Core scripture: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)
Message: I have seen that look all too many times this time of year. That somber expression of hopelessness. You have that kid that has dug himself a hole. He is missing like five assignments, and his grade is hoovering around 50 percent. You kneel next to his desk and ask if he used any of his Thanksgiving break to do missing work. His eyes glance up at you. He says nothing, but that expression says it all.
Really? You are seriously going to ask me that question? Why should I even try? There are three weeks left in the year, and I am already sunk. I have already waved the white flag of surrender. I am pissed off that my parents took my phone, and I won’t have it until I get a C, and guess what, Mr. Daniels? It is all YOUR fault. It is because of YOUR class. Just leave me alone. Let me wallow in my own self-pity. You suck.
Don’t you love it when kids blame you for their lack of academic success? I always smile, shake my head, and as politely as possible say, “I didn’t give you that grade. You earned that grade.” They never like it when I speak that truth to them, so I always follow that by drawing a line in the sand, saying, “I can help you get back to where you need to be. I am reaching out my hand to help. But you know what? It is your choice if you grab it or not.”
Sometimes they grab immediately. They want that phone back! But what do you do if the kid has already given up? They have lost hope completely, and they start pouting. They show up every day with their head glued to their desk, arms folded to cushion it slightly. But nothing can cushion their sunken heart. They shut down. They make excuses. They become apathetic. They try to avoid work altogether. These are fragile beings! And if we don’t treat them with the utmost care, yes, their little hearts will shatter. Like a delicate Christmas ornament.
Here are five helpful tips to inject these poor souls with hope …
- Give them your time. Yeah, I know, we are all busy this time of year. But kids realize it when you care. Ask them to hang around after school or to come in early. Get away from your desk, crouch down beside them, and walk them step-by-step through an assignment. You are basically carrying the kid on your back right now; however, that hope that YOU have for THEM is providing the energy. And you know what? The kid will begin to see progress and hopefully garner the energy to try himself.
- Write a note. I did one of these yesterday to a poor kid who has given up hope since football ended. He has even stopped showing up to school. I tried calling and e-mailing mom and dad. No response. So, I wrote him a note. Encouraging him. Loving on him a bit. Telling him I believe in him. It was a God moment for me when I began my plan hour. And you know what? Even if the kid doesn’t come through, at least he gets a postcard in the mail that shows I love him. Kids keep those things.
- Plug a grade in the gradebook to show them hope. Call the child up to your desk. Greet them warmly. Smile! Tell them you have a little secret to tell them. Get them to smile back at you, and then whisper, “Hey, do you know what would happen if you turned in that project?” Their eyes typically widen in wonderment. Pause for that added effect. And then pop a perfect score in the box that says “missing.” Watch their reaction. Point to their new grade. Tell them aloud the increase in percent is! (Just don’t forget to plug the “missing” grade back in once they leave!)
- Call or e-mail home. Getting parents on board is essential. Sometimes you find yourself encouraging the parent! Keep the conversation positive. Tell how much potential you see in their child. Give them the old Newt Rockne pep talk because you know what? If you get the parent on board, they will be on their kid like white on rice at home, too. Give the parent tips. Sometimes parents don’t even know how to check their child’s grades. Teach them! Love on them. Let your own hope spill into them!
- Play a motivational movie scene for them. I love movies that express hope! A short two-minute clip might do the trick. When you can visually see hope, it inspires. Of if you can’t find that perfect movie clip, tell a story of hope. Talk about the kid that once went from an F to an A, all because they never gave up. Mention their name. The year it happened. Make it real. Let the final word of your story linger, echoing in every kid’s soul.
Last Sunday marked the first Advent weekend. We lit the candle of hope in our church, and I bet you might have seen that same symbolical candle being lit in your church. Let that fire be inside you this week. Inject hope into all those around you. Remain positive! Praise small successes. Be that leader that enthusiastically and passionately leads the charge into the battle of the last three weeks of school. Guess what? If your students see you leading the way, they will have no choice but to follow.
Challenge: Who is that kid that has lost hope for you? Or if you are feeling daring, who are those KIDS? Plural. I mean, if you help one kid find hope, why not another? Go out of your way to reach out to these children. Show them the love of Christ by showing you care. If one tactic doesn’t work, try another. And another. Don’t give up on them.
Prayer points: Lift up the following areas to the Lord …
- Praise God for the opportunities to spread hope to students and parents!
- Pray that the Lord would move mountains for all those who have lost hope.
- Pray that students will finish strong, running the laps of the last three weeks with purpose.
Video application: Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite movies of all time. The scene below is so real to me, and the thing is, you have a choice. Are you going to hope like Andy? Or are you going to be a cynic like Red? I might even show this clip to my students this week.
Just for fun: I had the coolest experience the week before Thanksgiving. A Language Arts teacher in Indiana, Mrs. K., e-mailed me and said her class really enjoyed reading Freak the Mighty through my audiobook on YouTube. I Zoomed with her classes all day long for about five minutes each. They interviewed me, asked me questions, and of course made me do the different character voices. And yes, my students all waved hello as well! I had so much fun that I created this video for them over my Thanksgiving Break, sharing the Killer Kane Rap Song. For your viewing pleasure, here it is …
Prayer: Father, may Your hope be my hope, and may that hope spill out into others around me. Amen.