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Those Juniors, Part 21: Steps to Success

by Eric B. Hare

Last week: A big part of being a teacher or a parent is discipline. Children need consistent, persistent discipline; not unfair, not given in anger; but discipline that will actually punish and make an impression on them.

Classroom Disturbances
Johnny came to Sabbath school all out of sorts and with a pocketful of chocolates. He passed them around, and while Bill was standing up, he pulled Bill’s chair away, with riotous results. I am the teacher. What shall I do?

“What shall I do? What shall I do?” echo thousands of voices of thousands of teachers confronted with thousands of problems. Well, let us do something and see how it works. First, let us bawl him out right then and there. “John, enough of this now. I won’t put up with another thing. Give me those chocolates. Fancy a boy twelve years old having no more sense than to bring chocolates to Sabbath school. Now put Bill’s chair back and sit up there. One more disturbance from you and out you go. I won’t have a good-for-nothing, disrespectful, chocolate-eating little baby boy in my class.”

It hasn’t taken much thought to let loose this mouthful of impulsive irritation. The words came out easily enough, but they have not done any good. John has lost face with his buddies. I haven’t drawn him any nearer to me; nor have I gone up any in his estimation. He might do it again just to dare me. He might go out, and he might not come back again. Well then, what should I do?

No, I don’t know all the answers to every problem; each one has to be thought out. But I do know that when a teacher sends Johnny out, the teacher is admitting defeat. He has come to his end; his white flag has gone up. And I also know that every solution to a classroom disturbance will be born of preparedness and be formed around the principle DO. Give Johnny something to DO.

You might send Johnny on a small errand to ask the superintendent something you already know, and when he comes back, you will be sitting in his seat next to Bill, and the only place for him to sit is next to you.

If it is during class recitation you might hand Johnny a piece of chalk and ask him to please stand at the board and write down the point you are making. You might even keep him there waiting to record the next point. You might have Johnny stand beside you and hold up a picture you have brought. You might have a Bible dictionary handy and ask Johnny to hunt up a certain fact.

Oh, yes, he could point to some place on the map, read a text, or a quotation, and very frequently something to do will redirect the energy and bridge over the gap and enable you to go through to the end of the Sabbath School hour. It is quite evident that it is not sufficient to go to Sabbath school hoping for the best; we must also go prepared for the worst.

However, we are not finished with Johnny yet. Too many teachers stop right here and have the same thing to meet over and over again with mounting embarrassment. No, indeed, we are not finished yet. We are going to plan a personal, private interview with Johnny sometime before next Sabbath. As everything depends on this interview, it must be planned, thought through, and prayed through. Here is the formula for this all-important interview. It is patterned after Christ’s own dealings with men, and has been proved successful by thousands of leaders and teachers.

  1. Admit that you also are not perfect.
  2. Praise that which is good.
  3. Show how the fault is spoiling the picture of the man he wants to be, and how easily it can be corrected.
  4. Show the reward for overcoming the fault.

Let us consider these suggestions separately:

Admit that you are not perfect. Christ came down to earth and took our flesh upon Him, in order to save us. “Come unto Me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,”1 sounded different when spoken from our own level, and has found its way into the hearts of men all through the years. Missionaries in all lands have demonstrated that charity dangled from a pedestal is not what hungry hearts long for, and the man that has had to leave his beautiful home and come to this awful place “to help you poor people” often goes home disappointed and fruitless, while the man who learns to speak their language and eat their food, and can say “we”—oh, he’s different.

There came a day in Father Damien’s life in Molokai when he stood before his unfortunate congregation and said, “We lepers.” After that how different, how powerful, were his words and life. So when we talk to Johnny we are going to get down off our pedestal and admit that we, too, are just common clay; that when we were Johnny’s age we often did things that caused our teachers embarrassment and that bring shame and remorse to our hearts to remember. This puts us on the same level, on common ground, and then we are ready for the next step.

Praise that which is good. Can’t you feel the lift that came to Nathanael, who was so skeptical that he doubted whether any good thing could ever come out of Nazareth, when Jesus said, “Behold an Israelite, indeed, in whom is no guile!”2 You or I might have been tempted to call him a disbelieving Jew, but Jesus continually looked for the good in a person and built upon it.
In the unfortunate girl taken in adultery all that the Jews saw was one guilty of death. Jesus saw that it was not all her fault. He saw that she was repentant, that she had a kind heart, and He said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”3

Jesus detected the wonderful faith in the heart of the Syrophoenician woman whom the disciples looked upon as a dog. It was Jesus who saw the won’t-be-beaten earnestness in the heart of Zacchaeus, the despised taxgatherer. It was so much the habit of Jesus to look deliberately for the best in the worst of men that legend tells us He was shown the rotting carcass of a dog one day and asked whether there could be anything good to say about that. He replied, “What beautiful white teeth!”

No one is all bad. “There is so much good in the worst of us.”

“Teachers . . . must study Christ’s lessons and the character of His teaching. They must see its freedom from formalism and tradition, and appreciate the originality, authority, spirituality, tenderness, benevolence, and practicability of His teaching. Those who would make the Word of God their study, those who dig for the treasures of truth, will themselves become imbued with the Spirit of Christ, and by beholding they will become changed into His likeness.”4

When we go to talk to Johnny we are going to think of some of the good things he has done and the talents he has, and we are going to mention them, too.

Show how the fault is spoiling the picture of the man he wants to be. Of course, there are many things that we want Johnny to be, but let us forget those things. He is not interested in the things we want. Away down deep in Johnny’s heart is a picture of the man he wants to be. The picture may be dim and undeveloped, but he is very much interested in that man; so let us switch over to his viewpoint and talk about the things he wants. Doctor, preacher, missionary, streetcar conductor, or airplane pilot, Johnny wants to be a good one—one who has self- control, who is co-operative, who is respectful, who has a good influence on those around him; and the whole difference between a good one and a poor one is self-control. Of course, he doesn’t want the lack of self-control to spoil the picture of the man he wants to be, and right there we can show him how very easy it is to “put the screws on,” and then when he is all happy about not losing face with the “guys,” we take the next step.

Show the reward for overcoming the fault. It will help you. It will give him such a satisfied feeling. His class will be the best class in the school, etc. Let us notice these distinct steps in one of the personal interviews Jesus wrote to the seven churches.

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write;”

Step 2—“I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted.”

Step 3—“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.”

Step 4—“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”5

Surely the rebuke is all there, but first comes the commendation, and there follows such a reward that men and women all over the world are still repenting and returning to their first love. Read down through the praise, the rebuke, the reward, given to each of the other churches, and then let us go and interview Johnny.

(Next week: “Winding Them Up Right.”)

1. Matt. 11:28.
2. John 1:47.
3. John 8:11.
4. Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 160.
5. Rev. 2:1-7.

Copyright © 1973 by Eric B. Hare. Used by permission.

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