Grace. What does grace look like in the classroom? The One who is full of grace and truth calls us to reflect Him. But when students are grumpy and lethargic and unlovely, I often feel attacked and instead of reflecting His grace, I mirror their impatience, fear, rejection, accusation, and control, and it only multiplies. Where is the way of escape? How does grace look in the classroom, in the daily grind of life? I’m not aspiring to hug the ditch where you never reprove or give consequences, but I’m referring to the capacity to look behind the glaring attitude(s) at hand and to understand that something lies beneath the surface. A co-teacher of mine, Wesley Schrock, gave this wise counsel, “There is always something worth looking at behind the actions.” Responding only to the obvious disrespect or sullenness offers little chance of changing the heart. Ask me how I know.
When I do reflect the Father’s grace in response to students’ negativity, I am blown away by how grace changes the situation.
Example one: Child A arrives at school very grumpy. Everything is bad and her negative feelings are mirrored in harsh words and a scowling face. Then, at an opportune time, I find myself kneeling beside her desk asking, “Is something bothering you?” “NO!” she retorts with another scowl. “Let me pray for you,” I continue with my arm lightly rubbing her shoulders. In an audible, yet quiet enough voice that only she and I can easily understand, I offer a simple prayer inviting the Shepherd to come and grant her quietness and calmness of heart, to take whatever is troubling her and speak peace to her soul. That’s all. Then I slip away. Five or ten minutes later I observe the miracle. Beaming, she approaches to eagerly report some happy news to me. I whisper, “The Shepherd heard our prayer, didn’t He?!” “Yes!” she replies, and prances away. Gone are the grumps, and they stay away all day. I never found out what was troubling her. I didn’t need to know. The Shepherd knows and He spoke to her.
Example two: Child B’s body language tells me she is discouraged and quickly slipping into sullenness. She worked really hard on her math. I saw it. And her paper was so neatly done. But she still missed 4 ½ and will need to correct And she had worked so hard. Now she is just piddling along with her flashcards, her attitude seriously slipping. Gently, the Father gives me words, “____, you are feeling discouraged. I saw you work really hard. Let me pray for you.” Then a very simple, quiet prayer right there by her desk. No need to close our eyes, just something like, “Shepherd, ____ is feeling discouraged. Would You come and speak peace to her heart and help her to hear Your words of ‘well done’ because she was faithful in her efforts?” Almost immediately the sullenness completely disappears and hope reigns in its stead.
Example three: Child C’s lips are set in obstinate fashion and she refuses to answer or cooperate. I ask her to stay in at recess to address the heart issues, and honestly, I wonder if she might simply walk out and pretend she hadn’t heard. But she stays. I listen to the Father and then speak His words, “Are you feeling frustrated?” “Yes!” “Tell me about it. Is it something here at school, or something at home?” “I’m frustrated that I missed so many on my spelling test!” And then, suddenly, she turns, looks me straight in the eyes and continues, “Miss Yoder, I want to apologize to you for being so grumpy. I am sorry. It was wrong because it was not respectful. Will you forgive me?” Of course I will. I note the clear eyes and how the grumps all fled. I am astounded. Floored. What a mystery. So that is what extending grace instead of promptly handing out consequences can do?
“Oh, Lord,” I cry. “How often I have thwarted Your work by promptly responding to the obvious, the outer obstinate actions. I plead for grace to reflect His grace more consistently,and acknowledge that truly I don’t know how!! Such grace is so beyond me. Indeed, it is His work. And He is full of grace and truth.
CONTRIBUTOR: Betty Yoder