Last Monday marked our first day back to our physical school building since spring break and all I could think about was how every other year some of the teachers would meet to walk the building and pray. This is a public school and while I’m sure not every parent would agree that it is necessary, we consider it a privilege. So this time, instead of walking into classrooms and praying over desks, I walked into each teacher’s classroom and just listened.
I used to attend church with the sweetest lady. She was the preacher’s wife but not your typical preacher’s wife from when I was a kid. She was humble, a servant, yet vocal and not at all untouchable. She was very, very real. She would voice a prayer and then wait. In a room full of teens. Just sit in silence. Shane and I helped with the youth group at the time and I remember peeking my eye open and looking over to him wondering if we shouldn’t jump in and finish the prayer, but all she was doing was waiting for an answer. She would quietly resume her prayer when she felt like she heard what she needed to hear and sometimes it wasn’t what she wanted to hear. I know that in those moments it taught those kids and me so much about the power of Christ, the power of prayer, and so much about the power of faith. I can honestly say that in all of my years reaching out to God, I have seen signs and watched people swoop in and take care of my family during our worst nightmare, but he has never called an audible quite like I was hearing last Monday morning.
Teachers are hurting right now because not only are we serving students but we feel strongly that we serve our communities. Some of our community members are not on board with the decisions that have been made at the state department level, the health department guidelines, and that obviously trickles down to our public schools. The uncertainty of these times does not change the desire of a teacher to create an environment where students have the freedom to safely learn and discover. Teachers will do that no matter where they are. They want to be a part of the solution for families everywhere. They want to present their material and they will work day and night to make it happen.
I am taking an online class from Yale University. Teachers are learners and when I saw a free class from Yale, I wanted in! #1 because I could then add to my wall of fame a certificate from YALE!!! #2 Free!!! Yes, please! The professor is unbelievable and our principal, who introduced me to the course, now calls this professor her Budda. “The lesson of much contemporary research in judgment and decision-making is that knowledge— at least in the form of our consciously accessible representation of a situation—is rarely the central factor controlling our behavior,” Santos & Gendler (2014). In my terms, this reads that when you react outwardly and socially to an issue that you see as a problem, you aren’t reacting on the knowledge but rather on your own feelings. Let’s all check ourselves for a moment. We all do this. We are probably all guilty of assessing our feelings first and knowledge second when presented with an issue, but we don’t all share our frustrations so publicly. I know opinions are free and that is a beautiful thing, but exactly how much of the negative/victim level emotions are being gifted to our own children. Their burdens are heavy right now, too. I want to teach mine to overcome…anything. To tuck and roll. To seat, roll, and come up chopping (one football coach’s advice for life based on an old drill…yet no one should be seated during this time). To adjust. To be bendy/flexible. To put egos aside. To recognize your blessings. To think through other’s needs and what they might look like vs. your own. To imagine yourself helping someone accept this and to not contribute to the negative pools that are forming everywhere.
I walked into the building last Monday morning nervous, lonely knowing that the students would not be with us, anxious for some of my school family who I knew would struggle learning new technology, and overwhelmed by the thoughts of my own children not getting to be face to face in the nurturing environment of the classroom. Some teachers have even described their feelings as feelings of grief. I would say that overall as a nation we could probably all describe the last 6 months in that way, but when you consider yourself a professional griever you know the difference. After a simple walk around the building, I could feel that there would be hope. I can take you through the grieving process and tell you there will be ups and downs, that every day will be different, and that the process is as unique as the person experiencing it. I can also tell you that grieving people can’t ‘fix’ what they are grieving about, so this is where I believe there is a light. Although the global pandemic is still very much present, history would tell us that eventually it will be exactly that…a part of our history. We do have the opportunity to fix our mindsets on the task at hand, which should be offering the next generation the ability to see adults who are problem solvers, strong, positive thinkers, people who refuse to respond as a victim, and who support others despite their own opinions.
I could go on all day about the amount of work that was accomplished in one week of preparations for our ‘pivot to home’ program to start this year. It was astounding! This week, we will make sure all of our new friends have a personal device to get started and are greeted, wide-eyed with a smile behind our masks while we hand them out in a well-organized, yet hot parking lot pickup. I will leave you with some of the words that came to me loud and clear last week as I entered different classrooms:
Glory to God
Jesus, by the power of your spirit and the truth in your word, help us. Cover us. Claim our community as your own and comfort the parents, comfort the children, comfort the leaders who are tired, comfort the educators who are weary, and provoke a fire in us as we accept the challenge to rise above our own desires for simpler times. Help us to appreciate the gifts of others and recognize the needs we can serve in your name. And, Jesus, thank you for showing your face to me last week when my heart was broken by the words of others who had lost hope and needed someone to blame. Jesus, thank you for replacing the sadness in my heart with the words you spoke to me about my coworkers. Wow, just wow. More of you, less of me. Everyday. Amen.