In my teacher education PROGRAM, I was taught that both nature and nurture determine a child's intellect and individuality. Nature includes genetic influences; nurture signifies environmental factors. Intelligence - though responsive to early environmental stimulation, parental responses, early nutrition, security, and the family's cultural and socioeconomic status - is still seen largely as a genetic given.
Through my study of Christian Science, I've learned to know children in a totally different way. And this has made a tremendous difference in my teaching. The first chapter of the Bible says God made each of us in the image and likeness of Himself/Herself. God is Spirit. So God, our Father and Mother, has given us a totally spiritual nature.
God also gave us dominion. That must include dominion over all the things that challenge us, even the alphabet or algebra. When St. Paul was teaching about God, he said, "In him we live, and move, and have our being;... For we are also his offspring" (Acts 17:28). We all have a divine Parent and a divine, spiritual inheritance. This idea is furthered in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, where the generic term man is defined in part as "that which has no separate mind from God; that which has not a single quality underived from Deity; that which possesses no life, intelligence, nor creative power of his own, but reflects spiritually all that belongs to his Maker" (pg. 475).
Each of God's children has a perfect, complete, spiritual nature. All capacity and competency have their origin in God. Each child has been created to witness to God in all that he/she does. Of course, it certainly doesn't always seem that way. Some children do have great trouble learning, and many do fail in school. But I've learned as a teacher how important it is to be clear about what I accept as spiritually true about any child.
It's often tough, but I pray and ask God to show me what He knows His child to be. I keep returning to that spiritual vision of the child, and then expect the child to be what God made: good and productive. Any performance to the contrary needs to be dealt with appropriately, while at the same time we recognize what really is true about that child's nature. This is a prayer-based expectancy of positive growth and development.
Children are tremendously responsive to our expectations; this is shown not only in academic progress but also in their sense of personal worth and value. When our expectancy is based on spiritual truth, we're not trying to manipulate or change a child. We are simply witnessing what already is.
Jesus told his disciples a Comforter would come and stay with them forever; this "Spirit of truth" would teach them all things, and guide them into all truth (see John 14:16, 17). That Comforter is here today, and still showing us the spirituality that enabled Jesus to heal. According to Science and Health, "Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness" (pg. 332). This is God's way of nurturing each of us.
Yes, children are sometimes in very difficult situations. They seem so vulnerable. When I get fearful for a child, it always helps me to remember that Christ, the divine message, is speaking directly to that child, communicating exactly what is needed, in a way that can be comprehended. God's active, one-to-one fathering and mothering doesn't require a certain age, language, or level of schooling to be understood. This influence can overrule any negative influence of hopelessness, whether it stems from family circumstances or literacy levels or any other of the many factors assumed to affect a child's development negatively. I know that I can trust the power and love of God to nurture and care for each child. I've felt that nurturing in my own life, so I know this is true.
We all have children in our lives - our own, or those in our neighborhood, or those in the world. Our children may be in news reports or magazine photos. Knowing that each child is actively, eternally, parented by God can lift us out of our negative assumptions, helping to free each to be the child God has made.