Human Growth: A Simple Process

Since the fall of man, God has used mystery to draw people to himself. Every conflict or failure is a chance to either move toward him, or away. I think few find this to be a fun way to learn, though I I learn the most when my curiosity is piqued with wonder. These are the times when the easy answer is the wrong answer. When faced with uncomfortable circumstances the progressive learner didn’t ask why. Instead he looked around, reflected, and considered the path of humble inquiry. Socrates had this figured out a long time ago when he said something like, the more I know the more I don’t know.

Eureka! The power of knowing how we learn   

We’ve been designed to learn, develop, and grow in every way: socially, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. I feel like our culture is beginning to grasp how we learn. Smart people are revealing ideas like “The Growth Mindset” and “Event + Response = Outcome”. The growth mindset is the idea that dedication and working through struggles is critical to growth, and talent is just a starting point. It’s obvious to me now that it wasn’t Carol Dweck who came up with this mindset theory, but this is the perspective God has intended for our life ever since the existence of sin. I mean, he does tell us to consider it pure joy when facing trials because he is developing perseverance and maturity in us through circumstances (James 1:2-4). Could he be more clear about the perspective we are to have when given the chance to learn? Don’t avoidingly sidestep anything because anxiety, worry, and fear cripple our ability to learn.

Our time on Earth has been designed to be filled with purposeful conflicts and problems so I suppose we should teach our children how to deal with those problems. After all we’re to “Train up a child in the way he should go,” (Proverbs 22:6).  Our response to those issues determines how we grow. In this place there is a growing sense of entitlement. Many hold the perspective that the events that happen to them are controllable. The myth of “Because of who I am, bad things can’t happen to me” is a very dangerous stance. Look at the story of Job and imagine if his response to problems was from a point of entitlement!

Entitlement is just our Earthly desires on display. One of the most unattractive attributes is a puffed out chest filled with pompous disposition. This is grown from a complete misunderstanding of the truths and reality of our life. Thank God for his pure plan, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 8:28

It’s a battle we all fight, everyday.

Tools for Learning

Sorry to break it to you, but please consider this news with pure joy! When we need to develop in an area, we are given conflict. Yes, we are asked to embrace the struggle, hurt, grief, and frustration that comes with conflict. I think a great example of this is marriage. The first couple years of my marriage was littered with purposed conflict. We worked in it and responded to it and it made all the different. I must say, I tried to avoid it but thankfully my wife is much smarter than me and she helped me realize the process of growth takes effort and intention. Or if you’d prefer a much different example, let’s look at Lebron. The greatest basketball player on the earth has conflict too. Other teams got smart and decided to double team him or punish him with fouls every time he got close to the basket. So Lebron didn’t just continue to practice. He knew if he wanted to enjoy a long successful career he had to work on an alternative to going to the basket and getting beat up. He developed his outside shot and is now even more difficult to guard. (I love sports analogies and have a baseball one that applies as well, but I’ll spare you the boredom).

So you see you will not go through life unscathed, if you claim to, you’re an infant in every way.

I find Isaiah 43:19 very encouraging. “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

The path of development is filled with challenging elements. Each element has been divinely designed.

 

May you take joy in your wilderness or desert

 

Why Routine and Boring Stuff Matters

The Flu Revelation

I didn’t realize the importance of routines until I came down with the flu and was out of commission for about a week. I had lost all momentum. While sick I had a difficult time even reading. Now feeling better all I had to do was hop back in the routine. Problem was I didn’t have a strong routine established. I didn’t have a solid personal morning routine, I’m realizing more that I didn’t have a good classroom routine established. Now here I am navigating a sea storm with a battered ship and torn sails. No reference points and limited controls.

Don’t completely blame me yet, I had thought I had routines, but they had never been tested. After laying around and following only the schedule of my nausea for a week and was now expecting to hop back on the productivity train without a hiccup. For some, this might be a simple task, but without setting strong routines my train had stalled to a stop. It takes a lot to get a locomotive going from a still position.

