Vol. 7, No. 12
Priscilla's Page *Editor's Note*
~ Page 16 ~
In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about the success of children in the schools. Most parents want their children to receive a good education in order to be successful in life. Teachers also want children in their classrooms to do well. The question then arises, "How do we help children reach their full potential and learn all they can?"
The first thing parents, teachers and even children need to understand is that everyone can learn. Life is a learning process. Babies learn to get the attention of adults. As children grow, they learn to feed themselves, dress themselves, walk and talk. Each of these events is an area of learning. Just like children do not all begin to walk or talk at the same age, children do not all learn to read, write and do arithmetic at the same age. Anyone can learn. The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." All things include the ability to learn.
Next, consider that not everyone has the same ability to learn. While everyone is capable of learning, not everyone can be a rocket scientist. The parable told by Jesus in Matthew 25:14-30 is a good example of this principle. In this illustration, a man divides his goods among his servants in preparation for taking a long journey. The key verse for our purposes is verse 15. It reads, "And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey." Notice the phrase "according to his several ability." The servants were not given the same responsibility, but were given jobs based on what was possible for them to handle. In the same manner, children have different capacities for knowledge and application of that knowledge in a specific area. For example, a child with an IQ of 60 will be very concrete in his thinking. An abstract concept like algebra or physics may be very difficult for him to grasp, but he may excel in work where he can use his hands to build or fix things.
Since children are different in their ability to learn, it is important that parents and teachers do not compare children or place unreasonable expectations on them. Remember that each child is unique in his abilities. When comparisons are made, children may feel that they are not good enough or cannot do anything right. Constant bombardment with messages bearing expectations a child cannot personally achieve hurts self-esteem and can lead to poor achievement. Expectations set beyond a child's ability set him up for failure. Repeated failure can lead also to poor self-esteem.
Expectations that are too low can also be a problem. When nothing is expected, nothing is the result. Children who are told they cannot learn or do a certain task begin to think they are unable to take care of themselves or achieve anything meaningful on their own. Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 instruct fathers to "provoke not your children" to wrath or anger. The verse in Colossians states that to do so will discourage them; Ephesians includes nurturing and admonishing as a better method of raising a child. When expectations are unreasonable or children are treated differently when compared to others, the parent or teacher is in danger of provoking the child to wrath.
Whether in the classroom or the home, children can learn and achieve. It is not always easy for either a child or adults who are trying to help. There is no one way to help all children. Each adult and child must work together to find the best way for the unique person God created. Below are a few practical suggestions that can be applied at home or possibly in the classroom.
Offer praise and encouragement liberally. Adults like to hear they have done a job well, and children are no different. Praise even small steps toward a goal. Simple rewards like stickers, the child's choice of a movie or dinner one night, or a special outing can make a big difference. We are all hoping to hear the ultimate praise from Jesus and receive the greatest of rewards, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: . . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (Matthew 25:21).
Break large jobs into small, manageable tasks. A new skill may seem overwhelming when looking at the big picture. Simplify the steps and work at mastering one step at a time. Jesus did not teach the disciples everything at one time. His lessons began with simple messages and increased in difficulty as the disciples were ready to understand it. Compare the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 with teachings of the destruction of Jerusalem and Judgment Day in Matthew 24-25. Some of the material was even given after Jesus went back to heaven (John 14:26).
Teach good study habits. Second Timothy 2:15 states, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Parents need to show children how to study the Bible. Good study habits include a planned time, an area free from distraction and focus on the task at hand. Teach children that just like Bible study time needs to be structured and organized, school related study times should be structured and organized as well. Both types of study should be done to the best ability of the individual. When children see a skill can be used in more than one area of life, the skill is reinforced and is often easier to maintain. Classroom teachers can also plan study time and teach study skills.
Become familiar with the child's learning style. There are a couple of different theories about learning styles. Each has its own name and different learning styles. The principle is basically the same. Children and adults do not all learn in the same way. One child may do well listening to lectures while another child may understand better when he can practice a skill repeatedly. Some learn best when they see illustrations and others learn by associating music. Not all styles of learning can be easily accommodated in a classroom. However, teachers can be creative and use a variety of teaching methods to help meet the needs of each student. Parents can use the learning style of a child when assisting with homework or other learning activities.
Make use of available resources. Many of the new textbooks have websites designed for the students to use as an additional source for reteaching, practice or challenge work. There are several agencies available for tutoring, assessing needs and providing general help for parents, students and teachers. The Internet also provides numerous sites offering ideas as well as support for teachers and parents. Local libraries, guidance counselors and phonebooks are good places to start looking for these sources of help.
Whatever you choose to do, be consistent. Both in the classroom and the home, children need to know the boundaries and the consequences for breaking those boundaries. Children need to know that they are loved no matter what they do. Inconsistent enforcement of schedules, boundaries and consequences can erode the feeling that they matter in the lives of the adults. It can lead to conflict and inhibit effective learning. Throughout the Bible, God demonstrates limits and consequences. God keeps his promises (2 Peter 3:9). The best thing we can do for our children is to do the same (i.e., keep our promises).
Successful children do not just happen. Proverbs 22:6 states, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Moses instructed the Israelites to teach their children at each and every opportunity (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Parents who are actively involved in their child's education and who work with the teachers will promote positive educational achievement. Teachers who use every offered resource, including willing parents, will realize a successful teaching environment. Children who participate in making decisions for their education will be better invested and more likely to succeed. Successful children are the result of hard work from the parents, teachers and students. The most successful accomplishments will include God through the Bible as the guide.