“Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding."
(Proverbs 4:7 NKJV)
Let’s face it-whether it’s teaching students in the classroom or raising kids in our home, it can be difficult work. Each student or child is so unique that the one size fits all formula to meet their academic and social needs will never work. In fact, it can leave a teacher, home educator, or parent extremely frustrated unless we learn the secret that helps us effectively meet the needs of our kids at specific times.
There is a lot of information available and “how-to” manuals on teaching students and raising kids. However, being armed with that material alone is not enough, unless we know how to use that knowledge in our daily interactions with our students and children. What am I referring to? What is this secret I’m alluding to? The secret is Wisdom.
Knowledge is the acquiring of information and facts. In this information age, knowledge is readily available. However, wisdom on the other hand is the application of that knowledge. It also involves knowing what to do and how to use the knowledge you have to solve a specific problem or meet a specific need.
How does this relate to teaching and raising children? Everything! As an educator, I went to college and graduate school to learn the basics of teaching: reading, writing, and arithmetic, classroom management techniques, etc. But, I still felt inadequate the first few years going into the classroom as a beginning teacher because I didn’t know how to apply what I learned well enough to meet the needs of the diversity of students in my classroom.
As parents, You may have read parenting books, watched DVDs on how to parent, etc, and still feel inadequate. Does experience help? Of course it does. Yet even with experience, we still can fall short of understanding how to meet the need of that shy toddler, insecure child, or rebellious teen.
This leads me back to that little secret again. Wisdom.
Let me share a personal illustration from my years in the classroom to help illuminate the benefits of wisdom. I remember one year early in my teaching career, I had a student in my class, Ted, who had some emotional and behavioral difficulties and struggled in reading. I learned to be very guarded around him because you never knew what might set him off.
On this particular day, I had asked the reading group I was teaching to read a short passage and answer a few comprehension questions. About 1-2 mins into the assigned independent activity, Ted bangs his hands forcefully on his desk, let’s out a loud grunt, gets up, walks to the back of the classroom, and starts rummaging through the container of markers on a shelf.
Next, Ted picks out the yellow marker he was looking for and stomps back to his desk. Then, he takes the yellow marker and starts to wildly highlight the entire worksheet with it. When he was done, he got up, put the marker back in its place and got back to work.
During this whole episode I had students giving me that frightened look like, “Here he goes again. What is he about to do now?” I got up to confront this odd and spontaneous disruption by Ted, which was typical, but something held me back from speaking. Instead, I softly prayed something to this effect, “Lord, here Ted goes again acting crazy and I don’t know what is causing him to act this way. Can you help me figure out how to handle this situation properly and help Ted right now?”
In an instant, I walked over to Ted, kneeled down, and didn’t respond in my usual manner, which was more aggressive and confrontational.
I gently asked, “Ted are you having a hard time seeing the words on the page?”
He immediately responded, “Yes!”
Then, I asked, “does that yellow marker you used to highlight the passage help you see the words better?”
He immediately replied, “Yes,” again and I could see the tension leave his body a bit.
“How about I see what I can do to make it easier on your eyes when you read and you can use that marker anytime you need to, ok?” Ted smiled and got back to work.
What did I learn from this situation? To be honest, I was shocked at my response to Ted. I knew Ted had some difficulty reading, but the question I asked him went right to the root of the frustration that prompted his aggressive behavior towards the reading task.
That was an answer to that prayer I sent up to heaven for help and God gave me wisdom to address it appropriately. I never would have thought initially that he was having a difficult time seeing the words on the white paper. I would have thought he was acting out again and avoiding the task, which was quite common for him.
I later went to the educational director and discussed the incident with her. She told me that for some kids, the black words on a white page can be hard for kids to read. They can get headaches, fatigue of the eyes, or the words may shake, reverse, or move around. One way to help this condition is to use colored overlays.
These colored overlays were basically pieces of different colored transparent plastic, similar to book report covers. When placed on top of a white background with black text, it reduces the visual distortions that many kids with dyslexia and reading disabilities have when reading.
The educational director had me test a few different colored overlays with Ted and we found the yellow tinted overlay, similar to the yellow marker he used, helped him tremendously and improved his reading frustrations significantly.
So, how do we teach students and raise kids with wisdom? First, we need to ask God for wisdom. James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking (NLT).” When we ask God for wisdom, like I did in the above scenario, scripture says he will give it to us liberally and pour out a generous offering. In essence, we can have as much of it as we would like and He will never get angry with us for seeking it out of Him.
Sometimes, we hit walls when teaching our students or raising children because we try to do it all ourselves with our limited resources. We can go so much farther, and I am a personal witness to this, when we ask the Creator for his wisdom. He then can put his “Super” on our “Natural” minds and give us creative and individualized solutions to the struggles that plague our students and kids. We miss out when don’t simply ask.
The second way to teach our students and kids with wisdom is to seek out wise counsel from experienced and seasoned educators and parents. In the scenario with Ted, I was still a new teacher with a lot of knowledge, but lacking in experience. After asking God for the wisdom to help Ted, and getting to the source of the frustration, it wasn’t until I went to the educational director of the school, that I found a better strategy to help Ted improve his reading long term. The educational director was was a 20+ year veteran teacher, working with students with learning disabilities, whom I greatly admired for her expertise in this area.
We have to learn to turn to people who have a proven track record in the area that we are seeking help. If not, we enter “the blind leading the blind” syndrome; never being able to help our students and children move past their areas of learning or social difficulties.
So, the next time you are faced with a situation beyond your ability to solve, whether in the classroom or at home, I challenge you to follow these 2 steps. First, ask God for wisdom to find the best solution and second, seek wise advice and see the results that follow.
Antoine McCoy is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher as an Exceptional Needs Specialist working with children with mild to moderate disabilities. He has taught children in all grade levels (K-12) in Public and Private Schools (general education, inclusion, and self-contained classes) and worked with homeschoolers.