I had so much I wanted to get done but I didn’t have a starting point. Missing school a few days, my students had forgotten any idea of expectations that had been set for the class. I see what was lacking. When I was there, I kept it together, but it wasn’t set-up to keep moving without my input. The same was true for my mornings. Did I feel like getting up early today? Oh well, I’ll just hit snooze six times. I’ve allowed excuses to creep in and feelings to manipulate.

I don’t get giddy when shown a schedule and I’ve never found calendars to be particularly sexy. These have more of my attention now.

Establishing Routine

We’re rhythmic beings. Our Sabbath should be just like our heartbeat, consistent and reliable. We must have a rhythm if we’re expected to weave together a career, personal interests, family engagement, and spiritual growth. I’ve begun to have set times of the week for these but I didn’t have it instilled prior to getting sick.

Having specific times for writing and personal hobbies makes me more reliable to my family, no longer sporadically saying, “Hey, I have an idea I want to write about, is it alright if I go write for a bit?”

The same is true for my teaching. I think I apply effective strategies for learning in my classroom. Although I’ve yet to instill them in an organized manner. To the students, these different strategies show up unexpected.

I’ve been given a needed opportunity to reevaluate the organization of my classroom and my life. This time of year is always busy for me. It seems like requirements and obligations keep coming at me in the spring, but I now have specific places to put them.

Instilling My Routine

5:30am: Devotion and then write

Work: Get in early and get out on time

4-8pm: Commit to family

8-10pm: Personal commitments (read, woodworking, the occasional tv show with my wife). My readings and activities I do at night often relate to my teaching and writing.

This is not written in stone but I have specific places to put certain obligations. I feel more in control and reliable for my family and students and there is still room for occasional spontaneity.

 

Where is your life on the tidy to chaos spectrum?

I’m far from a productivity guru but my last post was also on this topic.

Finding Productivity in Serving Others, Not a To-Do List

Find Productivity in Serving Others, Not a To-Do List

As you well know, for me writing is my process of discernment. Here is the current battle.

How do I knock away at my to-do list while still giving others the attention and service God calls me to?

I’m a Slow Learner

I first wrote this question down a few weeks ago. Now I see the answer lies in the question. If my to-do list revolves around me and doesn’t exist to serve others, then I am not being productive. Lately I’ve been struggling to find the time to fulfill my hobbies. The problem is that each of my hobbies are self-serving and done in isolation. I believe these hobbies do contribute to my happiness and well being but I’m realizing they may be carrying too much priority.

My first awareness to this whole productivity vs. service issue came in the classroom. Am I existing as a teacher to work through a set curriculum or am I conscientiously serving the students in attention to their individualized needs? I’ve been searching for a clear cut answer but I’ve only discovered more questions. (This is another testament to why I believe there’s power in inquiry-based learning).

Questions like: Do I sit here and continue refining my lesson or go assist a coworker who I know is in need? Should I stop to talk to the student in obvious frustration or push through with my whole class instruction.    

The questions don’t stop there, it appears that every single situation and decision could become a conflict between productivity and service. I’ve finally discovered this doesn’t have to be the case. The two can smoothly meld together!

See Service in Every Task

I have written down on a notecard, “How is this serving others?” I’ll be keeping that card in my pocket daily until it disintegrates into a lint ball or to the point when I don’t remember why there is a notecard in my pocket. This card will give me a tangible reminder in my daily actions to intentionally spend my time fulfilling tasks that serve. It will also give purpose to the tasks that might be mundane but at the root serve.  

In the posture of service I give students valuable feedback when I’m grading instead of simply putting a grade. In this posture I’m motivated to pack my son’s lunch instead of leaving it for my wife. I’m a better person to converse with. Instead of numbering my to-do list in my mind while you talk at me, I’m engaged and invested in the exchange. When I do need that me-time hobby, I’m trying to do it in time that doesn’t take away from others. Like writing this blogpost at 5:00am the last two days. Moreover, my wife and son are pleased that I chose the quiet hobby of writing instead of using power tools for woodworking in the basement at 5:00am. So you could say I’m even serving my family while they sleep!

