Perhaps my saving grace

Even though I no longer have my beautiful 7th period Scripture class from last year, I think they may be my saving grace this year.  I’m not ruling out falling in love with all of my classes this year (although, admittedly, I think I have discovered on the first day the class that will be the most difficult to love), but with my students from last year, there is no need to win their approval–I already have it.  One of them stopped by twice today, pretending he was in my class again this year.  Two stood in my doorway after school to ask about my summer and told me they planned to say “hi” everyday after school.  I’ve seen a few in the halls and many have greeted me with big smiles.

I’m human.  I enjoy being liked and accepted for who I am.  As I start the process of learning the dynamics of new classes and new students, I am enjoying the chance to still bask in the glories of my hard work from last year.  The Lord truly blessed me and is continuing to show me those blessings.  The Lord must know I will need that grace for this upcoming year.

What is your withered hand?

“How are we each like the man with the withered hand?”

It was seventh period and my students were, as usual, talkative and eager to laugh with their fellow students.  We are in the midst of learning about the Gospel of Mark and today found us reviewing the story of the man with the withered hand.

One of the goals I have for my Scripture classes is to convince them that this is the Living Word of God and that it should be impacting their lives now.  I tell them that Jesus desires to speak to each of us, today, in this very moment, through events that happened and were written about a couple thousand years ago.

“How are we each like the man with the withered hand?”

It was a rhetorical question and I continued on with one of my little preaching sessions.  The man had a disfigured hand and yet Jesus asked the man to come before the crowd of people and stretch out his hand.  This requires a deep trust that Jesus will be gentle and that He can heal.  The part that the man most wanted to hide from other people, Jesus was asking the man to openly show to Him.

The words seemed to flow naturally from my mouth as I asked them to consider what part of them Jesus desires to heal.

“Perhaps you don’t have physical disabilities.  Jesus wants to provide emotional, spiritual, mental healing.  What if Jesus called you in front of the crowd and asked you, “How is your relationship with your mom?”  Or if He asked you, “How did you feel when your friend betrayed you?”  Jesus wants to come to you in the midst of your brokenness and heal you.  Christ desires complete wholeness for us.”

As I said these words, I was looking at them and their solemn little faces spoke of hurts that I will never know or understand.  Faces that a few minutes before were laughing, now would quickly drop their eyes when mine would rest on their face.  I told them that Jesus desires to heal them.  That whatever part of them they most want to hide from Jesus, is the place He most wants to come.

It was, I believe, a moment of the Holy Spirit working through me.  The room had a stillness to it that revealed an attentiveness that went beyond the typical atmosphere for notes or theological discussions.  I could feel the weight of the room and the weight of the Holy Spirit.  In the momentary pause before I continued on with notes, I thought briefly, “I love talking about healing.”  It was never something I had thought before, but I knew it to be true.  There is a certain life that fills me when I am able to speak about the transforming effect that Christ desires to have on us.

How does Jesus desire to heal your withered hand today?  Let’s let Him do it.  Amen. Amen.

Melting My Heart

Those lovely sophomores are at it again, chipping away at the ice around my heart and melting me into a pool of gushing affection for them.  Today was student led prayer.  Do you know what they requested?  I’m not quite certain it is really a prayer, but they tried really hard to make it into one and I gave into their supplication.  Their prayer was being thankful for all of the memories made in this class and then they tried to list their favorites.

If they would have been more serious and not the fun-loving, chatty sophomores that they are, I might have been reduced to tears.  As it was, there was just enough sincerity mingled with humor to keep a smirk on my face and feel my heart ache while not letting my tears flow.  The memories they came up with focused on none of the lessons I taught or really on me in general.  Yet the student appointed leader finished the “prayer” off with thanking his classmates for being in his class and being thankful for me.  My heart nearly burst.

I followed this sentimentality up with, “That was nice—but you still have to take your quiz today!”  I love them and I never want them to leave.  A while ago some of the students joked about failing this class so they would have to take it again next year.  Now I’m thinking, would it be alright if I found a way to fail all of them?

Good for my Heart

My beloved 7th period class is good for my heart.  I was recently talking about them, and I felt my heart overflowing with a sense of gratitude.  Despite my fondness for them, I will never claim that they are perfect.  They are beautiful and they bring out my best side, which probably contributes to the warm reception I receive from them.

I have never had such a clear favorite.  This is one of the first things I will tell people before I gush about my class.  While I am far more comfortable with my classes then in years past, this is the one class where I can let my guard down.  I never feel like I’m defending myself or persuading them of something or fighting them to accept a truth.  We laugh together, have inside jokes, and learn together.  I’m not their best friend, but I am definitely one of their favorite teachers.

There is a freedom that comes with being loved.  I can give them more of who I am really am.  Each day, 7th period, I feel like I teach the best.  Sometimes we get off topic, there is chaos, too much energy–but always there is a familial atmosphere that fills the room.  I don’t myself subtly battling the class in defense of the one kid that says things people roll their eyes at or repeatedly asks questions already answered.  When I was sick this week, one girl said she missed me.  Although I’m not extremely close with each student, I feel an understanding with most of them and, if nothing else, the class as a whole.

