Back in high school when I was playing basketball, my poor eye-hand coordination earned me a rather consistent spot on the bench. When the coach did put me in the game, my dominant emotion while playing was frustration. When I missed the rebound or missed my shot (both regular occurrences) my ever-expressive face showed my frustration. I was stunned when my coach told me my team-mates thought I was upset at them. Why would they think that? I was upset at myself for my lousy playing, but they only saw my upset face.
I think of that when I see a struggling student head towards his teacher or parent to ask a question. If you are that teacher or parent, you may frown because you are not sure how to help. Your frustration at not knowing how to help your child may be what is causing the furrows along your forehead. However, all the child approaching you sees are those frown lines.
For many of us who struggle, those frown lines are an extremely familiar sight. It’s easy to think that we are causing the upset in the world and we should stop bothering the important people. Many kids stop trying because when they try, they need help—yet when they seek that help—they seem to upset the helper.
Back on the basketball court I needed to learn to control both my frustration and my face. I’ve had to do the same when trying to help children learn. When a student comes needing yet more explanation, instead of recounting to myself how out-of-answers I may feel, I need to flash them a big smile as I ask God for grace to help in time of need.
Rehearsing my shortcomings at teaching the lesson? Not productive or helpful in that moment. Rehearsing the child’s shortcomings at diligence and comprehension? Also not productive or helpful—and perhaps not true. What is helpful is remembering the following.
- Who the child is: an image-bearer of God and therefore worth respect and help.
- Who I am: the stand in for Jesus Christ in this room. This moment to help is a moment to model the gentleness, patience, and kindness of Jesus.
- Who God is: the One who, when we ask for wisdom, “gives generously to all without reproach” (James 1:5). Without reproach: no frown of disappointment, no body language of disapproval.
I can imagine the objections—“Won’t she just become dependent on me?” “Shouldn’t I make him do it on his own?” “
Legitimate questions. Part of our job is not only to teach the skill at hand, but to instill confidence. Confidence grows when children accomplish tasks they are capable of without the training wheels of our help. The tricky part is knowing when to help and how to help. All that takes wisdom specific to that child and the situation. What a blessing that you have access to God as your Father so you can go to the One who promises to give you wisdom…without the frown lines.