I can’t believe it took me several weeks for me to begin to attack my issue of productivity versus service. This also proves the importance of journaling and coming back to previous ideas. But that is another post for another day.

 

If you are serving someone you are being productive!

 

“As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.” -Henry David Thoreau

 

Posts like this:

“Data vs. Story” The Debate is Everywhere

Why My Class Will Not Be Effecient

The Need to Read

How can I be happy and productive at the same time? Well since being a professional golfer is off the table, option two is to read. One sounds much more glamorous than the other.

Reading to Move Forward

I have so much more to say when I’m actively reading something. Part of the reason I’m writing this is to convince myself to continue to read. I think about why I haven’t been writing and I find that I haven’t been reading. When I read at night I wake up with thoughts and responses, reflections, and revelations. My battle isn’t so much about whether my words are important to write down. It’s more about am I doing enough to stimulate a response or am I just achieving new levels on games on my phone. Don’t get me wrong, that IS stimulating but it’s difficult to blog about.

I love the feeling I get when I take in an artistic movie or a touching memoir, or even a thoughtful commercial. What do all these have in common?

They make me think and feel. I’m aware that games on my phone do cause me to think and feel but there’s never an important response. Just a glaring void on the back end of it.

A Transforming Power

I could not agree more with the following words I read in Mary Oliver’s book Upstream.

“I did not think of language as the means to self-description. I thought of it as the door—a thousand opening doors!—past myself. I thought of it as the means to notice, to contemplate, to praise, and, thus, to come into power.”

I realize I’m nothing special but reading and writing move me to special thoughts.

I don’t consider myself an intellectual, just ask my family how I act around the house! Although I love to feel like an intellectual. Literature and art make me feel smart and they make me feel creative. When reading, listening, and contemplating I become like Clark Griswold’s Christmas lights. There is so much power coming in but all I can produce is a brief surge of brightness that ultimately just drags people out in the cold to be disappointed. (Don’t worry, that will be the only Christmas movie reference.)

How I Read

Now there are so many ways to take in stories and I utilize most of them. I listen to books on my phone using apps called Hoopla and Overdrive. Both offer an abundance of audiobooks for FREE through the library! I usually pick the audiobook if I just want to take in an overall interesting story. If I’m looking to pull information from a text then I use the kindle app on my phone because I can highlight and store notes in it. Plus, Amazon gift cards are my favorite. I’ll still pick up a physical book occasionally but that’s usually saved for casual reading on the couch or in bed.

Help Me

Could we spur one another on to read, observe, and listen intently to the important content we’re taking in. This is the ultimate goal I have for my students. It’s a goal I have for myself but I’m going to focus on the intently portion. You see my output here at my blog. You can tell when I’m not reading, observing, and listening intently because my writing is either non existent or it sucks.

Please spur me on if you don’t find me here often or if I’m plainly and obviously sucking.

 

What I’m Taking In

Almost daily devotions currently in the book of Acts.

Upstream by Mary Oliver and a couple other little books she has on poetry

Switched On by John Elder Robison. A Memoir of brain change and emotional awakening. I’m looking forward to this one as it’s on the topic of autism.

Peace as we attempt to live intently

 

Sensitivity Extremes: Connecting with the Whole Spectrum

A Common Scenario

One child has arms crossed while he shouts back short defensive remarks. The other is wailing with huge tears flooding his cheeks. Fingers are being pointed while other students arrive to back their chosen party. Both of the initial kids are offended, past the point of reason, and a long way from a solution.

 

Part of the reason I love teaching is the unique dynamics found in each class. (I often need to remind myself that this is a good thing.)

