Finish Strong

That Thanksgiving weekend was just what the doctor ordered. Five days off. Nothing but time for my family, my friends, and crazy enough even myself! Oh, sure, I found time to grade some synthesis essays too, but shoot, that was like an hour and a half tops. The most majestic moment, a 45-minute stretch mid-morning last Wednesday, came when my wife took the kids to visit her grandmother, and I had time to–get this–read for enjoyment AND take a 20-minute snooze! After stepping on the scale Monday morning and seeing that I gained five pounds, I knew my job was well done. The honeymoon, as blessed as it was, was nearing its closure.

That first day back was fine until Cougar Time, the last 30 minutes of the day. Study time. Time to get your homework completed. Well, that is what I encourage at least. For the kids they see it as check out time. Time to catch up on what’s going on in each other’s lives. As refreshing as it is to know that they care enough about each other to chat it up, I was still pounding my head on my desk in frustration. What do you do here? If you crack the whip, force them to get their math books out, and forcefully tell them to get busy, echoes of a rebellion begin to arise. If you give up and allow the kids to do as they please, you are basically telling them that you’ll never follow through. It is a catch 22, isn’t it? A lose-lose situation.

Let’s reflect upon what I did. It was quite pathetic actually. At approximately 2:58 pm I threw in the towel. Most teachers would hop on youtube and pull up a Charlie Brown Christmas or maybe Frosty the Snowman. Me? I missed spending time with my boys over that long weekend, so I opted to show them home videos of my toddlers playing on the driveway. The girls loved it. The boys? Meh. And of course you don’t even have to watch the clock on the wall. The kids started putting their chairs up two minutes before the bell even rang. Because we all know it takes two minutes to put the chairs up, right? The door always gets propped open at the 30-second mark, and at that point the bold ones will even escape into the outer hallway. When the bell rang, it was like a flood spilling out the door. No more than 20 seconds later a calming peace and quiet soothed the room. Ah yes! Finally, time to finish up the day.

Do you ever give up like that? The old cliché of if you can’t beat em, join em comes into play. I started thinking about those last 12 minutes, and the more I thought about them, the more I realized that I lost out on a golden opportunity. You see, it is at those times when a character lesson is needed. What is a character lesson? A character lesson provides the opportunity for discussion over a topic that these kids need to hear about. You won’t find these lessons in the curriculum. They get down to the nitty grit. Bullying. Peer pressure. Spreading love, not hate. Real stuff. Stuff these kids deal with on a daily basis. Stuff that they need the tools on how to respond appropriately to it.

So, that all sounds well and good, but where do you start? How do you create a character lesson? The answer … you don’t. These lessons have already been created for you. If you look at the top of this page, you will find the “Character Lessons” tab next to my blogs. I took the time to create these at the beginning of the school year when I actually had time, and I like using them on our Wednesday mentoring days in Cougar Time. Each lesson is broken up by category. They all have short videos to watch, and they all have discussion questions. You’ll find categories like forgiveness, humility, patience–issues that we all could use a little help in. These are good moral qualities that are preached by schools everywhere, but the cool thing is they are likewise Biblical.

Now, hold on here. Red flag! Unless you teach in a private institution that promotes the Bible, you obviously can’t go here with the kids. These are there to remind us that we are helping promote Biblical values without citing directly from the Bible. There is absolutely no sense in risking your job over a character lesson. The videos and discussion are enough for the kids, and you’ll get some awesome discussion guaranteed–especially if you happen to have a Christian kid in your class that slams home a point you’re trying to make. I have seen a plethora of emotions flood through my classroom during these times as kids open up, help each other, and provide possible solutions to overcome. Try to lead the kids into coming up with the answers though. Sometimes I jump in to make a point or share a story if the conversation stalls, but the kids will get more out of it if the discussion is their own.

So, what are you waiting for? Some of you probably have seen that tab there and never bothered to click on it. Why not now? I plan on utilizing it today in my Wednesday mentoring to fill up the last 10 minutes or so with powerful conversation. The cool thing is that the students will remember these moments and even request them down the road if they go well. Search for a topic that you see the kids struggling with and go with it. See where it takes you. These lessons will fulfill your classes with substance, and they are perfect for when you have a few extra minutes in class or when you’re class is just not wanting to work at the end of the day. In 2 Timothy 4: 7 Paul states, ” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Don’t give up on your students like I did that first day back from Thanksgiving Break. I pray that these lessons will soon bless your classroom and begin connecting students to one another. Hey, only two and a half more weeks to go. Finish Strong!

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