Recently, I was surprised to hear a student verbalize, “I don’t really feel like the teachers here are for us.” Given the interactions I had seen and been part of with this student, I knew that was not true. It was obvious that there was a “disconnect” in the communication process. So, I went on a quest to find a resource that could help me understand how to relate better to my students, and I discovered Sam Crabtree’s book Practicing Affirmation. This short, easy-to-digest book discusses affirmation through a spiritual lens and stands as a must-read for educators. This blog post begins a series on this concept of practicing affirmation in our classrooms.
Before we can begin, we must first define our terms. As Christians, when we speak of affirmation, we are not speaking of the worldly concept of building self-esteem. (We’ll talk about that in a later post.) We are speaking of, as Crabtree distills it, “truthfully declaring by complimentary word or action the goodness of something.” In other words, we are affirming the goodness of our students, more specifically, the goodness of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives since that is the only source of goodness in their lives.
Why should we take time to contemplate affirmation?
It satisfies the soul. If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we are all approval-junkies. Our students are no different. If we are going to meet their deepest needs, we need to grant them approval – of the right things.
God affirms. God approved his Son, not for what he did but for who he was: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.” God commended men of faith and approved them as righteous (Hebrews 11). Jesus affirmed Mary for her heart in Luke 10:38 -42.
It refreshes our students. Consider your own life. When someone affirms the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, is it not refreshing? Our students need that same kind of refreshment!
It opens our hearts and eyes to really see our students. Affirming students about the right things forces us to see beyond their behavior, their grades, or their attitude. We must really know our students.
Stay tuned to coming posts as we consider not just why we ought to affirm our students but what it is and how to do it Biblically and consistently in our classrooms.
For further reading: Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree ISBN 978-1-4335-2243-7