Core scripture: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5: 16).
Message: I have this kid. He’s uber-smart. Reading level off the charts. Very happy-go-lucky, full of life, and all about the newest video game craze. He already got a Nintendo Switch, yet he loves the classics as well. The sad thing is that he is tanking in my class. The poor kid has missed over 30, maybe 40 or 50 days of school. I have lost track. He comes in with generic doctor’s notes excusing him, but we know the truth. His home life is more than likely a mess, and any time he doesn’t want to come to school, mom will let him stay home. Probably to play those video games he talks about. He needs help.
I cannot allow him to fail.
I have this kid. She loves life. Her golden smile will be tattooed on my heart forever, and if I ever see this girl 10, 15, 20 years down the line, I will certainly know her by her smile. She’s goofy as all get out. She’s created some hilarious iMovies for me this year for projects with her friends. Probably doesn’t have an enemy in the world. And she’s given up academically. Five missing assignments. Four of them are marked ABS, meaning she’s been one of those constantly absent kiddos as well. She has checked out. Totally and wholeheartedly just wants to coast. Summer is already here for her. Sleeping in. The pool. Doing whatever 13-year-old girls do, I suppose.
I cannot allow her to fail.
I have this kid. He arrived at the beginning of 4th quarter. Transferred from a local in-district school because he moved. His reading level is above where he needs to be, and he LOVES reading the Outsiders. I even caught him answering question after question last Thursday, shouting out the answers to all could hear his brilliance, giving me the opportunity to praise him publicly the following day through my King of the Week award. The kid still hasn’t turned in a single assignment. Nothing. Total bump on the log. He’s one of those kids who is passive aggressive. If I tell him to do his homework, he’ll defiantly do the opposite. His home life is rough, he still has a zero percent, and he too has already checked out.
I cannot allow him to fail.
I have this kid. Handsome. Tall. Athletic. He’s quite the charmer, and once he gets to high school, I bet he’ll have quite a few ladies gawking over him. They already are. He’s the class clown, very social, and fully capable of making a solid B, maybe an A. He’s a three-sport athlete. Football, basketball, and track. And he’s given up all hope of passing my class. The city track meet is next week, and he’s a stud high jumper. I hate to be the bad guy, but he won’t be jumping at city with his abysmal 27 percent in my class. I’m not sure he understands. I saw him pull his grade up for football in the fall. Maybe he doesn’t care about track? Who knows. All he knows is that summer is almost here, and he is dating one of the most popular girls in 7th grade.
I cannot allow him to fail.
Do you know what the sad thing is? I could add five or six more to this list. How about the girl who DOMINATED 3rd quarter, earning a well-deserved, golden 95 percent—only to completely drop the ball 4th quarter and give up. She has an F. Or the girl that literally brought tears to my eyes with her Long Walk to Water presentation last December, rocking it after being gone for a week and catching up before the Winter Break—only to wave the white flag 4th quarter. She too has an F. These kids, boys and girls alike, are leaving so much potential unused. It is sad. Most don’t seem to care either. They are counting down the days till summer. Freedom. Fun. Quick, someone give me another “F” word. Whoops, that totally didn’t come out right! Hey, don’t let your mind go there. We’re Christians! We don’t cuss! Sheesh. I digress …
I can let these kids slide even further, or I can reach out my hand. I can complain about them during team plan, or I can lead discussions on how to fix them. I can apathetically not communicate at all with mom or dad at home, or I can make those awkward calls to try to find a solution to help them. What would Jesus want me to do? Straight from His mouth, Christ says, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5: 14). How can I be a light if I give up on these kids? What about you … has reading this blog made you think of a handful of your own students who need to see the light? Will you be that light to them with me the final month of school?
Today is going to be crazy busy for me. I printed off progress reports for all my students, and I will be passing them out during the beginning of the Outsiders movie. As much as I would love to enjoy the movie with them, I am going to be crouching down and whispering all day. Whispering private conversations to try to inspire greatness in a few who have given up. I want them to see that there is still hope. There is still time! And this isn’t just about my class. This is about life. They can’t quit out there in the real world. They may hate me for trying now, thinking I am pestering them, wanting me to just back off, but later they might think differently. Later they might realize I was teaching them a bit about perseverance.
Theodore Roosevelt said it best: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
The Christian teacher doesn’t quit. The Christian teacher sees the last month of school not as a gateway to the summer but as a last ditch effort to make a difference in those reluctant learners. The Christian teacher is going to get a little dirty. Roll up your sleeves. Loosen that tie a bit. It might get rough as you wrestle with some of these stubborn learners, but it is worth it! Every last second of it. If you are telling them not to quit, you can’t either. Give them your heart. Write an encouraging note or two. Call home. Print a progress report or two. (Or over a hundred!) Praise successes, teach purposefully, and pray fervently. God will take care of the rest.
Challenge: One month to go. Time to make the 4th quarter game plan. Write down the names of five or six kids who have given up on learning. Reach out to them in love, letting them know how much potential they have. And then pray for them. Pray that the Holy Spirit will lead them to make a mad dash to the finish line. As they hopefully do so, be their encourager every step of the way.
Song to bring it home: Two years ago, our prayer group motto was “Do Something” inspired by Matthew West’s song. There is not a more appropriate song to listen to this time of year. Sitting on your rear end and playing movies the last month is not acceptable. Do something! Like the lyrics sing out, “If not us, then who? If not me and you … right now! It’s time for us to do something.”
Prayer: Father, let me be a vehicle of Your love today. Allow Your Holy Spirit to speak through me to those reluctant learners out there, giving them perseverance to finish the school year strong. Amen.