Teacher Tales: Summer of Rejuvenation
I don’t think I’ve ever had a boring day as a classroom teacher. This particular school day in the spring of 2017 was no exception:
Relly walks up to me during recess and complains, “Vicki keeps being mean to me on the playground.” Emily runs to me crying, “I hurt myself on the swings.” A few moments later, Jose tells me, “My mom is here!” I immediately went into teacher mode, deciphering which scenario was in need of my immediate attention.
I turned to the Emily and said, “Where did you hurt yourself?”
She points her elbow.
“Do you want to sit out for a while or do you want to keep playing?”
Emily ponders for half of a second and replies, “I want to keep playing. It doesn’t hurt anymore.”
Okay. One down. Two to go.
I turned to Jose, “Where’s your mom?”
“She’s over by the Pre-K playground.” I see her then wave. “She wants me to tell you that I have a soccer game tomorrow at 9:20.”
“You do! I think I can make it this time! Tell your mom I said I will be there.” (We had to rely on Jose’s communication skills because his mom is fluent in Spanish, I’m fluent in English, and Jose is fluent in both (: )
At this point it starts to rain and I completely forget about Relly’s situation. As the class enters the classroom after our restroom/water break, I noticed Relly slouching down in her chair. Then I remembered.
“Vicki come here,” I say in my stern teacher voice. Vicki makes her way to my desk with a confused look on her face. “Relly says that you were being mean on the playground. Is this true?”
“I was being mean because SHE was being mean to me first!”
“Relly come here. Vicki please tell Relly what you told me.”
Vicki repeats her statement, to which Relly responds with a valid point, to which I mediate the feelings between the two. “Vicki, Relly wanted to spend time with her other friends from Ms. Roll’s class because she never gets to see them. So she said she didn’t want to play with you because of that reason. Relly, Vicki didn’t understand that. She thought you were just being mean to her. Please come up with a solution that you both can agree on.”
As Vicki and Relly came up with a solution that they can both agree upon, I thought to myself: how many teachers would actually take the time to model and teach 6-7 year olds how to resolve their conflicts in a respectable manner? How many teachers would deem it necessary to address this less than life threatening situation? I usually try to solve these cases within 3 minutes or less but in that particular moment, I felt it necessary to have these two very emotional and sensitive girls resolve their conflict at their own pace and without my input.
The way I approached this situation reminded me of the story of Solomon. Out of all the things Solomon could’ve requested from God, he requested that God give him wisdom.
“Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:8-9, NIV)
Solomon’s request is similar to my request before the start of every school day. I always sought God’s heart throughout the day so that my heart and mind reflected that of a disciple of Christ. In my case, “your servant” = me and “a great people” = my students. I could’ve solved the issue with a simple statement or give a consequence but I didn’t take that route and it just didn’t feel right to dismiss the situation. Thus on that particular day, God granted me the ability to distinguish this conflict as different from every other conflict and use it to coach my little ones on how to come up with a solution on their own.
Furthermore, the Lord was very pleased with Solomon’s request so he granted his original request AND gave him more!
“Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for — both riches and honor — so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” (1 Kings 3:13-14, NIV)
So not only was Solomon the most wise king, he was a very prosperous king and reaped the benefits of obedience! Likewise, I took 10 minutes out of my teaching time to address a small issue and that time proved to be a great reward. Relly and Vicki not only followed through with their solution (they agreed to play with each other during afternoon recess) but they were also able to articulate their feelings to other students and coach other students to resolve their own conflicts.
As I continue on this journey of summer rejuvenation, my request remains the same: Lord, grant me a discerning and pure heart to lead my future students and to distinguish between right and wrong. Renew a steadfast and willing spirit to sustain me. Challenge me to acknowledge you in all my ways so that you will make my paths straight. Amen.