So, the school year ended about 3 weeks ago and I finally think I’m ready to blog about it. Actually there were many moments throughout the year that I wanted to just sit down and write, but I opted out mainly because I am always conflicted about the ethics of writing about my students while they are still my students. Is it moral? Is it ethical? Is it safe? Honestly, I don’t know any of those answers so I just don’t do it. Sadly, this often means my poor husband hears my stories probably more often that he would like. He indulges me though.
I just finished my 13th year of teaching and it has been the most challenging and difficult professional year of my teaching career. Coincidence on the 13th year thing? I’m not really superstitious so I’ll say yes. Anywho, why was this year so difficult? Sadly it solely had to do with the terrible home lives these kids had. I am used to having a couple of kids with hard lives at home each year. They are the ones who get more of my attention, patience, and prayers and this is normal…however this past year there were just too many. I had students with both parents and siblings in prison, drugged out moms, suicidal moms, violent moms, and even a couple with thoughts of ending their lives because things seemed too hopeless for them at the young age of 10. I witnessed the most horrific swollen black eye I have ever seen in my life – including anything I’ve seen in the movies, and I saw the horror in 30 something ten year olds when they too saw the injustice of such violence and had to process how in the world something like that happens. Several of them already knew.
My heart is heavy just recounting the memories! Most days I was filled with exhaustion and although I wanted to cry my eyes out, I pulled myself together for the sake whatever learning was to happen that day. And some days, to my surprise, we learned.
Through all of this God taught me some valuable lessons.
Lesson 1: Although the world calls me a teacher, I am really a missionary. I am a light in a dark place and quite often the only light those little lives see. Because of this I need to make sure my words are kind and my tone is compassionate. I have to come in to work fully equipped with all that is in me so that I can be teacher/parent/nurse/psychologist/mentor/encourager/whatever it is I will need to be that day. I need to show Jesus in my actions and preach a message of hope that says, “You can rise above this! Whatever life is like at home, that does not have to define who you are or who you will become.”
Lesson 2: I believe in a God who is mighty and powerful and in control of the world around me. I have seen God do amazing things and have faith that he will continue to do those things. Because of this, I have faith that He is watching over these kids – He is ultimately in control and I can find comfort in that. I am not expected to fix every life – but I can plant seeds of hope and offer words of encouragement. I have to give the rest to Him.
Lesson 3: My work place is my mission field. I should not feel guilty if I don’t have the energy to help out in other mission fields. If I can – great; if I can’t, it is okay to say no (Why is it so hard to say “no?”).
So, why am I telling you all of this? I’m not writing this for you to impart sympathy toward me – in reality, my classroom is one room, in one school, in one city, in one county, in one state, in one very well-off country of the world. Can you imagine what it must be like in other places? How many children are suffering in the world? I’m afraid we cannot begin to imagine. I am writing this to encourage you to do a couple of things though. First off, if you know a teacher, pray for him/her. A lot. Like every day. Sometimes our work days are overwhelmed with the ugliness of the world and quite frankly we could use the support. Second, if you not only know a teacher, but are related to one or close friends, ask him/her for specific students that you can pray for. Those kids need lots of prayers for lots of different reasons. Commit to praying for just one student in one classroom in one school in your city. Maybe that one kid is the one who will change the world.