Another school year has started. The discerning process in my ministry course has moved me to the thought that, at least for now, I am where I am supposed to be, teaching in a classroom. Perhaps you can go home again…
This is my third year back as a full-time teacher and I wonder why I was so blessed as to have a second chance. I see many, many people who left something they were very good at in order to take one more step on the career ladder, and then the ‘peter principle’ seemed to grab them by the throats. I certainly traveled the same path, but I was allowed to come home, and if that is not evidence of grace I wasted a lot of money on tuition.
This year I asked my students for a ‘getting to know you’ kind of essay: “tell me what I need to know to teach you better” is how I explained it. My juniors are a little older and wiser than they were when they were freshmen. They struck a more cautious tone, and then spilled their guts by telling stories that are all too familiar. These young people are, curiously, one of the classes that have gotten closest to my heart. Curiously because they are not the smartest, most athletic, best behaved nor necessarily the ones who like me but to paraphrase Sancho Panza, “I like them”.
My freshmen remind me of my juniors and I am glad I have enough planned years left to see how they turn out; of course the best way to make God laugh is to plan your future, but I’d like to be around them for a while.
Reading my student essays is, sadly, both inspiring and devastating. Divorces, drug addictions, abortions, deaths, unusual living arrangements, you name it, they have gone through it. I don’t know if it is just my local community or not, but these kids have seen the dark side of life too early and too often. I wonder what I can give them and I wake up worrying about them in the middle of the night.
And yet, these kids inspire me. Their resilience in the face of some tough odds humbles me. I think I am teaching people who are much better people than I shall ever be. Most of them are going to make it, and if all I can do is walk with them as they struggle I will be there. I wonder why I care about them so much and I think the answer might be right in front of me. These young people will take all I have to offer. Perhaps we accept each other for what we are in my classroom. I think they know I care about them and that there is only one way I can possibly care, and that is completely. We don’t need kenosis as a vocabulary word. I can’t teach any other way, and I can tell from their writing, they live kenotically whenever any one will accept what they have to offer. I wonder why though, people demand from students what they don’t have, and never see what they do have….