Double-sided traits worth nurturing in your students.
By Lisa Lawmaster Hess
By this point in the school year, we have something of a handle on our students. We know who learns quickly and who struggles, who processes out loud and who just likes to talk, who is able to stay on task and who struggles simply to stay in his (or her) seat.
Every class has a few kids we’d love to have back for another year, along with a few kids we’re ready to pass on to the next teacher when the end of the year (finally) arrives. But what if these kids show up in the same person?
Here, with apologies to Saints Matthew and Luke, are a few examples of double-sided traits worth nurturing, even if they sometimes come disguised as challenges.
Blessed are those who dream, for they will manifest creativity.
These are the kids who never seem to hear what we say the first time. The ones who miss a step in the directions because they were daydreaming when you told them what to do. The ones who frustrate you – and their peers – because they need to hear the same thing over and over.
Doodlers, artists, thinkers, planners, and worriers who need our love and appreciation perhaps more than those who get the directions right the first time. They remind us that life is about more than following a single drummer or coloring inside the lines. They dare to march to the beat they hear and color wherever their strokes take them – and invite us to join them.
Ask them about their work.
Blessed are those who participate, for they will sustain communication.
These are the kids who are never afraid to speak up and always have a story to tell. Sometimes they raise their hands; other times, they lack the patience (or self-control) to do so. Some furnish us with an answer that allows us to determine how well the class understands something, or perhaps tell a story that embellishes a concept, taking it to the next level. Others just want to talk.
And talk. Rarely at a loss for words, but rarely on topic, they raise their hands with such enthusiasm we don’t have the heart not to call on them. Still, some days, we wonder if we have the energy to feign enthusiasm.
Perfectionists, extroverts, and kids no one else listens to. Future writers, actors, and stand-up comics, they remind us that life is a story worth telling and that one word rarely sums things up.
Listen to them.
Blessed are those who persevere, for they will reach their goals.
These are the kids who never give up, whether it’s trying to get something just right, trying to reach a goal or trying to persuade you their way is the right way. (Or, perhaps, trying your patience). Seemingly inexhaustible, they have as much energy as the Energizer Bunny and twice as much persistence, especially when they are motivated. For some of these kiddos, their motivation shows up daily. For others, it makes only a cameo appearance, usually surrounding something that interests them.
Entrepreneurs, CEOs, and advocates for kids who can’t – or don’t – speak up for themselves. They remind us that successes are often built on failures and that hard work is one of life’s requirements.
Praise their process.
Blessed are those who show up, for they will get things done.
These are the kids who never miss a day of school, a concert, or any school event. Some come with their families, some come alone (leaving us to wonder at times how they got there) and some are just that interested. Their consistency is so predictable that, on the rare occasion when they don’t appear, we worry about where they are and what kept them away.
Advocates, volunteers, managers, future business owners. They remind us that many hands make light work and that each of us has something to contribute.
Blessed are the imperfect for they will teach us the value of mistakes.
These are the kids … well, these are all of our kids. And us.
We are the ones who try and fail, and try again until we succeed. We sin, we confess, we atone and we sin again. And, each time, we ask for forgiveness, knowing we are imperfect, yet striving to be who God wants us to be.
Lisa Lawmaster Hess is an adjunct professor of psychology at York College of Pennsylvania and a former elementary-school counselor. Her latest book is Know Thyself: The Imperfectionist’s Guide to Sorting Your Stuff.
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