It's easy to look back on our childhood years with a warm sense of nostalgia. But if you could, would you want to go back to childhood? You'd give up control in most areas of your life. You'd live in a world of giants. Your lack of perspective and life experience would make problems seem permanent and insurmountable. If you watched cartoons and wrestle-mania, you'd have a lot to unlearn from our culture. There would be bullies and growth spurts and measles and you'd have to relearn long division!
Teachers who have a real heart for kids are keenly aware of the struggles of childhood. Think back to when you were a child. How did you react in a classroom when you were: bored, hungry, tired, irritated?
From a child's perspective, adults nearly always operate from a position of power. For that reason, we can intimidate and humiliate without ever meaning to do so. The result? Embarrassment, helplessness, even rage. Jesus exhibited a gentle, loving demeanor with children. Make him your model.
Your students are looking for love and acceptance—even the reallyhard-to-love ones! When kids act out, it's very seldom aimed at you. Look for the cause behind the behavior. First, kid's brains are wired differently from yours. Children have a need to move, so silliness and giggles are normal. So is their need for attention. If your students aren't hanging breathlessly on your every word, don't take it personally. Take a deep breath, make yourself relax, then assess the situation.
* Is Bill tired or hungry or simply having a bad morning?
* Is Jodi feeling overwhelmed or under appreciated?
* Was there tension between Dawn's mom and dad on the way to church?
* Is Dick coming down with a cold?
* Did brother #1 and brother #2 spill orange juice on Lois's jumper? Again?
* Was the sermon just before class especially long and boring and not very "kid-friendly?"
* Is Susan just being goofy?
Any of these factors have a major impact on a child's ability to focus and cooperate in class. Your sensitivity and understanding can help kids get over these bumps in the road. There is no need to be an amateur psychologist or feel you must diagnose behavioral problems. Love and concern are universal healers. And we can supply them abundantly to our kids because our gracious God first shared them with us.
If you've ever worked with a hyperactive child, you know what it's like to have the boundaries of your compassion stretched. Kids who face a variety of learning challenges can take a lot of your energy. It's only natural for your resentment to build. Here's an important perspective-giver: It feels worse to be inside that child than it does to be his or her teacher. These simple strategies can be lifesavers when you're dealing with kids who can't stop moving.
* Use proximity control. Keep the child close to you. Use a calming touch on the shoulder or elbow.
* Provide something to keep hands busy. A koosh ball or squeezable ball to manipulate provides a safe, non-distracting outlet for movement.
* Let the child be your helper. Let him do simple classroom tasks that burn energy and save steps for you.
* Use her name in positive ways to help her refocus. "Jaymee, can you tell me what you're supposed to be doing now?"
* Commend good behavior whenever you can. Imagine the number of negative messages this child receives throughout the week.
* Talk to Mom or Dad about the strategies that they've found successful to keep their child on task.
* If you've tried all these things and still feel hamstrung by managing this child's behavior, get help. Pair the hyperactive student with another student who has a steadying effect. If you need to, ask a parent to stay in class as your helper.
Excerpts from Hearts, Brains and Growing Pains, Cook Communications Ministries.