(Image courtesy of https://pointsadhsblog.wordpress.com.)

The last four days have been rough.  I contracted a stomach virus from somewhere last week (I've been keeping the toilets busy ever since).  On top of feeling sick, I had an early morning blow up during my first block class on Friday.

This is how it "went down."

We were writing papers, the same thing we had been doing all week.  It was a relatively simple assignment: write a two-page short story about anything.  Literally, it could be about anything, as long as it had developed setting, characters, conflict, and plot.  Not very difficult, right?  Wrong.

We began the week with pre-writing activities and worksheets to help develop their story.  Then we transitioned into writing dialogue and typing the rough draft.  The last day to type was on Friday, with the final draft being due at the end of the block.  Of course, as when any deadline approaches, anxiety rises.  In this case, that anxiety was mine.

It all started with me not feeling 100% because of my stomach ache; in addition, a couple of students decided to show up forty minutes late to class.  That didn't make me very happy.  To top it off, the peer editing process was not going like it should; there was far too much talking and not enough editing.  After several reminders to be quiet, I finally had enough; I lost it.

"You've finally ticked me off!" I yelled.  "I said to keep the noise down and edit quietly.  There is no reason to talk so loud!"  (Of course, this is probably not exactly what I said....)  One of the students who showed up forty minutes late decided to test me by trying to talk while I was saying this.  Bad idea for him.  I kicked him out in the hall, which, of course, he didn't like at all.  He argued and threw a tantrum, but in the end left the room.  I had simply had enough of teenage attitudes.

I felt bad about yelling at my class and I wondered, as I often do when situations like this arise, how well I displayed the love of Jesus to my students.  But today, with students out of school, I realized I had a reason to get angry at my class on Friday: less than half of them did what they were supposed to do.

About an hour ago, as I was looking over their editing sheets and final drafts, I got so mad I began to pace around the room.  "Why are they so satisfied with mediocrity?" I asked myself.

I wrote the following speech to lecture them tomorrow when they came to class:
"Half of you did what you were asked to do.  Good job!  I'm proud of you.  You are showing yourselves to be successful and responsible.
The other half... you are showing yourselves to be irresponsible, unsuccessful, and lazy.
You show what kind of person you are are in the small, seemingly unimportant tasks of every day life.  If you don't have the character to do the little things right, you won't ever do the big things right.
You probably look at a guy like Lebron James or Russell Wilson or some other celebrity and think, 'Dang!  They're good!'  What you don't see are the hours of hard work they put in to be the best.
Many of you want the best, but aren't willing to work for it; you just expect it.
What a sorry, pathetic way to live.  In fact, that's not living at all."
And this was only the beginning of what I had planned to write.  But before I kept writing, I took what you just read and shared it with my good friend Cameron Clifft.

Cameron grew up in Bolivar, graduated from Bolivar, and now teaches P.E. and health (in Bolivar).  He is a hard worker and tries to do what is right.  His family is well-known and hard working as well.  There is even a road in Hardeman County named after his family: Clifft Road.  Apparently I even look like one of the Cliffts.  On at least half-a-dozen occasions, I have been mistaken for a Clifft.

I respect Cameron's spiritual insight and I appreciate his friendship.  So as I shared my thoughts with him, I was not surprised at the wisdom he shared.

"Instead of lecturing them, why not start out asking them their thoughts first?" Cameron asked me.  Immediately, my mind went back to a radio broadcast I had just listened to on Saturday about building a strong bond between parent and teenager.  Asking your teenager questions and really listening to them was one of the best ways to develop a caring and loving relationship between parents and adolescents.  Many times, the teenager just wants to be heard.

As I reflected on that, I also thought about what my Pastor, Matthew Watkins, preached about yesterday: God's unconditional love.  God loves us no matter how many times we sin, no matter how many times we let Him down.  His love never changes.

Then it hit me.

Even though both approaches (both the lecture approach and the question first, lecture second approach) were attempting to accomplish the same goal of motivating my students, the questioning first, lecturing second approach is the most loving.  By asking questions of my students first (such as, "Why do you think I yelled at you on Friday?" and "Did you think I gave you enough time to do your paper?") and sharing my thoughts second, I am putting their needs first, which is exactly what love does.  "The Love Approach" still stands strong and unwavering in truth, yet it goes about telling the truth in a more caring, loving way.  Once my class feels like I care about them and genuinely want to hear them, they will be more inclined to listen to what I have to say.

In Ephesians 4:15, the Apostle Paul writes, "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ."  I think God has taught me what it looks like to speak the truth in love.  I think I'll call it, "The Love Approach," which, when broken down, covers two basic steps: question first, teach second.

I think I'll try "The Love Approach" tomorrow on my class.  I'll let you know how it goes....

May God bless you as you try to live out "The Love Approach" in every day relationships!

Love puts others first.