This year is no different. This group carries with it a wide range on the sensitivity spectrum. I’ve witnessed moments of oversensitivity opening an onslaught of tears. There’s also been the impulsive stance of insensitivity. How does one even relate to both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between? How do we connect and meet the needs of every individual? Especially when a student’s needs and sensitivity could change from one week to the next. (This definitely happens in sixth grade!)

 

So my choices are:

  1. I can authoritatively shut down the situation without connecting with either child involved.
  2. I can affirm each child’s stance and emotions. Sort and set apart the truth in the scenario from the presumptions and misconceptions.

One of these takes listening, patience, and a balance of sensitivity and reason.

Why It’s Not That Easy

The first understanding I had to reach before affectively approaching this issue was that No One desires either extreme. No One wants to be overly sensitive or insensitive. Of course I’m never reminded of these important revelations in the moment, this reflection happened days after while cutting the grass on a Saturday. Another reason I should cut the grass more.

I then began to consider, “What causes one to be on either extreme of this sensitivity spectrum?” There has to be a cause to one bawling due to a peer’s single spoken word. Or why one wouldn’t anticipate the effects of his/her insensitive actions. I wrongly started speculating causes to be factors such as homelife, unhealthy relationships, poor self-image, and so on.

Then I looked inward.

The second realization of the matter came a day after cutting the grass. This type of reflection doesn’t happen quickly for me but thanks to God it did happen.

My mind reeled in my personal bouts of oversensitivity. Then the insensitive moments came rushing to my recognition.

“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” Proverbs 27:19

Wait, I’m broken too. I embody both extremes of this spectrum? Yes, and so do you. This is the reality of being human…

Insensitivity equals a lack of grace

Oversensitivity grows from needing the approval of others, or validation of self.

Both ends of the spectrum is a result of one attempting to please their own flesh.

I must be a better model of selflessness and servanthood for my students. “Is my response pleasing my flesh or pleasing the Spirit?” A questions I can’t ask myself enough.

Galatians 6: 7-8

 

The Exchange

I’m a great consumer.
I buy with no questions asked. I read a lot,  without discussion about it. I’m easy to please and I accept anything that’s given to me.
I’m a natural consumer but not so comfortable with interaction or exchange. My anxiety heightens when I’m asked to simply state my name in front of others, let alone having to share thoughts or ideas.
Problem is, consuming can only take me so far. There is much beyond the ceiling of consuming.
I’m learning to not just consume or just create but to exchange. Here is where the power is.

 

The exchange offers a deepness and richness that fulfills.
I want to do this well.
I’m far from it.

 

I’ve felt satisfaction and inspiration from a productive exchange with others.
These exchanges could cover any realm: emotion, information, beliefs, etc.
The human being is intrinsically rewarded for sharing and receiving.
If I only share, I’m left with self-doubt. If I only receive, emptiness lingers. This doesn’t go for giving or getting gifts, I’m purely talking about interacting and learning with others.  
The joy of learning is found in the EXCHANGE!
Fulfilled and empowered individuals contribute to the learning and development of the community. The broader the community, the fuller the empowerment.

 

Obtaining Wisdom

It’s so easy to only consume. Our culture preys on the consumer. “Netflix Binge!” It sounded like a wonderful idea while I repeatedly clicked “play next episode”. Then I woke up the next morning on 3 hours of sleep and realized my over-consumption had descended me into a pit of darkness. “Pit of darkness” may be a bit heavy, but I was far from satisfaction and/or inspiration.
Wisdom requires an experience and a response. Knowledgeable and wise are quite different.    

 

Where we fail is attempting to drink from the firehose of consumerism. Often consumerism drapes on a prideful and competitive front! I know, I can browse enviously as I scroll through every product on Amazon. I can also make a strong argument to my wife for why I must own every one of those items! In this moment I am realizing Amazon Prime is the devil! (For the record I’m keeping my Prime account – 2 DAY SHIPPING!)

 

Of course I have many more examples of personal bouts with consumerism. Although I’ll stop because it’s obvious I’ve been transparent enough.
 
