his heart (Southern for “What a nightmare!”). He knew how to push every button my supervising teacher and I had. I think he even found some new ones! It felt as if not a day went by without us having to correct him multiple times – and my supervising teacher was one of the best I have ever seen.
Fast forward to the end of the semester. If you had asked me, I would have told you the kid probably hated me by that point. Yet when they gave me a going away party, he came up to me. “If you have a little boy in the future, will you name him after me?” he asked in all sincerity. Somehow, what could have been a disaster had evolved into a relationship where he felt we were so close I would name my future son after him. (For the record I had a daughter!)
As a Bible class teacher, it is absolutely mandatory every one of your students feels loved and valued by you. It is even more important for the kids that get on your “last nerve” to feel that way. If the child is truly a discipline problem, you may be the only teacher – the only person – who ever makes him/her feel that way. How can they understand God’s love if everyone they meet treats them with irritation, dislike, disdain and even hate?
So what do you do when you have a student who will be responsible for many new grey hairs on your head? Here are some things I have found work for me.
- Remember you are a living reflection of God’s love to this child. This is a serious responsibility. Will the child be drawn to and follow God if God loves like you do?
- Pray fervently for the child and your relationship. God doesn’t only love the people He likes and neither should you. Kids know immediately if you play favorites. Treating students you don’t like differently from your other students is ungodly. Period.
- Try to find something you like about the child or an interest you have in common. Once you begin a pattern of correction with the same child, it’s easy for all of your interactions to become negative. Finding something you enjoy about the child or an interest you can discuss together can help break the cycle or at least make the child feel like you are aren’t just “out to get him/her”.
- Remember the students who annoy us the most are often the most like us. Yup. I said it. It’s true in parenting and teaching. We are often toughest on those who have aspects of their personality we don’t care for in ourselves. Acknowledging you need to work on the same bad habit will make you more gentle in your corrections and create a bond between you and the student.
- Create a behavior contract which includes private hand signals. If you have a student who has a habit that is disrupting the class, pull him/her aside privately after class. Work together on strategies which will help him/her break the bad habit. Come up with a secret hand signal you can show him/her when the behavior starts to remind him/her of your contract without constantly verbally correcting him/her in front of other students.
Instead of counting the days until the annoying child leaves your class, find ways to change the dynamic to a more godly one. Believe it or not, how you interact with this child can have an enormous impact on his future.