Core scripture: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)
Message: There were a few days left before Spring Break. Some kids have dialed it in at that point. Some are coasting. A lot are out of control crazy! All my grading was done. I was planned out the week AFTER Spring Break. I found myself in a sweet spot, wondering what to do to make use of my time.
I got out a pen and a notepad. And I began to write.
My kids were on my heart. They needed to finish strong! They needed to step up their leadership. They needed to be encouraged. I couldn’t write to them all, but I picked about fifteen kids that needed an intentional moment of inspiration.
(A note to the reader that names have been changed to protect the anonymity of my students.)
Joey is in my afternoon class. He is a bit of a loudmouth, blurting out whenever he feels like it. He’s one of the popular boys, but he desperately wants to be accepted by me for being a good kid. I have told him time and time again that he needs to lead the right way, and recently he has been trying, but his classmates are not responding.
I reassured him that I saw his efforts. I noticed he was trying to get kids to quiet down, but I told him it would take a while. His classmates saw what I saw. He was telling others to be quiet when he couldn’t do it himself. Somewhat hypocritical. But the note had a positive spin to it, and since he received that note, his behavior has improved. I cannot wait to push him 4th quarter!
I wrote another note to Jamie. She rocked first quarter. Easy A. Such a talented writer! But her home life is sketchy. She started missing school more in 2nd quarter, and the hole she put herself in 3rd quarter was so deep that she just stopped trying. She was a prime candidate to finish strong—if she chose to do so.
The day I gave Jamie her note, a journal was completed. And then another. And then another. The following day she turned in a project. She was still missing three or four assignments, but her percentage in my class had literally doubled in less than 24 hours. I was blown away! She turned in another project as class ended on Thursday, and I called her back.
“Hey, I have to ask. Are you doing all this because of the note?” I asked.
She smiled, nodded, and trotted out the door. Woah! Are you kidding me? All it took was maybe three minutes of my time. Four tops. So worth my time. For her sanity and for mine as well. Her grade went from completely dismal to passing to very respectable. I am so proud of her sprint to he finish!
Were there a few notes that did not have the same effect? Yep. I mean, this is reality. Not some Dead Poets Society fairy tale where all my students stand atop their desks saying, “Oh Captain, my captain!” Some kids’ grades stayed right where they were at. A few even dropped. You can’t take it personal when it doesn’t pan out. Reaching your hand out requires the other to grasp, right?
At least I tried.
Remember the Dante Hall kid I wrote about last week? We will call him Samuel. I kept asking him to stay after school to watch that Terrell Owens video. Every day. He kept saying tomorrow and that he was busy. Not sure if that was the truth or if it was a downright lie, but I tell you what. That kid greeted me every day with a fist bump and a smile at the door.
His class ended all too quickly on Friday afternoon. I was pretty smoked, and I forgot to hold him afterwards. He had told me he would get his stuff done but did nothing. I think the thought was intriguing to him, but maybe he gave up. I am not sure. I sent him a quick email with a Terrell Owens video link attached, wishing him a restful Spring Break. Oh well.
What can you pull from this? Words matter. Relationships matter. Encouragement matters. Speak life into your students. In person, on a note, or via email. Hawk Nelson’s song “Words” says, “Words can build you up. Words can break you down. Start a fire in your heart or put it out.” It is time to set those hearts aflame.
Challenge: Do you have a few extra seconds? Speak life into your students. Write a kind note. Send a quick email. Encourage them! The good ones the naughty ones and all those in between. When you pour your heart into your kids like that that, you cannot go wrong.
Song application: “Speak Life” by TobyMac
Yo it’s crazy, amazing
We can turn our heart through the words we say
Mountains crumble with every syllable
Hope can live or die
So speak life, speak life
To the deadest darkest night
Speak life, speak life
When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why
Look into the eyes of the broken hearted
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope
You speak love, you speak
You speak life, oh oh oh oh oh
You speak life, oh oh oh oh oh
Scripture study: Journal, pray over, meditate, and/or discuss the following scripture references …
- “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
- “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3)
- “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36)
Prayer points: Lift up the following areas to the Lord …
- Praise God for the opportunities He gives us to speak life!
- Pray that your students would heed your inspiring words and soak in your wisdom.
- Pray for a safe, relaxing, productive Spring Break!
Just for fun: Do you remember SNL when it used to be awesome? Back with Al Frankin and his Stuart Smalley character? That line I wrote about protecting the anonymity of my students made me think of this sketch where Stuart has to protect the anonymity of Michael Jordan. The hilarious thing about this sketch is that it actually somewhat connects to my thoughts here as Stuart speaks life, saying, “I am good enough. I am smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”
Prayer: Lord, help me realize the power of my tongue. Allow me to speak life into my students whenever possible. Amen.
Being a retired teacher, I don’t have students in my classroom but I can speak life to those around me. I wish I would have had your blog when I was teaching. God bless you for your work.