I’m on my sixth week as a full time high school English teacher. It’s been amazing, terrifying, eye-opening, exhausting, and exhilarating all at once. I can’t believe how quickly it’s going. I really love my job. It’s hard, but I REALLY love it.
I’m sitting right now jotting this down quickly as my students work in groups reading excerpts from various Arthurian legends. In this moment, I’m thinking… this is my job?! THIS IS MY JOB!!! I sit listening to my students reading stories of gallant knights, fierce sword fights, beautiful damsels, and shady sorceresses plotting against the king. In this moment, I can only think to describe my job as wonderfully magical… which is ridiculously cheesy in light of what we are studying... and in light of my obsessions… but also perfect. Haha.
I probably could already write a hundred pages on the adventures I’ve experienced within this classroom in these few short weeks. Yet, today I’m not going to tell you a story of my grand successes or failures as a teacher. Instead, I’m going to tell you about the simplest victory I’ve experienced during my time here. Really, I can only boast in the Lord’s hand in this victory… and that I think, is what makes it so special.
I have a student in one of my classes. We’ll call him Stan. Stan is your classic camo wearing country boy who has no trouble looking for trouble. He’s not a bad kid, but he can play the part if circumstances require it of him. Stan is a student that I can tell has been disappointed by a lot of teachers. I think Stan’s been ignored a lot. The only time he gets attention is when he acts badly. This has given him the idea that most all his teachers don’t like him, therefore he doesn’t like them. Now I can see he’s gotten to the point where he realized that his only defense against a teacher’s disapproval of him is to make their lives miserable. If he can’t get their attention for good behavior, he might as well get it for bad. This is a reputation he has established for himself within the walls of this school.
The first few weeks, Stan and I had to figure each other out. He didn’t know how serious I was about negativity and unkindness towards others, while I was watching out for a student who was determined to convince himself I was another teacher out to get him for bad behavior. I did my best to convince him I was on his side and glad he was in my class. I prayed hard that the Lord would help me to love my students in a way I didn’t know possible, especially the ones who are determined to be hard to love. From about week four, Stan has everyday become more or less a well-behaved student.
Then, just the other day, Stan came to me when the students were going to work in partners on a vocabulary activity and asked, “Miss Manning, may I please sit in your stool to work with Charlie?”
I was extremely pleased at his politeness and smiling said, “Absolutely! Thank you for asking so nicely.”
Right after I said this, his friend Charlie called out, “Don’t get used to it Miss Manning!” I frowned.
“That was NOT very nice Charlie,” I chided.
“It’s okay Miss Manning,” Stan cut in, “He’s right.”
“What do you mean he’s right?” I inquired.
“Well,” Stan said, “I’m bad in most of my classes.”
“You’re not bad in here,” I responded.
“Yeah, well,” Stan shrugged, “most of my teachers don’t like me so I don’t like them… so I act bad.”
It was a simple confession; one could almost look over it. Instead I saw it as a shining break-through. In a roundabout way, the Lord had given me a simple victory with this one special student. Nothing other than the love of Christ in me had allowed for this great gift. This small victory. That single confession meant more to me than all the continually well-behaved students. Stan's attitude about this class, about me as his teacher, had changed... and it had changed him.
The thankfulness I experienced from this small gift reminded me of the widow’s offering in Mark 12:41-44.
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
I praise God for the blessing of recognizing this simple, but priceless gift.