School starts today. Bear with me while I pause to pontificate.
“What is a capital letter?”
“Does the United States have a king?”
“What city is Boston University in?”
The questions in this post are real. They were asked of me, in my classroom. The eleven to fourteen-year-olds who posed them are real children. Many of those children are now grown, and walk among us as adults, leaders, parents.
I teach middle school. You’re welcome.
School begins today. Though I have yet to meet my students, I am confident that some things do not change. They will ask questions that will make me laugh. They will ask questions that will make me weep. I’ve taught kids from a variety of ethnic, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, and they all have this in common—the bizzaro question.
The following exchange happened in my classroom many moons ago. The discussion was about George W. Bush, then serving as President of the U.S. You can bet I wrote it down verbatim, before the kids had even left the room. Even if I hadn’t, it’s kinda burned into my brain.
Student: So, when did he (President Bush) die?
Teacher: He is the current President of the United States.
Student: Yeah, him. When did he die?
Teacher: He hasn’t died. He is too busy being the current, right now, President.
Student: So, he’s still alive?
This, you must understand, closely followed an exchange in which another student asked if John Adams, the second President of the U.S., was still alive.
Student: So, is he still alive?
Teacher: John Adams was President of the United States from 1797-1801.
Student: So is he dead now?
Teacher: He was president over 200 years ago.
Student: So, he’s probably dead?
“Michael,” you ask me, “how do you do it? How do you teach day in, day out, without becoming brutally sarcastic?”
I don’t. I am often brutally sarcastic, but they don’t get it, so I get to keep my job.
Don’t get me wrong. These children aren’t dumb…mostly. By and large, they will grow up to be fully functioning adults who comprehend normal life spans and realize that people cease to function in this world once they have passed on to the next. But at this age, their logic circuits haven’t fully formed. It’s a frontal lobe thing. Their mental world is just random enough to allow Africa to be one of the original thirteen colonies, or for Germany to have won WWII.
And I get to teach them. More than that, I am called by God to teach them, and I want to be a teacher worthy of that calling. Now I don’t know how you spend your working hours, but I’m willing to bet that you come across the same basic question that I do from time to time: “What am I doing here?”
I wonder that frequently. Why am I here? What am I supposed to do? Can I really make a difference in the lives of these kids? How do I live for God in a place that doesn’t even let me talk about Him?
I don’t know how well this will work for you, but what keeps me afloat, on the days I manage to stay afloat, is the reminder that God wants me to love these little twerps. I’m supposed to see them as He does—as people of infinite value, for whom Christ was willing to sacrifice Himself. When I can see them that way—which is not as often as I’d like—I find it a trifle easier to put up with their inability to remember basic facts and their complete lack of common sense.
If I allow myself to dwell on it, I become uncomfortably aware of the similarity between the way I see these kids and the way God sees me. How often do I miss simple spiritual connections or fail to hold on to basic truths? If God had a blog, would I be an example in it? Let’s think of other things, shall we?
Happy First Day of School, Beloved