The bell rang and hundreds of students scurried down the hallway to try to make it to class on time. As I stood at the door to welcome my first period students, I took a deep breath in. “Please Lord, help my students and myself do our best today” I whispered.
The bell rang and my tenth graders assembled to their desks. Another day of teaching began. My first period was a reading intervention class, a challenging group with many students reading significantly below level.
I began the period by taking attendance, reviewing the lesson with the students and assigning students to their groups. Not even five minutes into class, Charlie, one of my most misbehaved students began to start trouble with the other boys in the class. “Don’t disrespect me!” He whaled. His eyes were bulging in rage and his voice was trembling loudly.
Calmly, I walked over to address the situation. I crouched over and whispered “Is everything alright, Charlie? Please do not shout in the middle of class. OK?”
Standing up showcasing his temper, he faced me and bellowed “You always pick on me!”
Turning around to face the class he continued, “I’m outta here!”
He grabbed his backpack and slammed the door on his way out. The class was left silent and tense. The rest of my 25 students watched me in suspense to see my reaction. I put on a fake smile and encouraged the students to get back to work. I also tried to get back to work as best as I could.
The day continued and before I knew it, my seventh period was about to enter. I stood at the doorway again to welcome my students, and took another long, deep breath in. I repeated the same prayer that I said earlier in the morning. “Please Lord, help my students and myself do our best today.”
My stomach flipped when I saw Charlie enter, again. This period I taught him English.
“Here we go” I thought to myself valiantly. I was mentally preparing myself for round two.
As Charlie entered the classroom, he ignored all of his peers and walked in calmly. He sat down, took out his supplies out of his backpack and began to focus on his work.
I looked around the room perplexed. “Is Charlie trying to change?!” I wondered silently. I learned something new from him that day.
I had judged him and realized that judgement predisposes the other person to fit our narrow way of thinking about that person. It made me aware that I unintentionally tend to put my students in a box of “good” or “bad” or “misbehaved” or “behaved.”
Nonetheless, as humans, we all have good and bad days and it is unfair for me to label my students in this way. Even though Charlie failed in my first period, he came back to seventh period with a fresh new attitude, starting anew. Instead of seeing Charlie as a “misbehaved student”, I started to see him as a child who is doing his best.
This must be how God sees His people. We are all his children; some days we are tested, and some days we fail. However, every day is a new day to change, another period to make a wiser decision and improve in this classroom of life.
After all, Jesus said “In truth I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven..” Matthew 18:3. When I sin, I try to be patient with myself, similarly to how I try to be patient with my own students, and remember that I am a child in the eyes of God. I pray to our Blessed Mother and receive her motherly care which I entrust to her.
I forgave Charlie that day for his misbehavior because God forgives me every time I don’t make the right decision, either. He forgives my weaknesses and breathes new life into them. He pardons me over and over again because he is merciful and loves us unconditionally. I try to bring an attitude similar to this in my classroom, although imperfect.
Similar to Charlie, I try to get up after I fall and try again. Perseverance is is all I can ask of my students and I think that is all God asks of us. My prayer was indeed answered that day, we were all just doing our best.
When the bell rings tomorrow morning, I will begin a brand new day with a fresh perspective on each and every student. I will try not to lose hope on behalf of my students, because I believe God will not lose hope on behalf of us.
After all, we are all students in the classroom of life.