In the Classroom
Today the student says, “Show me the video, lend me the book, hand me the paper, give me the grade.”
I’m doing my best to lecture less and give feedback more. I hope to start a conversation and spark an exploration. May we experience together and contribute to the conversation!

 

 
“The Exchange” is the only route to rich education.
 
 
 
 
 

Have We Developed?

Eating and Teaching Are on the Same Track

I was listening to the book At Home: A Short History of Private Life and something struck me about the human race. Development does not come natural.
A section of the book discusses the history of the kitchen and how our diet and food preparation has changed throughout time. It said something like 95% of our diet today is based on the same 12 main foods that were grown and used in ancient times. How is this? Did the first farmers, hunters, and gatherers have a timeless knack for nutrition? Or did generation after generation just accept Grandma’s recipes, never daring to tamper with them and disgracing the ancestry. I know they didn’t have Kale smoothies in the 1800’s but it seems to me that there were too few George Washington Carvers in the world. Far too few people enact development and progress in their lifetime.
Sadly this trend is not isolated to the facet of food. There are two main reasons I was alarmed by the 12 main foods statistic:
  1. I believe it parallels the history of education.
  2. I realized I’m getting jipped when it comes to food! I love food and to find out I’m basically eating the same lame meals as my great-great ancestors is highly disappointing.
Much better can be offered. Which is exactly how some feel about our children’s education.(To see other connections I’ve made between food and education read “Does Production Match the Purpose: The Food and Education Industries”)

So What’s the Difference Between Progressive and Stagnant?

Recently my mind has been dwelling on what separates the dynamic life from the static. I’m finding the answers in my daily decisions. Why do I choose a Netflix binge over connecting with my wife? Why do I let my son play with my phone instead of playing with me? Why do I choose to wake up and delete Spam emails instead of enriching my life with a morning devotional?
Reading and listening to the whole productivity platform gets old real quick. Still I am fascinated with the “Why” underneath these decisions we all make.  I got to take in a timely message on discernment recently at church. While it’s not a direct quote, an analogy like this was made: If you’re not intentionally paddling against the currents of the culture and discerning, you will not become the person God has equipped you to be (sorry Pastor Tom, you said it much better).
I’ve encountered this battle in my desire to write. I can’t even really call it a desire because I allow so much clutter to get in the way of it. But if you’ve listened to any top writers talk about what it takes to develop your craft, every single one says you have to sit your butt in the chair and write. And write over and over again. The same answer is found as I attempt to move forward in my walk of faith. The ultimate requisite is reading God’s word daily. Yes there are other factors in both these cases but it is the consistent decision to do the thing that matters. If you think being busy is the key, you’ve already been pulled under by the current.
So what are we using to fight the currents of culture? What tools are we using to progress and what essentials are necessary in this development?

 

Are you being challenged or pushed forward socially and intellectually? I’m actively working through these questions and would love to hear the strategies you utilize.

 

Peace in your paddling

 

3 Signs of Collapse

It’s probably not coincidence that my mind goes to the idea of collapse with only one week left in school. The grasp on the students’ engagement and effort is quickly slipping.
Being aware of this and responding is the best way to prevent collapse. Avoiding reality will surely cause a crumble.
The reality is that we’re actually more vulnerable to collapse when we’re less aware of its possibility. All three of the signs of collapse revolve around awareness.

The Big Short

My wife and I took this movie in recently and I found it to be an historical event we can learn from. The Big Short is a perfect example of a monumental collapse. If you’re unfamiliar, it basically dramatizes four guys that boldly predicted the housing market collapse in 2008. The rest of the population developed the perception that the system was flawless, to the point where the banking business became blind to reality. The few outliers were regarded as crazy and ostracized for betting against the housing market. Now it’s obvious they were right, but why were these few so unbelievable at the time?

 

It’s not as boring as I make it sound. Click here for a better description and details of the film.

