We are entering the sometimes difficult weeks between Thanksgiving break and Christmas break. Hopefully we are refreshed from a few days off. But maybe we are dreading going back into the difficulties of our classrooms. Some of us need to hear this tonight: You matter more than you think you do. You are doing more than you think you are.
A couple weeks back I sat observing my “at risk” students during their dinner hour at school. Their social behavior and their deplorable language provides a good glimpse into the immense dysfunction of their world. As I watched them, I felt the depth of their pit, for lack of a better word. Many of them are already felons at just 14 or 15 years old. I thought to myself, they are in such a deep pit, how will I ever provide a way out, let alone the first rung in the ladder leading out? How can I ever help fix their lives? It seems impossible.
I want this for my kids though. Because in the short time I’ve known them, I’ve grown to love them. I’ve seen the ways that life has mistreated them. And while that doesn’t excuse their behaviors and choices, it certainly gives me understanding, rather than judgment, for their choices. I want them out of the pit.
So I show up. I push them. I help them. I celebrate them. I know them and I let them know me. I give them the unconditional love of Jesus, in hopes of pointing them to him. He is the ladder. He is the fix. It will never be me.
After a “productive” night of class one evening, after helping these students experience some of the first academic successes they’ve had in a long time, on a night where I felt like I actually did do some good, I sat pondering my own educational career. Curiosity led me to recall my teachers over the years. At 33 years of age, I can remember the names of every single teacher who taught me from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
Every. Single. One.
Why is that? Because they impacted me. They made a difference in my life. Some of them loved me through my mom’s cancer. Others called me on to be a leader. Many prayed with me and for me. They counseled me. They challenged me. They celebrated me. Few people in my life have impacted me the way that my teachers have. I don’t claim that all of my students will remember me by name and feel that I impacted their lives, but some might. And that’s enough to keep me doing what I’m doing.
If you are a teacher, as you head into the trenches tomorrow remember: You matter more than you think you do. You are doing more than you think you are.