Practicing Affirmation (Part 2): What?

In the previous post in this series, we looked at why we should practice affirmation in our classrooms.  However, before we can begin to affirm our students, we need to make sure that we have a clear understanding of what affirmation is and what it is not.

 

Affirmation is NOT . . . building self-esteem.  Self-esteem results in a “yawning response” to the Gospel because it builds up self, thus lessening the need for God in our lives.  Affirmation builds God-esteem.

 

Affirmation IS . . . God-centered.   Affirmation gives God the rightful glory for all good.  Affirmation says, “I see the character of God in you.”

 

Affirmation is NOT . . . encouragement.  Encouragement is good and important, but it’s not affirmation.   Encouragement says, “You can do it.”  Encouragement gives hope and looks forward.  Affirmation looks back and says, “Do it like that again!”

 

Affirmation is NOT . . . flattery.  Affirmation doesn’t say, “You’re so good at math!” or “Boy, you’re talented.”  Affirmation says, “God has gifted you with a sharp mind for math!” or “I loved the way you used the talent God gave you to glorify Him in chapel today.  That’s exactly how He wants us to use our gifts!”

 

Affirmation is NOT . . . student-centered.  Affirmation doesn’t focus on what the student has done.  It focuses on what God, through the Holy Spirit, is doing in the student.  Affirmation says, “I see God working in your life.”

 

Affirmation is NOT . . . lowering standards.  It’s about commending incremental progress toward standards that reflect that character of Christ.

 

Affirmation IS . . . detached from correction.   The further an affirmation is from a correction, the more readily an affirmation can be heard by a student.  Affirming a student can’t be “a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.”

 

Affirmation IS . . . honest.  Don’t lie.  Don’t make it up.  Even the most challenging student is made in the image of God and can, therefore, be affirmed.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you find something to affirm, but never stretch the truth or patronize.

 

Affirmation IS . . . rooted in the Gospel.  The Gospel says, “You’re worse than you think you are, but God’s grace is greater than you ever imagined.”  Biblical affirmation says, “God is working in your life through the Gospel!”

 

Affirmation says, “To God be the glory!  Great things He has done!”

 

Are you affirming your students Biblically?

 

 

For further reading:  Practicing Affirmation  by Sam Crabtree  ISBN 978-1-4335-2243-7

Practicing Affirmation (Part 1): Why?

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