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The Perfect Misfit

Gordon and Becki West

Take a fresh look at kids who don't quite fit in -- and the amazing gifts they bring to your classroom.

"How would you like to be a spotted elephant or a choo-choo with square wheels on your caboose or a water pistol that shoots jelly?" ask the residents of the Island of Misfit Toys in Romeo Muller's classic, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

During their adventure, Rudolph and his friends land on this island where the unwanted toys of the world live. King Moonracer, the island's ruler, searches the entire earth every night for toys that little girls and boys don't want. He then keeps the "different" toys on the island until someone loves them. These toys serenade visitors with the all-too-real song of unloved ones: "We're on the Island of Misfit Toys. Here we don't want to stay."

As those who minister to children, we all know and hurt for kids who are misfits. But just as Santa and the other residents of Christmastown discover, misfits can make unique and wonderful contributions to our lives and classrooms.

Each child is wired by God to make a unique contribution to the world. So let's look for the blessing each child brings to our small group dynamics, discussions, activities, and ministries. Perhaps you have one or two of these characters in your classroom.

Comet, the Celestial Bible Scholar

On the first day of reindeer school, Comet is the adult reindeer who teaches the younger deer everything about flying and becoming bucks. He's also who decides Rudolph doesn't measure up to the expectations and announces, "We won't let Rudolph join in any reindeer games."

Misfit: It's often the pastor's son, the Sunday school superintendent's daughter, or the home-schooled child who's the Bible scholar. This child's overwhelming Bible knowledge, coupled with a willingness to passionately share his convictions, can be downright intimidating for the other kids -- and you.

Perfect Fit: You don't always have to be right, so don't worry about this child correcting the details of your lesson once in a while. Instead, enjoy his passion for knowledge. This child can add interesting facts to any discussion and with your help can come up with thought-provoking questions that'll help other learners apply the lesson to their lives. In an era of biblical illiteracy, allow this child to set the pace.

The Authoritarian Head Elf

It's the elf boss who writes a new song for Santa, teaches the other elves their parts, and then informs the tenor section that it's weak. He yells at Hermey, who doesn't want to be an elf, and he's never satisfied with anyone's performance.

Misfit: Every classroom seems to have one child who fills the authoritarian role. She's the perfect child who really does know exactly what's supposed to happen and when. She just takes it too far.

Perfect Fit: The perfectionist child, if directed correctly, will go far because she holds such lofty standards for everyone -- including herself. She'll help your classroom stay on track and support you when you enforce the rules (or challenge you when you're the transgressor). She's a great asset for a substitute and makes a precise time keeper to help you stay on schedule.

Santa Claus, the Class Clown

Okay, some may take exception with calling this guy a clown, but let's face it. He's a grown man who wears a full-length, bright-red costume complete with a pointed hat, and he walks around yelling, "Ho! Ho! Ho!" while other people are trying to sleep. Don't you have one of these in your ministry?

Misfit: We've all either been the class clown or have known one. It's not only this person's insatiable need to be the focus of your class that bugs you, it's also that he's truly funny. The "clown" in your classroom has made a lifelong attempt to be recognized for his humor, so he's gotten pretty good at it.

Perfect Fit: God has a wonderful sense of humor. (He made the hippo, remember!) And kids learn best when the synapses in their brains fire during positive emotions. Instead of merely putting up with this child, engage in the joy he brings to your lesson. Have a good belly laugh and move on. Let your classroom be one where smiles are contagious. Let the class clown help you lighten up.

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