“Do Something. If it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t, do something else.”– Franklin D. Roosevelt

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When I posted this quote as a draft for a future  post, I didn’t think I’d be writing about this.  Some of you will identify and others may not, but this quote works very well as a philosophy of teaching for middle schoolers.  I teach 7th, 8th, and 9th grade in my Sunday School Class on Sunday morning.  I often leave the room after class wondering why in the world I keep doing this.  This age group is difficult at best in so many ways.  They are very conscious of themselves and how they fit or don’t fit into the world around them.  They are quick to point out when someone else doesn’t fit in.  They like to talk and prank each other and put their feet on the table and poke holes in milk cartons and anything else that pops into their mind.  —->(“Ah, that’s a good idea!  Oh, well maybe not.  Where are the paper towels?)

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I used to think these behaviors indicated boredom.  Nope, it just means they’re middle schoolers!  I can’t tell you how many times I have wondered if my presence in that room makes a difference or not, especially after a difficult hour of Jr. High hijinks.  Then one of them will say something that warms my heart and gives me the fuel I need to keep going.

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You see, while they act as if they do not hear a thing I say, they really listen (mostly).  Every once in a while, something will click with them and they’ll get an ‘aha’ moment that makes them think differently about something.  They love my SS class!  They love me.  I love these kids and my ministry with them.

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Back to my quote.  This is how it works:  I see a problem or a need and I try something with the class.  If it works, we keep doing it.  If it doesn’t work, I spend more time in prayer and contemplation and try something different.  Occasionally, something that has worked for a while stops working.  (This frequently happens in the new year when the group remixes as older ones leave and younger ones come in.)  Then the process begins again and I try new things, gauge how well they do or do not work, and readjust.

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This works in life too.  The only real failure is not trying at all.  If we see a problem or have a dream or whatever, and we try something.  If it doesn’t work, we abandon it (or put it on the back burner to try at another time) and try something else.  I personally expend a lot of prayer in the things I try in my class, and that helps.  I have pictures of my rugrats students up on my prayer wall in my bathroom to remind me to lift them up daily.   They face trials too and often don’t have the maturity to deal on their own.  When they come to me and ask me to pray for them or remind me to have our class prayer time,  I know something has worked.  When I see evidence of spiritual growth, I know something worked.

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However, this ‘try and try again’ attitude works on all things.  This has always been my philosophy of education and one reason I work well with non-traditional or special needs students (and middle schoolers).  If they can’t learn like others, you try something.  If it works, you keep doing it.  If it doesn’t work, you  try something else.  Sooner or later you will hit the ‘aha’ moment with each child that lets a little of the light of education into their lives.

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How does this quote work in your life?  Do you keep trying different things?  Do you give up if the first thing doesn’t work?  Do you allow discouragement to drag you down when you’re still in the ‘try something else’ stage?  Is there a time in your life when you can see that trying something new actually worked?  

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If only we would remember this when we get into a reactionary rut with the spouse, kids, friends, others.  If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got. 🙂  (definition of insanity)   If something isn’t working, don’t look to place blame on others.  You can’t change them, but you can change you and how you respond.  Often changing our response to others in certain situations makes all the difference in the outcome.  It at least makes a difference in us and how we think about the situation.

So get out there and try something new!        {and here’s a peek at some of my class 🙂 }

Christian Soldiers Sunday School Class

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