“Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.” –Charles Dickens
Our sixth power tool is body language. We all have it. We all use it. We all have sadly, through body language, expressed, so loudly our own anxiety or frustration that the children miss our words. “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson.
My teacher had a special way of teaching. She could communicate as much with her body language as she did with her words. I learned a lot about what is important from watching her. On April 8, 1968 Mrs. Fobes, who was also the principal of the school, left our classroom to answer her office phone.
As she returned, I looked up and our eyes met. Without a word I understood. Her eyes reached across the room and looked into my heart. Her kind sad gentle nod was all I needed.
I closed my book; I gathered up my things and I met her at the door. She held me quietly for a moment. My mother had died that afternoon while I sat doing 6th grade math. My teacher understood that to speak those words out loud would make it too real. Her willingness to not use words spoke volumes to me of her love and sympathy. Her kindness gave me courage to face the truth of what was waiting for me at home.
The Bible says, “Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.” John 13:35(The NET Bible) Teachers are many times so focused on what we want to say, controlling our classroom, or the next thing on our agenda that we miss opportunities to communicate our personal concern and God’s unconditional love. Even in the middle of the class, the most disruptive child is especially in need of knowing they are valuable and loved.
Body language can express approval or disapproval. It can demean and distract from the lesson or help to emphasize the very truths you long to teach. Be careful to love the child you are bringing back to attention. Nothing will convince a child that even God can’t love them, more than a teacher expressing anger or disapproval toward them because of their behavior.
I like to stop the lesson and ask the child a question lovingly. I stoop for a small child; I smile and lean toward an older child. I widen my eyes as I whisper in a conspiratorial voice, just loud enough for all to hear, “And do you know what happened next?”
Learning to separate what a child does from who they are helps them understand that they can change; loving discipline will go far to communicate God’s love to the entire class. Never underestimate the power of your body language as you communicate the message of God’s love.