Romans 12:6-8: We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Proverbs 22:6: Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
I have studied scriptures throughout my Christian walk, especially after becoming a parent almost fourteen years ago; and these two Bible verses have always seemed to go hand in hand when I make critical decisions regarding my children. Now that I am a public school teacher, these two verses always seem to jump out in my mind as I am preparing my students for daily, as well as yearly goals they are required to meet in order to be prepared to go to the next level in their academic walks. Three days ago, I was allowed to take a peek at my students’ Mississippi Academic Assessment Program, or MAAP scores. While it is the goal of every student and teacher to receive proficient and advanced scores for the MAAP tests, and while I am very, very proud that my students scored well, it is imperative for every student to understand they are not a “test score.” I know it is cliché to make that statement. However, do all students really feel that cliché in their hearts? As an English Language Arts teacher for Desoto County Schools, I will shout from the highest mountain for my students’ advanced scores, for my students’ proficient scores, and yes, for my students’ passing scores, they did their best and their best is perfect!
Why are children of today being diagnosed with anxiety and depression so much more so than in my own teen years? Are we simply more aware of mental illnesses or learning hindrances; and how to recognize, diagnose, and treat them? Perhaps. But I would like to take a moment and really contemplate how much pressure and competition is often placed on our children at the expense of their own peace and happiness. Let me be clear about one important point as not to allow my readers to misunderstand why I am writing the following words! I love my classroom curriculums and core standards. I believe they help our children apply knowledge as opposed to simply memorizing it. I am trying to make the point that if a child is working as hard they possibly can to make a “C” then they should be lifted just as high as the child who works as hard as they possibly can to make an “A.”
One day during the school year, I was seated with a student who struggles quite a bit with writing. On this particular day, my class was given the assignment of writing a fiction story. We had already covered the writing process up to and including a created outline for the story sequence. Today was the day the actual writing of our rough drafts would begin. My struggling student would write a bit, I would look it over, and then I would offer suggestions. Slowly, but surely, the more suggestions I offered in order to help his writing be better resulted in more frustration for my student as he began to think that every word he wrote was wrong, resulting in him thinking he was incapable of writing a good story. His hands began to write slower, and his body began to shift uncomfortably in his chair. The smile on his face at the beginning of our help session slowly faded, and a look of complete annoyance and frustration took over. Shame on me, but I kept pushing him with my words, thinking when all was said and done, this piece of fiction would be so wonderful! Again, shame on me! I ended up pushing this child’s frustration level to tears, and only then did I back off a bit. I took a long look at my teaching and my parenting skills. I only want to push my children (both birthed and assigned) to their highest of highs, and if they would only listen to me, I know they would be on Principal’s Lists and receive high honors all the time, right? Wrong! As God’s Word, says, “Train a child up in the way he should go…..he should go….that means that while one child may be meant to go in one direction, another child might be meant to go in another direction based on God’s own anointment of gifts to each and every one of HIS CHILDREN.
We often get thoughts in our self-righteous heads that we are the ones who have all the answers, and we can take our children where they need to be in order to be successful. We tend to forget that God’s plan and an individual’s success story might lie in a whole new place than the one we have conjured in our heads. One of my favorite inspirational quotes reads as follows: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. The question I have for you at this point of our journey together is, “What is your genius?”………Albert Einstein was credited with this inspirational quote for a long time; however, there has been plenty of controversy stirring as to whether or not Einstein is actually the author of these words. Regardless of the actual author of this quote, the last question of this quote sums up my two introductory Bible verses perfectly. Not everyone is born to win a full scholarship to an Ivy League school. Not everyone is born to become a top executive earning six figures a year. Not everyone is born to make advanced scores on every test thus helping to win their particular public school district certain accolades and credits. There are students I have taught who would not accept a “B” on a test if their lives depended on it. When those students of mine earn that full scholarship to a top Ivy League school, my cheering can be heard for miles. In addition, I have taught students who did their homework every night, never gave me one ounce of a discipline problem, and worked on every assignment with as much blood, sweat, and tears as they could muster and were credited with a well-deserved “B” or even a “C.” When those students of mine come to me and say they want to start their college career at a community college with plans to transfer to a four year college as soon as they can, my cheering, again, can be heard for miles.
The next time we feel compelled to put a bit of pressure on our children, please stop and think. Are you applying pressure that will be good for them, or you applying unnecessary pressure for your, not their own good? I remember the pain of attempting to learn a new skill as a child. The struggle was real! Yet, the teacher decided to say to me, “oh you can do this, you’re just being lazy….” Lazy am I? I so wish I could witness that particular teacher struggling to do something I know I can do very easily! I would so want to echo those words to her. Ponder for a moment about something you have seen someone else do so easily; something you know in your heart you flat CAN NOT DO! Are you lazy, slow, or lacking effort; or is this particular “something” a struggle for your own unique personality and possible genetic make-up?
God gives each of us a blessed gift from His hands. God also entrust our children’s emotional and physical beings to our love and care. Let us always train a child in the way he/she should go based on what we can easily see and understand as his/her own anointed gift given by God’s grace. We must never stop growing or become complacent, and all gifts or talents can be cultivated and improved. However, it is crucial to ensure our energy we generate towards others in an effort to enhance that cultivation stems from a place of humbling ourselves before them as opposed to raising ourselves to a holier than thou place above them to meet criteria we feel is vital. It is even more vital for everyone to be appreciated for their own unique masterpiece!