Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Seeking the Heart of a Sheppard

Every time I turn around, I am finding myself saying "that’s a whole blog post” to myself, and yet, not surprisingly, I find I never make it to the computer to write it down. Any one else see the irony in this, particularly because I am a writing teacher? I’ve had grand plans to sit down and share visits from friends and family, Thirty One parties,my intense love of Goodwill and all my amazing finds (example: yours truly found like new, $100 Danskos there these weekend!), and other thoughts, hopes, and adventures, I never have gotten around to it.  I never understand how educators have time to blog, much less do anything else. Something about that first year thing, lol. Speaking of which, now that we are well over half way through the year, I finally broke. Today, I sat at my desk and cried. I didn’t get home until 7.

Not to go into a bunch of blubbering details, I had one of those you-can’t-save-them all moments, and apparently, one of my colleagues, another newbie like myself, had a similar day, and we spent an hour
discussing our lack of thick skin and desire to “love” our kids, and the repercussions (disappointment, strife, and complications) that come with giving so much of yourself to the classroom. My difficult day, paired with some really out-of-whack hormones and unrelenting sleeplessness that has cause me to be so unstable this week, I finally just crumbled and cried. A semi-seasoned vet and fellow ELA teacher who, like me, often winds up locked in a dark school in the wee hours of the evening when other teachers have long-been home, came and got me to pack up my stuff, wipe my tears and go home. We had a long talk, which was great considering she has a very business like demeanor and opening up with her was a pleasant boost to our professional friendship, and she shared how coming to terms with the fact that no matter how much love, time, and strength you invest, some students still choose the wrong path. Feeling some what defeated, I drove on home, listening to 106.9, our local Billy Graham-affiliated Christian radio station, which, for most of my young-adult life, had always seemed sappy and gooey and boring. As part of my 2011 resolutions to draw nearer to Him, I’ve devoted my car rides between work as quiet time with Him to talk, pray, and praise, and so I gave 106.9 a one week shot to see if listening seemed to help me focus on Him during my trek up and down the interstate as I close the 30 something miles that separate my school and home. It worked so well, I haven’t changed the channel since, even listening to the evening preaching on late nights such as this one. The message, a part of the Intouch for Living by Charles Swindoll, was a part of the series Hope Again, and focused on hope in ministry. It was called part 14: Hope Beyond Religion: A Job Description for Sheppards, and although Swindoll focuses on the relationship between a pastor or minister and the church he leads, it applied so well to the classroom and the relationship between a teacher and students. He focused on three attitudes leaders take: willingness, eagerness, and meekness. It was a proverbial message to me, coming straight to the radio. He discussed “burn out” and the feelings of pride, depression, and frustration that can come with tending a flock. See, like a minister wants his congregation to follow God’s laws and commandments and live according to His will,  and most importantly, for his congregation to have a spiritual relationship with Christ, a teacher wants her students to obey the school rules and make good grades, but most importantly, develop an understanding that effort and attitude determine success, not ability and status. I want my kids to know adjectives and gerunds, dynamic and static characters, how to spell words like mesmerize and chaos, but even more so than those things, I want them to know that I love them, believe in them, and that their success in life is up to them. And just like He does to the sheppards that tend the flocks in churches around the world, God equips, sustains, and propels those who have the courage to teach.
Unlike many, I won’t give up on my kids. But, just like how the Bible says not all will enter Heaven, not all will be successful. Thanks to my colleague (who, a Christian, put it to me this way)  I understand that not all children are going to get A’s, go to college, and end up happy and successful. No matter how hard I work, how hard I pray, or how many times I remediate, conference, and repeat. That’s not how the world works. Just like salvation, success is a choice that lies in ones heart of hearts, and is ultimately up to someone to choose. But just like a Christian witness, I am not going to stop giving my kids opportunities to choose to succeed.

Catharsis complete.
This, my dear students, is why writing is important.