Jesus in the Classroom

If I can’t say ‘Jesus’ in School, I’ll bring Him Instead

By Nicki Straza

Author of ‘Superhero In Me’ Curriculum

He stood in front of his classmates more serious than I had ever seen him.

In Johnny’s* hand was a small circular paper disk that seemed to have more significance than it ought. After eight weeks with him, my chest tightened as I was unsure of what would come out of his mouth.

The teacher turned a keener ear too.

“I am a bully,” he began. “You may not believe it [Ms. Nicki] but the rest of this class will tell you that this is true. After what you have taught in Superhero School about kindness,” he paused, clutching the paper disk closer, “and because I have confidence in me, I have decided that I don’t want to be that kind of person any more. I am going to change.” The class was silent and both the teacher and I fought back tears as we acknowledged the very real moment that had just transpired in this ordinary Grade 4 classroom.

Not once did I mention the name of Jesus in that classroom, but a small paper disk with a prayerfully written word of encouragement impacted a life. This has happened more times than I can count. The essence of transformation is not so much that we preach Christ, but that we live him. We are his light wherever we go in the marketplace. At Freedom House I have seen simple kindnesses impact lives and bring salvation and freedom for over 10 years. So when the need for a resource that addressed negative classroom culture in school became apparent, we began to strategize what that could look like.

Within a year, Superhero in Me was born.

Superhero in Me is an 8-week in-class workshop that explores the power that kids have to bring change into their world through simple acts of kindness, learning first of all that they have a seed of greatness within them that the world needs. We talk about the need to guard our heart and be intentional about the choices we make for our lives. We talk about how kindness can change us, change our home, change our classroom and even our city! We equip kids with the tools to find opportunities, to brainstorm and to put a kindness plan into action and experience first-hand how it feels to give and receive kindness. We watch over 8 weeks as the culture in a classroom changes from competitive to more collaborative and watch kids become superheroes empowered by the understanding that they truly can make a difference.

One class grabbed a hold of this idea so much that they took the ideas from our workshop brainstorm and put together a plan to raise money to buy a pump for a well in Africa. Their enthusiasm was so contagious that the whole school jumped on board to participate and they more than doubled their goal after just 3 weeks. This once highly competitive and critical grade 5 class learned to work together for a higher goal. The esteem that was built because of their accomplishments goes so much further than the typical “don’t be mean” anti-bullying strategy. A culture was impacted.

Self-esteem, confidence, empathy and altruism are nurtured through meaningful contribution and the resulting experience that comes from seeing one’s action produce positive effects. To be valued and, feel that they have something to contribute are two of the felt needs of our students. Superhero in Me meets these needs and invites them to be the same answer to their peers.

As a certified presenter, I committed myself to modeling what I teach. I spend most of the last session giving out personal affirmations I have prayerfully written out on small paper disks. Calling out the seeds of greatness I see in each child and encouraging them to make choices that nurture those seeds moving forward. Before we give them out our staff at Freedom House pray over the words of encouragement, declaring that those words would open hearts and homes to the light of Jesus Christ. From there it is up to the Holy Spirit to do what he does best – water a seed and bring it to harvest; because kindness leads to repentance. (Romans 4:2)

Does it work?

Ask Johnny* and his teacher.
*name changed to protect individual

The thank you card I received from Johnny*

The Grade 5 Class and their bucket of daily donations.

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