Core scripture: “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
Message: It was the calm before the storm. A last few seconds of peace in my plan hour before my next class rolled in. One class had already floundered my expectations, but I wasn’t going to give in. I knew they could use their workday productively.
The bell rang. Class began. I went through the directions and expectations, crossing my fingers and praying these kids would rise to the occasion. And guess what? THEY DID! I was so proud of them. One of my most chatty classes was actually being productive. Getting work done. Dare I say turning their assignments in … early?
As I reflect on this, I wonder why? How? What did I do differently yesterday that made it click?
First of all, I did not choose to lower my expectations. I presented to them my thought for the day which was to focus, use their time wisely, and be productive. I even offered the students an opportunity to suggest how they ensure they remain focused.
Do you know what every single class said first? Music. Now for me that doesn’t work, but this is a different generation. These kids thrive on their music, and if pulling out their earbuds to become lost in their favorite song helps them focus, I say let them listen.
Proximity was also key. I had to make my presence known. Not so much in a negative way but in a way that said I was there to help. I sought out my most needy kids to begin with before checking in with my more with-it kids. Being proactive like that was extremely helpful.
Finally, there were always moments when a small burst of distraction erupted, causing laughter and chattiness. I would lovingly redirect them.
“Alright, let’s get back on track. Water bottles have been known to spill on occasions. You have been doing SO well today! Focus on what you need to get done.”
Most responded well to that, and my tone mattered. Had I taken the Army drill sergeant approach and rebuked them with force and fury, it would have backfired. Kids will take that as disrespectful and sometimes even come at you even more. Like sharks sniffing out blood.
I wonder if that is why my first class of the day was not as smooth?
I look at that expectation set before us in the scripture at the top. To be perfect as my Father in heaven is perfect. Man, what a task! I mean, how do we strive for perfection when we know that we are all sinners? (Romans 3:23).
I think Jesus was just trying to push us a bit and teach us humility. We cannot get through this life without Him, and if He lowered His expectations, some would not need Him. We ALL need Him! As long as we realize that and rely on His amazing grace, He lovingly forgives.
That was a huge win for my team yesterday! It wasn’t perfect, but it was a huge step in the right direction. Today, as we begin writing our short stories, I will remind the kids of their improved performance and continue pushing them to greatness.
One step at a time.
Challenge: Where are your expectations not being met? Use the suggestions above to get your class back on track.
Bible study: The sermon on the mount is so powerful! Read through Matthew 5. How does Jesus model expectations here? What can we learn from His instructions to bring into our classroom?
Video application: Stand and Deliver tells the incredible story of Jaime Escalante. He never lowered his expectations for his students. Watch this clip and be inspired …
Prayer points: Lift up the following areas to the Lord …
- Pray that you can communicate clear expectations to your students.
- Pray for patience as you help students rise to those expectations.
- Pray that your expectations will not be lowered.
- Praise God for the successes you find along the way.
Just for fun: My para was out with bronchitis for over a week. When one of my students heard this, she looked confused and said, “Bronchitis? Wait a second … isn’t that a dinosaur?”
Prayer: Lord, help us stand firm in our expectations, holding our students accountable. Allow us to encourage them to greatness along the way. Amen.