Under the Radar

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Core scripture“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” (Matthew 25: 40)

Message: Every kid deserves to be recognized.  Every kid craves attention in one way or another.  No child in your classroom should ever go unnoticed.  Sure, they may want to fly under the radar, and they may not be answering every question in class, but you can still show them you care.  You can still reach out.  This blog is dedicated to all those silent faces who would rather take a back seat.  You know who I am talking about.  The kid that may not say a word your entire class period.  The kid that ducks to the corner of the room or just wanders aimlessly when you try a pair/share activity.

I should know this type of kid well.  Heck, back in the day, I WAS that kid.  I always knew the right answer.  I just never felt comfortable talking in front of class.  When the teacher would call on me, you could see my heart pounding right out of my chest.  If I was called on to give a presentation in front of the class, I was a nervous wreck.  I had this nervous tick where I would smack my lips in a clicking sound between each sentence.  I am still scarred from the memory of one time when the entire class was clicking their lips back at me as I stumbled through a speech in 7th grade.  It was brutal!

I was an introvert.  Still am.  Introverts recharge their batteries differently than extroverts.  They thrive after they get alone time.  Give an introvert an hour of quiet by themselves, and they will be ready to take on the world.  Sometimes as teachers we just need to accept that.  Especially if you are an extrovert.  Extroverts automatically might assume that introverts are just being cold fish or that they do not know the material.  That could not be further from the truth.  Introverts are just of a different breed, but just like extroverts, they do want to be noticed.  In their own way.

So, how do you recognize them?  From my experience, quietly.  Off to the side.  A lot of these kids get embarrassed if they are recognized publicly, so I try to encourage them quietly off to the side.  1 Thessalonians 5: 11 states, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”  I might write these kids a note off to the side of their paper, telling them how much I appreciate them.  Short but sweet.  Sometimes a simple smile and hello works.  Or complimenting them on their unique shirt.  Anything to let them know that I know they exist.  Too many times I realize my efforts are driven towards the other high maintenance kiddos.

A success story from this year came through one of my students who happens to be a selective mute.  This gentleman is a star student, never letting his grade dip below an 85 percent, and he rarely if ever talks.  Selective mutes talk only to people they feel comfortable around.  Whenever he has a question, he will wait until the entire class leaves, walk up to me, and ask a question in his patented deep voice.  He hates large groups, and before school he plants himself in the quiet of the waiting area outside the counselor’s office.  I always make an effort to give him a high five or just say hi as I walk by.  I didn’t realize the importance of these efforts until he wrote me a card the week of Thanksgiving.

It was a mere two sentences.  “Dear Mr. Daniels … Thank you for teaching me how to be a better writer.  As I go through life I will think of how much you struggled to make me into an important adult.  Sincerely, (my student).”  That last sentence got me.  I had never realized how much he prized feeling important.  Not too long after that, I received an e-mail from him that showed a collage of quotes and notes.  The notes were more than likely from others, but the words expressed were priceless.  One note stood out among the rest.

Dear teacher … Without you, I do not know where I would be.  You make a major difference in my life.  All of those times that you have gone the extra mile for me, I really did notice.  The notes and kind words helped give me a sense of hope.  Your belief in me makes me believe in myself.  I give you a hard time, but you put up with me.  That matters.  It tells me I matter.  Thank you, teacher!!!  Really, thank you!  You are awesome!  Love, student.”

I keep those notes in a purple folder in my desk.  Whenever I’m down or when I want to reminisce, I pull them out.  Pulling them out today reminds me that I need to get off my rear end today to interact with my kids as they finish a project.  Especially the introverts.  Maybe it will only be a smile, a high five, or a pat on the back, but I want to make them feel special today.  I want to make ALL the kids feel special today!  You go do the same.  Whether it be a quiet pat on the back, a quick note of thanks on an assignment, or a small compliment, let these kids know they are valued.

Challenge: Try to pick one or two kids from each class period that don’t normally get your attention.  Focus on checking in on them, asking them how their week has been going.  Give them a smile, a kind note, or a little congratulation off to the side for just being awesome.  They will love you for it!

Song to bring it home: Listen to Josh Wilson’s “I Refuse” for an awesome reminder that we can’t rely on others to get through to quiet students.  As Christian teachers, it is our responsibility to reach out to all of our students, making them feel at home and welcome in our classroom.

Prayer: Lord, let no student that enters my class slip by unnoticed.  Open my eyes to those kids who need a word of encouragement.  Amen.

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