We all have our “good” kids.
The ones who are responsible, turn in their projects and homework on time, and get good grades.
The ones who never have to stand out minutes from recess, get demerits, or detentions.
The ones who don’t cause us much (if any!) trouble!
We are relieved to have these students in our classroom, because there are some others (ahem) who are quite the opposite. Those other students tend to take up a lot of our time and energy.
Our “good” kids can slide through the year, and we assume that they are doing just fine spiritually. It’s Johnny and his disrespectful attitude or Janie and her rebellious heart that we are worried about.
But many times, our good kids need us to get involved in their lives just as much as the tough students need us.
Here are a few issues that can tend to affect these good kids.
Pride & Hypocrisy
Some students take pride in their clean records. They look down on their classmates who are always getting in trouble or struggling with low grades. Many times this pride will become evident to others, but sometimes students (and teachers, too!) can hide it behind false humility.
Have you ever thought about the type of students the Pharisees would make? Talk about rule followers – these guys were champions! They had a loooooong list of rules and they pretty much followed them all to a “t” (and my students struggle with the 5 rules in my classroom!). The Pharisees were very religious and very proud of their accomplishments…but they didn’t have a heart for God. Christ had some hard-to-hear words for these religious leaders of his day.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:27-28)
We need to be so careful as teachers that we don’t emphasize outward keeping rules over a relationship with God. Now, the two aren’t exclusive – after all, God does say, “if ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). But following God’s commands should stem from a love for Him…it’s not about obeying commands just for the sake of following the rules. With the help of the Lord, we should always seek the hearts of our students and not just what is seen on the outside.
For these students, we need to lovingly show them God’s view of pride.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate (Prov. 8:13b)
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
But we also need to show them the greatness of their God! Only when we see God as He really is can we see ourselves as we truly are. Help them to see His forgiveness of their sin and His grace that gives them the gifts that they have. When I am focusing on all that I have been forgiven of, I don’t have time to look at all the things that others need to be forgiven of.
Love of Approval
I have always been more of a rule-keeping “good girl” – and many times I did really want to please the Lord. But I also loved the approval of others. When I obeyed, I found out that life worked out pretty well. I would look at the other kids in my class who were getting in trouble, and I just didn’t get it. It seemed so simple – just obey the rules and you won’t get into trouble!
Yet, I had my own idol to deal with – the idol of approval. Oh, how I craved it (and still do!). But I should not be controlled by what others think about me – I need to be controlled by God’s love for me. I need to live for Him, not for others.
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (II Cor. 5:14-15)
When I had the opportunity to work with some inmates in a detention center, I realized that this “squeaky-clean” church girl had a lot more in common with these inmates than I would ever have thought. Some of them were in there because they wanted the approval of others and so they______________ (fill in the blank). We shared the exact same idols in our hearts – they just manifested themselves differently in the circumstances we found ourselves in.
In his book, Transforming Grace, Jerry Bridges uses the term “the performance treadmill” to describe the idea of the desperate, continual working to gain God’s acceptance instead of realizing that God’s acceptance is not based on our work.
Some of our good kids genuinely do have a heart for the Lord, but they don’t have an accurate understanding of God.
Perhaps some are trying to earn their salvation – for these students, we need to show them Scripture that helps them to see that their good works do nothing towards salvation. We can only be saved through placing our faith in Jesus Christ.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Is. 64:6)
Some students have accepted the Lord as their Savior, but they are trying to earn God’s approval and acceptance – even though it has already been given to them at salvation! They keep all the rules because they want to impress God, or they feel that God will love them more the better they are.
Jerry Bridges uses the example of the disciple Peter to help us see God’s unconditional love. Peter had some pretty big failures in his life – but God still loved and blessed him despite his failures.
God blessed Peter, not in spite of his sins, but without regard to his sins. That’s the way His grace operates. It looks not to our sins or even to our good deeds but only to the merit of Christ. (Jerry Bridges)
We need to help these students see that God’s love for us is not dependent on our performance. It is unconditional!
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have continued my faithfulness to you (Jer. 31:3b)
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
As teachers, do we show God’s unconditional love to our students? Or does our love/treatment of them depend on how their day is going? One thing that I have implemented this year is giving each of my elementary students a hug or a handshake (their choice) at the end of the day before they leave the classroom. My hope is that this small gesture can help to show them that no matter how their day went, I still love them.
Some students don’t fall into the above categories – they genuinely do want to serve the Lord and are seeking to live lives that are honoring to Him. They understand God’s unconditional love.
But it’s hard to be the “goody-two-shoes”. It’s hard to always be standing up for what’s right and being laughed at or left out. They may not vocalize it or show it, but we need to encourage them! Find little times to share a smile or an “I’m really proud of you…”
Drop a quick note to them – who doesn’t love getting mail or discovering a note tucked inside of their desk?
Just because our good kids are the “easy” kids in the class doesn’t mean that they don’t need help, too! May the Lord help us reach all of our students!
What other struggles do you see pop up in the lives of your good kids? How do you find is the best way to approach and help them?
A few of my favorite resources…
Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges – an amazing book that really helped me in the area of working so hard to gain God’s approval.
Sidney & Norman: A Tale of Two Pigs by Phil Vischer – This is probably one of my favorite books to read aloud to an elementary class. It deals with both types of students – the students who struggle to obey all of the rules and the students who find it easy to follow the rules and pride themselves on their achievements…and shows them that God doesn’t love them based on what they do – He just loves them.