 

The nature of collapse is fascinating because it’s sudden with seemingly no warning. So is a collapse lurking in any facet of my life? Is the unpredictable knockout blow coming?

 

These outliers that were able to predict our economy’s crumble looked at the nature of the institution and noticed the market became something far different and disingenuous. What’s foundational about what you do? Are you remaining true to that foundation?

 

Yes it’s a scary thing to consider but maybe the most preventable act is simply consideration of the possibility. Collapse is devastating and it can impact our dearest relationship, a career (no matter the job field), and our personal well being.
As usual I’ll relate this concept to education but I think it’s applicable to any situation.

 

3 Signs of Collapse

1.Ignorance  

Well that is vague. In The Big Short showed that in 2007 and 2008 the bankers didn’t even know what they were investing in. I’m worried the education system is growing ignorant, becoming indoctrinated by the statistics of formal assessments, forgetting the humans that our work revolves around. It’s been said that “public perception is reality.” I’ve heard this phrase used in response to testing scores and school district report cards. Basically supporting testing because these scores affect the community’s perception of the school. This is the exact mindset that allows for collapse. Why don’t we communicate clearly and vulnerably to our community the exact vision and implementation of education? Therefore they don’t just see the state’s judgement in flawed statistics.

 

2. Isolation

Much like ignorance, isolation is a personally chosen Utopian place.
Why don’t we communicate clearly and vulnerably? With technology’s advancements we’re in even greater danger of becoming isolated. The main reason behind the housing collapse was that the bankers became disconnected from their product. In education, we’re becoming disconnected from our product (the students). Sometimes we become so arrogant with our process that we can’t see reality. In isolation we have no accountability. To guard ourselves from isolation is to always be forthcoming with our vision and agenda.
It’s too easy for us to sit on our island of ideals; only taking in thoughts and feedback of an approved stance. I’m guilty of saying “Well I’m just going to close my door and teach,” avoiding any circumstance that I can’t control.
Oh, and it also requires the skill of listening. Listening to critique is tough, but monumentally important to avoiding collapse. The wisest are the ones that listen and consider.

 

3. Complacency

“Good enough.” It works and flows without hiccup. It’s become easy. Easy can be good, but that is not a reason to assume the process is being done correctly. Complacency is a clear signal that collapse is quickly arriving.
If nothing has been checked or changed in a while you’re being complacent and you’re avoiding confronting a potential defect. In my teaching practice my units and lesson plans from year to year have about a 50% turnover rate. It’s not that half of my instruction sucks (at least I hope not). It’s more that those 50% of the lessons had room for improvement or weren’t resonating with the current student. I’m constantly adjusting and changing things that don’t work. If you’re having success, find ways to creatively build on that momentum.
But, at the same time, I’m often too quick to drop the thing that doesn’t work. I find this to be a common struggle for the creative. They don’t feel their work is getting the response it should, therefore they drop it.
“If you think of this world as a place simply intended for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place for training and correction and it’s not so bad.” Since hearing this perspective from C.S. Lewis I’ve begun to see life’s circumstances as opportunities for improvement.

 

Avoiding Collapse

As an optimist I’m naturally susceptible to these three signs of collapse. Honestly, we all are. We must hold on to our vision and beliefs while processing reality. I find where my ideals and reality meet and act according to that intersection.

 

Peace in the process

 

Becoming a Noticer: Seeing the droplets in a flooded world

 

The Advantages of Being a Noticer

 

Those that dwell on the actions and patterns around them can easily find purpose and meaning for their life in this world. When I take the time to consider the uniqueness of a particular instant, I find it so easy to fall into a posture of gratitude and service. It becomes so much easier to practice generosity when I notice the world doesn’t revolve around me.

