Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Show, Don't Tell


I spent much of last week hooked up to a microphone on a stage at church telling 50 kids about God’s love nightly.  I recited Bible verses, acted out skits, told stories, reiterated Bible points, and literally shouted about the power of God’s love for five nights in a row.  In my role, I may not have gotten as much one-on-one time with the kids as I prefer, but no one can deny that I told them about God’s love, over and over.

My time in the spotlight is short-lived each summer at Vacation Bible School.  In a few weeks, I’ll be back to my day job: classroom teacher.  There’ll be no microphone or stage, there’ll be about half as many kids in the “audience,” and nobody is going to write the script for me.  Perhaps the most obvious difference will be in the content.  I’ll be trading my Bible for a math textbook and a pile of novels.

In elementary school writing class, there’s a technique we teach called, “Show, Don’t Tell.”  The strategy lies in word choice when students are revising their papers.  For example, instead of writing, “He was mad,” we encourage students to write, “His face was red and his arms were crossed.” Rather than saying, “I was excited,” we might suggest, “My heart was about to burst out of my chest as I jumped up and down.”  As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

As a teacher in a public school, I won’t be outright telling my students about the power of God’s love in a few weeks the way I did on that stage at church.  I won’t be as much as whispering those Bible points that I belted out over and over last week until I heard them in my sleep.  But you better bet they’re engrained in me, and my prayer is that they’ll shine through as I show God’s love to my students this year.

Last week, I shouted, “God has the power to provide!” By the end of the month, I’ll be digging through Staples bags, closets and file cabinets to make sure every student has the supplies they need.  In a couple of months, I’ll be asking the cafeteria lady to subtract that kid’s lunch from my account because I can’t stand to watch him eat another voucher meal until his parents pay his tab.  And pretty soon I’ll be saying, “Of course you can still go on the field trip whether your mom can send the money or not.  We’ll work it out.”    

Last week, I repeated over and over, “God has the power to comfort!”  This school year, I’ll hand out more hugs, tissues, Band-aids and pieces of advice than anyone could count.  Ten-year-olds have grown-up problems these days and while I should be used to the tears and the stories from home by now, I’m not.  They still break my heart every time.  But that little corner by my desk will always be a safe place where they can tell me. 

Last week, I convinced those kids, “God has the power to heal!” I believe that He does but I also believe He calls us to help.  I’ll teach those kids what it means to offer a kind word, a pat on the back, or a helping hand.  That’s how the healing begins. 

Last week, I told those kids with certainty, “God has the power to forgive!” My students will have that same certainty that I’ll forgive them, over and over when necessary…because it’s “when,” not “if.”  It doesn’t matter what kind of day you had yesterday when you walk through the door to my classroom.  Today is a new day and I’ll greet them with a smile that proves it, the same way my God does for me each morning.  

Last week, I closed with, "God has the power to love us forever!"  While I may not know my students personally forever, I pray that they’ll forever remember what their time in my classroom felt like.  I hope they remember the math and the reading, but so much more, I hope they remember what it felt like to be loved.  I may not be able to tell them where that love comes from, but I’ll surely try to show them. 

Actions speak louder than words.  I’m counting on it.

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