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Archive for January 10th, 2021

“If you want to change the behavior of a student, you must first convince them, real or perceived, that you like them”

Those were the best words of advice I ever received as an educational assistant … and I have found them to be true!

No amount of negative reinforcement, tokens, nagging, consistent messaging, interruptions, trips to the principal, calls home, withdrawal of personal attention, privileges, or possessions has had a more substantive beneficial effect in working with students than this intentional expression of unconditional appreciation for them.

Effective? … yes!
Guaranteed desired results? … no …

Since I am human, since the students are human … well, we have this ‘benefit’ of free will and we just don’t always choose to say, and do, and think rightly. So, guaranteed positive results … nope, but it’s pretty effective.

The other thing is that the advice needs an edit, because liking people is hard. Sometimes liking is even humanly impossible. So, I prefer the quote to be edited by substituting ‘like’ for ‘love’.

“If you want to change the behavior of a student, you must first convince them, real or perceived, that you love them”

Some might say, well if liking is hard, loving would be even difficult … true … and not.

When I say you need to convince someone that you love them, I don’t mean with my or our capacity to love, because that is just not enough. I mean with the love that is only present because the Spirit of God is within me.

Last week I was reading a sermon of Martin Luther King Jr., which he preached in 1957, at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, titled, Loving Your Enemies. In it he said something about this act of loving that got my attention :

Agape (love) is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of humans. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love humans, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them.

MLK Jr.

To love someone … a student, a child, a parent, a sibling, a wife, a husband, a neighbor … with the unconditional love of God is to open the door to the amazing, redemptive work of God in that relationship. It is to prepare the way for changes, for miracles.

Sometimes the miracles happen in the one to whom I am making effort to offering the love of God, but always, always the changes, the miracles happen in me. I cannot offer hate, I cannot think ill of, I cannot be disinterested in someone who I am loving through the spirit of God.

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