My Peanut Butter and Mustard Theory: Student-Teacher Relationships

Peanut Butter is great on a sandwich.

Mustard is also great on a sandwich.

But on the same sandwich?


Not a good combination.

In my years as a teacher, consultant, and mother, I’ve discovered that teacher-student relationships are very much like sandwiches…

Sometimes, we have peanut butter and jelly years…The student’s personality fits well with the teacher’s temperament. They complement one another. The student thrives, and the teacher shines. Meaningful learning  takes place.

And sometimes, we have peanut butter and mustard years…The student and the teacher, both fine, worthy people, each with unique talents and interests, just don’t make a great pairing. Learning still happens, but it’s not as palatable or pleasant.

Those peanut butter and mustard years can be really hard…especially when some people you know are talking about how fabulous the teacher is, and what a great year their kids are having.

It’s also difficult when someone says, “OH…your child has Mrs. Jelly? That’s too bad. We had the WORST year with her…”

And then it’s a delightful surprise when Mrs. Jelly is just exactly what your little peanut needs…and you have a fabulous year.

Of course, there are those rare times when a combination can be toxic, and the sandwich needs to be quickly remade to prevent illness. Those times call for wisdom, discernment and proactive communication.

Usually, though, we can tolerate a peanut butter and mustard year, by focusing on what is good and fortifying, and just learning to swallow (or throw out) the rest.

It’s important to remember  that nothing is bad about either peanut butter OR mustard…It’s just that together, they’re  not a great combination. Peanut Butter and Mustard are both unique creations…valuable and versatile and worthy.

Wishing you lots of peanut butter and jelly years, along with the ability to swallow–and grow from–a bite of peanut butter and mustard now and then.


Solutions: Finding Devotional Materials for Teens with Special Needs

Please meet my friend and colleague, Kelly Norville.


Kelly serves as Special Needs Ministry Coordinator at Christ Community Chapel in Hudson, OH…and she does it with passion, energy, and exceptional care. (and a great sense of humor as well.) Every time I’m with Kelly, I learn something new and useful. If you are in Northeast Ohio, you MUST pay her a visit!

One of the things I love about ministry work is brainstorming with other ministry leaders. When we work together, we are almost certain to land on a solution that will meet the needs of our students and their families. SO, when Kelly emailed last week, I was thrilled to brainstorm a solution with her!

The situation: Kelly was doing some planning for students in her program, and wanted to find some devotional materials for teen girls with special needs.

The solution: We brainstormed some possibilities that would fit the interests and needs of the kids with whom she is ministering. Below are some of our favorites:

soulsurferSoul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton. This might be appealing because it is written by Bethany Hamilton…a real person who is not much older than some of the kids in the program. They could also watch the movie, “Soul Surfer,” which could aid in  comprehension and provide context. (book from Joni and Friends, $15)

parables10 Minute Parables  These are short lessons, which may be helpful teens who have difficulty sustaining attention. Some students will need a clear, concise explanation of how parables are a simple way to understand complicated topics. This series is designed specifically for teens, so those who have difficulty with comprehension, or who are functioning on a more concrete level will benefit from pre-teaching and reviewing. (Group Publishing, $6.99)

10 Minute Moments: The Basics  This is another Group resource…I like that it works through the book of John, because that is such a foundational book. In addition, when material is presented as solid, basic, truth, (as in this resource) it makes understanding intangible concepts (like faith!) much easier for kids with autism.

ChurchEditionVolume1_largeWhat’s In the Bible Series. Bear with me here…I know this series seems like it’s very elementary-friendly…it IS designed for kids. HOWEVER…the humor and language move quickly, so it absolutely appeals to older kids (and adults, too.) Proof: I had “kids “in my family room ranging in age from 5 – 22 who were all watching this last Christmas…and LOVING it.) This series is designed by Veggie Tales creator, Phil Vischer. There are companion downloads, coloring pages, and music, in addition to a full curriculum. (my friend and colleague, Amy Dolan served on the curriculum team!) This would be a fabulous resource for students who need repetition, respond well to music, and also for those for whom video is a preferred method of learning. Finally, this is one of my favorite resources in terms of helping kids understand God’s story as a whole, not just as isolated stories.
(Jelly Fish Labs, DVDs start at $14.99; Curriculum starts at $79.00; also available; music, digital downloads, web resources and more!)

The 13 Most Important Bible Lessons for Teenagers. I like this for the same reasons that I like the What’s in the Bible series…it’s good meat-and-potatoes, presented as FACT. In addition, Group’s lessons include drama and hands-on materials designed to make the lessons relevant to each learner’s needs. (Group Publishing, $21.99)

BelieveitornotBelieve it or Not Bible Studies. This is one of those out-of-the-box type of studies that captures some kids who have a fascination with the interesting and obscure. Definitely a different way to go (and I can think of a few teen boys who would really get into this…a whole chapter on Jesus’ spit? Cool!)
 Group Publishing, $16.99

GodOurFatherGod Our Father  Friendship Ministries is always a good, solid resource. This publisher breaks down information into very manageable portions. Many of the resources in this series are designed for folks with cognitive disabilities. If kids need really straightforward information, stated in simple terms, this would probably be helpful. Materials include music on CD, leaders’ guides, and take-home papers. Also in this series…Jesus Our Savior; Spirit Our Helper
Faith Alive Resources/Friendship Ministries, CD: $12.49; Leader’s packet: $85.99; Youth Take-Home Papers: $26.49

As with any solution…there’s no “one-size fits all…” Hopefully these resources will spark an idea that will meet the needs of the teens in your programs!

Do you have materials that have worked wonderfully with teens? Leave a message or tell me here .

Happy Monday!

Why the “No Candy Letter” lady makes me disappointed…with myself

Apparently, a woman from Fargo, North Dakota, has decided that she’ll dole out a little tough love on Halloween. Oh, she plans to give candy to some of the kids who knock at her door. But to others, she’ll give this letter, with instructions to hand it to their parents:
Halloween Letter

When I heard about this, my blood began to boil. I simply don’t believe in publicly humiliating children.

It’s tricky to dole out treats when we waste time trying to figure out who’s worthy, and who’s too fat.

And then I started thinking about how I might be more like the No Candy Letter lady than I thought.

How many times have I made assumptions about someone based on outward appearance? How often do I make sure that only I give the “treats” with which I’ve been entrusted…my knowledge, my time, my energy and resources…to those who I deem worthy? When did I last I go out of my comfort zone to invite people into our home, our church, our lives?

And that’s not all.

How many times have I spoken about something that was none of my business, just because I believed that I had all the answers? Which of my neighbors or acquaintances might need my help, rather than my judgment or my opinion? Whose behavior have I  dismissed as annoying…or pathological…when it’s a cry for attention, or support, or acceptance?

That lady said she’s disappointed in her village. I’m disappointed in me.

Who can see the Light of the World when it’s being blocked by layers of No Candy Letters?

Instead of judging, I could try listening.
Instead of scoffing, I could offer a tissue. Or a casserole. Or a hug.
Rather than making assumptions, I could build a relationship, and find out the whole story…and learn how I can help.
Instead of a No Candy Letter, I can generously dole out sweets on Halloween…and organize a hike or a game of kickball or an afternoon of jumping in the leaves…and invite my neighbors to share a meal.

From now on, I won’t be wasting time deciding who is good enough.
I’ll be too busy loving my neighbors.

Photo courtesy The Atlantic