One year, while teaching at the combined French-speaking/French Immersion school, I had a very interesting student in my class. He never did any homework, and he liked to destroy anything and everything, especially the work done by other students. As you can imagine, no one in the class liked him, and no matter what we did, his behavior only worsened. The only thing I found that would calm him down was to have him sit in the hallway outside the classroom door. Unfortunately for him, he spent a good portion of that school year sitting in the hallway, not learning anything!
There was one subject that this student liked: Gym. With his mother’s permission, I found that keeping him in the classroom while the other students had gym was an effective punishment. You can guess that this didn’t make him happy, however, and one day, in his rage, he went through the entire classroom and destroyed several of the other students’ notebooks.
I began to pray for this student then, and God placed an idea in my mind. As a way to motive him to do his homework, I told him that he wouldn’t be able to go to the gym again until he did it. I then told him I would stay back in the classroom with him and help him with his work. I also let him know that if any more notebooks were destroyed, he would have to rewrite each and every one in perfect handwriting.
The strategy worked. He began doing work at home and at school, and he stopped destroying the other students’ notebooks. The other students still didn’t like him, but at least he was learning.
Despite the trouble I had with this student, I was apparently the only teacher who had succeeded in at least somewhat controlling his behavior and getting him to do his homework. As a result, he stayed in my Grade 7 class throughout his Grade 8 year as well, and as time went on, his behavior continued to mellow. I truly experienced the truth of Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (ESV).
After Grade 8, this student left my school, and though I continued to pray for him, I didn’t expect to ever hear from him again. Unfortunately I did, and the news wasn’t good. Several years later, I met this student’s brother, who was a police officer. When I asked about my former student, he admitted that his brother was in jail. This made me really, really sad, and I continue to pray for him.
This student did teach me an important lessons, however. All the time spent outside the classroom only brought peace to the rest of the class. It did nothing to help this student learn to control his behavior, and it didn’t motivate him to do his homework. It was only when I committed the student to prayer and began to treat him with kindness that changes began to happen. Remember the truth of Eph. 4:32? “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 ESV). There is power in treating problem students – and problem people in the general population as well! – with loving kindness. There’s power in forgiving them. Maybe it didn’t keep this particular student out of prison, but it sure made for a better school year for him – and for the rest of the class as well! And who knows? Maybe he will remember those two years in my classroom, and something that he learned there will help him in later life. I pray it does.
Is there a problem person in your life? Commit him/her to prayer and follow the Lord’s lead. And remember, there is so much power in forgiveness and treating these problem people with kindness. You may be amazed at how God is able to work in their lives, in response to your prayers and your love.
(To view the entire “Lessons From the Classroom” devotional series, please click here.)