 

How to Become a Noticer

 

See the Details
A Noticer doesn’t just keep up with the latest news, or know who won the game last night. The Noticer digs deeper analyzing and making connections. It’s easy for a teacher to see little Timmy didn’t do his homework. It takes a Noticer to consider the possibilities and connect the dots.
I have obstacles to overcome in this category. I have a habit of glossing over the fine details and nuances of the situation. In fact I don’t even come close to observing the intricacies. There’s been times when my wife has spent a full day transforming our house from an embarrassing state to remarkably presentable. I usually come home with a courteous response like, “Have you seen my good jeans? I’m pretty sure they were sitting out with my stack of clothes.”
So much for the posture of gratitude and service. 

 

Be A Listener
Another requirement keeping me from being a Noticer is being an active listener! Naturally I blame this on my male makeup. (Another lesson for the aspiring Noticer, Don’t Make Excuses!) I honestly don’t know how women can listen, process and respond so efficiently. I obviously have much to learn. Baby steps.
This is why i write, it gives me opportunity to be an active listener, a delayed active listener. My wife would probably just say, “A delayed listener.” I write to hear; I write to process.

 

Be Selective
There’s far too many details to see and voices to hear. So decide where you need to put your focus. Seek out the credible sources on this topic and listen. See how the details of this topic play out in the intricacies of your life. Lately for me it’s been about Noticing the nature of creativity.
So currently on my nightstand are:
I’m currently listening to podcasts by Jeff Goins and Tim Ferriss.
This is just my selection for my personal life, I go through the same process in my profession. Trying to become a better teacher in one specific area at a time.

 

Being a Noticer is not only for teachers, it’s for anyone attempting to sift and discern through the current world.
The more I notice about education and faith, the more I realize humility is at the center. Here again it’s hidden under service and gratitude. To become a Noticer, one must first turn his eyes away from Self. The hard part is keeping it that way.

 

While I’m not a practicing expert as a Noticer, I’m hoping to offer some truth through my faults.
 
Peace in the listening

 

“Great Job” and Other Phrases Crippling Our Kids

I realize I have a horrendous habit of giving empty feedback to others. You might say I’m the big bright “Great Job!” sticker on the top of the test. I’ll give you a brief pick-me-up but am useless in terms of growth.
I often play riveting games of chance with my son. Games like Candyland and Trouble. He’ll roll a six and I’m always there with an “Awesome job buddy!” At least I used to be. No longer am I offering praise based on acts of luck, even when his needy eyes fall on me, seeking approval. I’ve taken the same stance as a teacher. I do my best to avoid an isolated “Great job” or “You’re awesome!”

 

People successful in relationship also succeed as encouragers. But it seems today we have a misconception of encouragement. We often compliment, thinking we’re offering encouragement. For example, the symbol of today’s society is the participation trophy.

 

We’re taught to “encourage one another and build each other up,” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Some translations of this same verse use the word edify which means to instruct or benefit. How did our acts of encouragement and building get confused with complimenting? Now we’ve opened up the runway for Entitlement to make its landing. Unfortunately Entitlement’s luggage, filled with perseverance and grit, has been lost somewhere on the other side of the world.  

 

“Great Job!”
The worst thing you could can say to a growing mind.
“Great Job!”
Two words said repeatedly as everyone receives a trophy for participation.
Giving someone undeserved recognition is a damaging act.

 

The receiver of this message is left to draw their own conclusions.
    “Man I’m awesome!”
    “Wow, people like me.”
    “Life’s all about luck, and boy do I have it today.”
    “I’ve arrived!”
Ephesians 4:29 says, ”Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
The phrase “Great job” does not benefit the receiver of these words unless it is followed by an affirmation, specific to the task. Like: Great job trying repeatedly until you figured it out. Great job using your resources to help you problem solve.
Said in isolation, any compliment is not helpful for building others up according to their needs. When I think of building I think of constructing something on a strong foundation. “Great job” lacks any foundation.

 

Much research on education points to feedback as being one of the most influential factors of student learning. This aligns with Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

 

May our words benefit those around us as we provide affirmation specific to their trials and accomplishments!

If you’re looking for more examples of my faulty responses to students, check out “Responding to Distractions: Shhh, Not Now!”