In the final moments of that second period class, I felt myself getting choked up at the exhaustion from being torn down and ignored by the very people I have pledged to serve. My day went from bad to worse when my next class of students came in, a group of kids I adore in comparison to their predecessors, and informed me of two students in my second period talking during lunch about how much they dislike me as their teacher. *overwhelmed by the feeling of earth shattering* (melodramatic? Yes. But today it felt pretty accurate).
Now, my college professors who are reading this are chanting in my ear “QUIT TAKING IT PERSONALLY!” (I still hear you, Dr. B!) I hear my mom’s voice chastising kindly, “Honey, if you react badly to them they’re just going to keep acting up. Set an example”. Meanwhile, the echoes of my fellow teachers are whispering in my ear, “They’re teenagers. That’s how they act.”
I know all this. I promise I know.
But in that moment, all I felt was complete and utter failure. One of third period students tried to comfort me by saying, “I told them they were wrong, that I love you as a teacher. They said, ‘That’s the first time I’ve heard anyone say anything good about her.’ And I was like, you are nuts.” I know she meant to help, but in that moment all I heard was the part about no one saying anything nice about me. When my last class left, I shut my classroom door and cried at my desk. The tears streamed down sitting in front of this computer thinking about all the awful things my second period students had said today, both in and out of my class. I thought about how unkind they were and I felt ashamed of my own bitterness in return for their hurtful words.
I sat here focusing in on all the negative things. I stared at this computer. I frowned and cried and stared. Then, by chance, I shifted my gaze barely a few inches below my computer. Around my computer I have taped over fifteen notes students have written me just this semester. I dragged my eyes across them and read notes that say things like: “I <3 Ms. Manning”, “Isabella <3s you!”, “You’re an amazing teacher!”, “Ur cool”, “I like your class”, “I hope you’re having a good day! You’re awesome!”, “Thank you for always making class fun and good to learn!”… I was sitting here surrounded by these wonderful and encouraging sticky notes that my students have left me over the past few months — all the while, thinking about how awful my kids were, how horrible I was. I was literally seated here enveloped by kindness and love, but all I could see or here were the negative and hurtful things.
I skimmed over these wonderful, impromptu notes kids have left me and pondered how often I do this in my life. In the midst of so many blessing, my focus on the negative, the hard and difficult, and that focus blinds me to the good wishes! I fixate on the disappointment and rejection and completely veil myself from all the love and kindness I’ve experienced. It’s like walking to a doorway, stumbling into the darkness when you have five or six flashlights strapped to your belt. It’s poisonous, cruel, and frankly just plain idiotic. Dear me, do you realize how wrong it is to purposefully put out your eyes from seeing love and compassion and only centralize your sight on all the dissatisfaction? Stop it!
So, I’m sitting here at this same desk. I'm soaking in these lovely cards and writing this blog to my future self. To remind me that I’m going to make mistakes… have bad days… make lousy decisions as a teacher… I’m going to hurt and be hurt by my students... but I CANNOT let myself lose sight of the big picture.
The big picture says fifteen kids wrote you nice notes for no reason. Simply for the pleasure and appreciation of you! That in and of itself is an honor. You have so much to be thankful for. You have so much goodness to hold onto. More than anything you have a majestic and mighty God who loves you with everything He is (and girl, He's A LOT). He’s holding your hand and walking in step with you. You know this. Don't forget it.
To myself: You are golden, Manning. Say you’re sorry, let God forgive you, forgive yourself, and do better tomorrow… because there are fifteen or more kids that are counting on you being the best you can be.
Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
John 16:33 "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”