I am not the only one to appreciate my blessings.  One of the freshman teachers made a remark to me about my beloved class.  Typically nobody else sees the class as a whole but all of the classes each period met in auditorium for preparation for confession this week.  I have never sang the praises of this class to this teacher, so I was overjoyed to hear him applaud my class.  He said it was though each good student was hand-selected for my 7th period class.  As he was saying this, I realized they were.  The good Lord knew that I would need this oasis, this haven from the storm during my school day.  I look forward to them and love the time we spend together.  Professionally, I need to remain fair toward my classes, but I often feel a desire to spoil them, to give in to all of their requests.  Today that teacher stopped by when they were coming into my classroom and declared that heaven came early today.  We smiled and he told them it was an inside joke.

This class is the only reason I am not running forward with utter joy to Christmas break.  Next semester I will have most of these students again, but they will be shuffled around and students from my other class will be mixed in.  I am hopeful that next semester will be wonderful as well, but I know that the beauty of this class will soon end, never to be achieved again.  Life will move on and they will simply be the cherished favorite class of the past, the ones I subconsciously measure each future class against, sighing when they inevitably fall short.

For now, they are my precious gift.  They are blessing to me from the Lord.  Yet it is only the difficulty of my first two years that makes me so deeply relish this class.  If I had them my first year, I would have expected all classes to be like this.  Now I know, battle-weary veteran that I am.  This, is not the norm.  This is, most assuredly, a gift from the Lord, hand-selected for the good of my heart.  Another beautiful display of the Lord knowing what I needed before I even thought to ask for it.

Are we your favorite?

“Are we your favorite class?”

I wonder if they are just guessing.  Do they ask every teacher this?  Am I that transparent?  They don’t know how I am with my other classes, so I am not quite certain how they could guess this.

“Do you have the most fun with our class?”

I don’t want to lie to them.  But I cannot tell them the truth.  I cannot say, “Yes.  You are my favorite class.  You are often the highlight of my day.  I look forward to this class and don’t stress out at all about this class.  I love the students.  You are my favorite.”  I cannot say this.  Because even if I would swear them to secrecy, it would come out.  At some point, one of them would open one of their lovely, excited mouths and spill the secret.  How would I recover from that?  While I may be permitted to have favorites, they are to be secret favorites.  Ones that are never actually discovered until twenty years later when you run into your students at the grocery store and you see them juggling kids.  Then you can say it as much as you want.  Then it is acceptable.  As much as I may want to tell them now, I cannot.

Instead, I say, “Are you guys done with your assignment?”

“She is completely avoiding our question!  Don’t lie–are we your favorite?”

“I’m not going to lie.  You have five minutes left to complete your reading.”

They mustn’t know.  But how can I help it if they think they are my favorite?  It is hard to argue with the truth.

My Cute Sophomores

My little sophomores are so cute.  Don’t tell them I said that, though.  To them, at 15-16 years old, cute isn’t a compliment.  But I mean it as a sincere compliment.

A few examples to illustrate my point.  Today we had a test in Scripture.  They came in and wanted to write “Knowledge Celebration” on the board with balloons.  They proceeded to gather around the board and do that–one person delegated to write “knowledge” and the other “celebration.”  Someone else wrote off to the side “Celebratory woop!!”

After prayer, a couple students begged to tell a story of their adventure last class period.  I gave them three minutes.  One of them rapidly told the story, including much animation, humor, and excitement.  The other outlined the story on the board with rudimentary symbols and signs.  In the end, the class politely applauded the adventure that had occurred.

Yesterday I wore glasses to school for the first time.  This sophomore class was the only one to mention anything about them, although I am sure most of the other students noticed.
Student 1: “Have you ever worn glasses to this class before?”
Me: “No.”
Student 2: “You look like a whole new woman!”
Student 3: “You look very scholarly.”
(Murmurs of assent.)

The other day one of my students gave me a back-handed compliment.  He meant it in the best way but it isn’t exactly in the way a teacher desires to hear it.  (But as compliments are hard to come by in this profession, you take what you can get.)
“It feels like we never do anything in this class and yet I feel like I am learning a lot.”
“No, I mean–I enjoy this class so much it never feels like work.”
That’s better.

They are at an interesting point in their lives.  They are in the midst of high school life.  Growing up, they are determining who they will be for the rest of their lives.  Yet there is an innocence that is found within them.  Particularly this class.  They have troubles and stresses but they are genuinely good kids.  And I love them all the more for it.  They are definitely not perfect, but they are sophomores and they give me hope in a seemingly hopeless world.

I wonder what the Lord has planned with their beautiful, fragile, so-much-potential lives.  And I am thankful to be a part of it, if only for a while.