I am not a fan of dandelions. The weeds infest my backyard, sweeping through it like a ginormous yellow tidal wave. One summer I walked around on my knees plucking them out until my back was twisted into a pretzel. The next summer I opted for Roundup, squirting the potent weed killer everywhere a yellow tuft sprouted. My wife and I don’t necessarily have the budget for yard treatment, so we proudly declare that we are dandelion farmers. I’m sure it drives my neighbor batty. His yard, a heavenly blend of lush greenness that George Toma would approve of, sits right next to mine, mocking me with its glorious beauty. There is, however, one person in our house who actually embraces this problem.
My four-year-old LOVES dandelions. So does my three-year-old for that matter. They aren’t weeds to the boys. They are flowers. Beautiful flowers! When we go on family walks around the block, both of them will pluck as many dandelions as they can get their pudgy little hands on, giving them to my wife. The other day at Deana Rose Farmstead my four-year-old went crazy, gathering an entire cluster full of them. My wife, laughing at his heartfelt effort of generosity, snapped a picture of my little guy. I came home from work that evening to see those dandelions that I call weeds resting as a centerpiece on our kitchen table. To my little one, they weren’t weeds. They were beautiful flowers, and they colored our table quite well!
Do you have any dandelions sprouting in your classroom? Kids that other teachers write off and consider problem children for one reason or another. Kids that are the brunt of venting sessions that occur all too often this time of year. Kids that you might even pump your fist exuberantly after seeing they are absent for the day. We consistently try to pluck them from their cozy little seats and put them where they won’t be noticed. Then, much like real dandelions, they infest different areas of our classroom, luring the middle-of-the-roaders into the dark side. Your harsh “weed killer” words, rich with anger and sarcasm, cause these kids to wilt away, sometimes even having the same effect on others. Be leery of those words this time of year. Proverbs 15: 4 reminds us, “Kind words bring life, but cruel words crush the spirit.”
Maybe God is using my own children to teach me a lesson. Much like my boys only see the beauty of dandelions, we should likewise attempt to see the beauty of every student. It is all a matter of perspective. Every kid has some good hidden deep inside the crusty exterior we might see on the outside. You just have to look to find it. Genesis 1: 27 says that we are created in the image of God. Not just some of us. ALL of us. God puts a little bit of good in all of us, and as teachers we have two choices. We can focus on the negative and complain, or we can shift our attention to the good, tell that kid about it, nourish that goodness, and watch him or her fly to heights they never dreamed of. Which path seems more pleasing to you?
Alright, application time … Who is that dandelion in your classroom? Pray about that kid. Ask God to help you find beauty in this child. Once you find that goodness, let the kid know about it. Authentically. This could be through a note, a kind conversation, or even a classroom reward. Every week I give one student from each of my classes the award of King or Queen of the Week. The last few weeks I have chosen some rough ones, kids that others began shouting disapproval when I announced them. But I backed these kids up. I pointed out their good traits in their defense, and then I did the unthinkable: I called their parents to let them know about it. Every King or Queen of the Week gets a positive parent phone call. Some of these parents have never gotten one. I’ve had parents that weep on the phone. All because God helped me find a little good in their child.
I can’t wait to make a phone call later this morning. We’ve had two or three meetings with this kid’s mom, and she is at her wits end with him. He’s been the topic of discussion for many team meetings, and believe me it is difficult to see the positive. But when choosing my awards yesterday morning, I noticed something. For the first time all year long, he had all his work turned in. I had just written him a No-Pass-No-Play form the week before since he was out for track, but the kid had dominated the makeup work. He wanted to run! And as his grade spiked to an unprecedented 82 percent, a grade he had never come close to touching before, he sprinted pass others who were choosing to write off the last few weeks of school.
Do you have that kid in mind? Try an experiment this week. Through God’s eyes, see the good in whomever that is. 1 Corinthians 14: 26 states, “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” Who knows? Maybe your revelation will call others to do the same. Sometimes these kids don’t even know themselves that they have good inside, but when you help them to realize that they do, believe me, the smile on that kids face is well worth the effort it takes to think positive. Don’t spray those dandelions with harsh words. Embrace them. Build them up. You never know if that kid might bloom into a beautiful flower.
(Do you have any stories of “dandelions” in your classroom or a scripture to share that might inspire? Feel free to share your thoughts in a reply below.)