Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Nicest Thing

As I've mentioned before, I give a bonus on everything we do in my Bible classes, from tests to memory verses to quizzes. On tests, we make cards for folks who are struggling or ill or bereaved. For quizzes and memory verses, it's usually a random thing like what's the most common last name in Denmark or where did Stop In the Name Of Love end up in the Billboard charts in 1965? The kids love it, sometimes being more excited about getting the bonus right than making an A on their paper! Sometimes, I make the bonus a prayer request or write a compliment about someone in their class with whom they aren't close. Today, the bonus was this: 
Write out in sentence form the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you with context and who was the speaker. 
I gave several examples from my life and why they were meaningful to me. All but two or three kids in my classes participated- it's never mandatory but I tell them if they don't do the bonus, they aren't trying to help themselves. I was pleased with today's results, especially with the 8th graders who had a more difficult assignment, the first verse of Tell Me The Story Of Jesus. One thing I hope to gain in these exercises is a better perspective of where my students are coming from and that happened this Wednesday. I feel like I know these youngsters better than I did yesterday.

In my five academic classes this year, I have twelve of my current and former middle school basketball players. Some of them have spent three years on my team so they have heard most of what I have to say, on both the court and in Room 258. And as I read the bonus answers, I found an intriguing response. One of the wonderful young ladies who has played for me wrote the nicest compliment she had received was! It had to do with a huddle late in a contest and I had told the squad the only reason we were still in the game was that this
girl had knocked the ball out of an opponent's hands. There was a little more detail but that was the gist of her memory. And what was my memory of her memory? Nothing- I didn't remember it although I vaguely recall the game she recalled. That's the price you pay for coaching in so many games over the years, both in basketball and baseball. They run together like a kaleidoscope .... but they don't to the kids, especially, I'm convinced, girls. They have memories like steel traps which of course, is a blessing or a curse. In this case, it was a blessing.

The longer I live, the more I am aware of the power of words. Teachers, coaches, parents, and other adults in authority have at their disposal the opportunity to make deposits in the confidence accounts of youngsters. I'm not talking about the false praise that seems to be pervasive in our society for everything little thing- some things should be so automatic as not to ever require reinforcement. In preparing my students for the bonus question, I quoted Mark Twain's line about living a month on a good compliment, (although in the original I found he actually said two weeks.) Better still is the truth of Proverbs 25 and verse 11:
Like golden apples set in silver is a word spoken at the right time.
Timing, along with sincerity, is everything. But if I don't remember saying those kind words to my player, I'm also sure I'm unaware of many times my words have cut and wounded those who I should have been guiding. If that was you I hurt, please forgive me and know I have tried to do better. And if you made my day in the past with your kind words towards me, THANKS! And I will try to pass them on to those who need them most.

Applicable quote of the day:
You have to love yourself or you'll never be able to accept compliments from anyone. 
Dean Wareham

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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