Quick disclaimer … I have been up since 2:00 am with a four-year-old who has the stomach bug. We’re talking throwing up, diarrhea, and definitely putting that trash can next to his bed. He declared midway through the middle of the night, “Daddy, this is the worst night ever!” It did give me some extra snuggle time with my little one, which I am grateful of, but I am running on fumes right now—and a whole lot of coffee. So, if you don’t mind, please give me some grace if this blog happens to bounce around a bit or sound incoherent in any way.
Valentine’s Day weekend is upon us. Our district is blessed with a four-day weekend since we have parent/teacher conferences Wednesday and Thursday. You know what that means, right? A little bit of extra pressure is being thrust upon spouses to pursue their husbands and wives to make Valentine’s Day that much extra special. As I began to plan my week by writing down ways I could pursue my beautiful wife, I ran across another blog that discussed four ways to pursue your spouse. I began to think … as important as pursuing your spouse is, am I pursuing interest in my students the same way? Or am I just going through the motions, letting them slide in and out of my classroom with no interaction? Let’s look at four different ways teachers can pursue interest in their students.
Pursue their mind: Do you know what is on your students’ minds? You should. Ask them about what is going on in their lives during down time. Greet them at the door by saying their name. If a kid walks into your room with a look of disappointment or frustration, gently probe to find out what is the matter. Our students come from so many different families, backgrounds, interests, and cultures. When we get inside their head and take a walk in their shoes, it shows we care. And they know that. Relationships must be built before a kid will ever want to work hard for you. The next time you have a kid that you want to write off for being lazy, disobedient, or rebellious, pursue their mind a bit. You may find an answer to your questions about their lack of effort, and if you build that relationship that shows you care, that kid will try that much harder in your class.
Pursue their hearts: This one goes beyond the typical question of how your day has been. When you pursue a child’s heart, you are doing some soul-searching. What makes these kids tick? What dreams do they have? What motivates them? Jesus tells us in Matthew 5: 8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Teachers have the power to create pure hearts in their students if they just take the time to search them out. Think about it. You are a student. You have a teacher that sees past the outer layers you portray. Wouldn’t you want to try that much harder for a teacher that sees your heart? Pursue the hearts of your students. Let them share about their lives. Connect themes from the classroom to their own personal interests and desires. These are character-building moments. Never waste an opportunity to scope out their hearts.
Pursue their souls: We’re getting deeper now. The soul is where these kids are spiritually, so be careful here. You cannot thrust your religion on any student, especially if you teach in public education. However, I always have those few students who put their faith right out there for all to see. These Christian kids always find a way to seek me out once they find out my faith is much the same. If they do seek you out, a relationship can be deepened if you choose to look into their soul—carefully. I have a sweet girl in my FCA group that does Bible quizzing on the weekends and reads the Bible for Book IT every Thursday. What is a Christian teacher supposed to do here? You have a natural spiritual connection to this kiddo, so pursue it. Ask these kids about what they are studying. Seek out their souls. Model for them Christian morals and principles as you teach, and help them in any way possible to overcome the challenges of being a Christian student. Finally, never miss a moment when you can call on them to slam home a point that epitomizes a Christian value you want the class to chew on.
Pursue their bodies: Alright, that just sounded weird, didn’t it? Please don’t get the wrong idea here. There is indeed a love language called physical touch, and if teachers know the right way to use it, it can be very effective. What am I talking about here? I’m talking high fives. Fist bumps. Even taking time to explode it with the kid that does something just that awesome. A gentle tap on the shoulder to the kid that needs to focus is sometimes needed as well. You will find out who your physical touch kids are pretty quickly. They are the kids who get right up in your face. The kids who want to run up and hug you. Just be careful here. I am a big fan of the side hug. When a female student goes for the full frontal hug, I will quickly twist to the side and say, “Can we do a side hug?” They always oblige. I typically will let the kid make the first move here in the case of a hug. Feel free to give high fives and fist bumps freely, but note that kid that rolls their eyes at it. That is the kid that doesn’t need that physical touch love language. In the end, be careful here, and if you have to err, err on the side of less physical touch than more. Better safe than sorry.
Good food for thought as we hit the midway point of 3rd quarter. Pursue your students’ minds, hearts, souls, and bodies with caution. Remember, each kid responds in a different way, and it is your job to feel them out. If you haven’t taken the time to feel them out by now, it is never too late to try. Paul tells us in Philippians 2: 4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Looking out for your students’ interests can change a kid’s life. The Christian teacher has that power. The same power that comes from the Holy Spirit can be used to build lifelong relationships. These kids will come back to visit you. They will talk about you at the dinner table at home. They will sing your praises to others, and most importantly, they will know you care.
(Use the power of pursuing your students to deepen your connections with them. Let Jeremy Camp’s song “Same Power” inspire you to reach out.)