To whoever has ears, let them hear. -- Matthew 13:9
It's late Saturday night, I'm basking in my post self imposed facial glory, listening to Piano Chill on Apple Music, reading Fierce Hearted and reflecting on my crazy, insane week. Once again, I am suddenly compelled to grab my laptop and bang out a post not connected to language learning at all, but about the ugly human moments that come along with teaching.
I know, I know... the world, our administrators, our students and their parents often expect us to don capes and masks that erase away our mortality, our fragility, and our own brokenness so that we can step into some sense of super human perfection. In so doing, we are supposedly able to manage every class, every human in that class, and every situation that arises with impeccable grace, etiquette and eloquence.
After 20 years of teaching, I have yet to have a year much less a day that I can live up to those expectations. It never happens. At least not for me.
I had a situation this week during which I felt my grace evaporate in the heat of my own atomic frustration with a student who we will call Paco, and who you need to know is an Extra Grace Required (EGR, thanks Jane Shea) person. Without going into details, let's just say that not much happens with this student that is easy to navigate EVER.
So, things happen and I have to ask him to step out in the hall for a chat about why "no" means "no" no matter how small the thing is that I say no to. Making the situation go away with a quick act of defiance does not dismiss the disobedience, or better defined, insubordination. This is not to mention the poor timing of said defiance which also sends the message that Paco is making power plays even over little things because he believes he can.
What happened next was an ugly, long, rabbit's warren of a conversation during which Paco shifted from indifference, to mocking me, to insulting me, to accusing me, to trying his best to verbally wound me while I held fast to this rabbit's tale as he ducked and darted from tactic to tactic in effort to avoid accountability to me. It was no fun, and it lasted way longer than I ever, ever intended it to.
But, I bet you have never found yourself in that situation. Right? Your super powers are stronger than mine, I am certain.
Being an over thinker, I rarely walk away from any situation in life without spending some time after pondering what I said, how I said it, what I didn't say and concluding that I probably blew it a million different ways. This situation was no different.
While reading my book and kicking myself for letting Paco get under my skin, I was reminded of something I heard in church a while back. As a part of his sermon, my pastor talked about Matthew 13:9, the scripture that titles and opens this blog post. At the time, he was prefacing his teaching with that scripture by telling us that not every message we hear is meant for the moment we hear it. That passage was like a prayer that anointed the ears of those ready to receive his teaching much like we do in the classroom, prepping students to receive new learning. Sometimes though, the audience, our audience, isn't ready for the good stuff we have to share with them.
This doesn't mean that the seeds we have to plant in them will be fruitless. Or, if what we say or teach isn't received with the spirit it was intended, that doesn't mean it was a mistake to say it. Those nuggets get tucked away for another day when those ears are finally ready to hear the thing they weren't ready for before.
What's the point? Just this:
I chose high school long ago because I knew it was the last shot we have to plant seed into kids before they are launched out into the world. Somewhere along the way, and more often than I would like to admit, I forget they are kids. They don't really know anything despite the fact they can dress themselves, make themselves a sandwich, drive themselves places and maybe even do things their bodies are mature enough to do, but that they have no business doing because their brains aren't.
I chose this level on purpose for just those reasons. I signed up for the gig thinking I could be one more voice of wisdom and love before the tidal wave of the world comes crashing in.
No, Paco wasn't ready for any of the things I said to him, and some of those things were hard. Not mean, but hard. Hard truths that needed saying from someone other than a parent. Someone else needed to say them to Paco so that his parent's voice isn't the only one or maybe to be the only person brave enough to say them. Maybe even braver than a parent. My personal road with my own child was very similar to Paco's story, so as he stood there ranting, insulting, accusing, wounding and evading, I saw my daughter. Not ready to hear. Not ready to see. Standing there feeling trapped in truth and fighting desperately to get out however he could. In that moment, all Paco could see or hear was another adult that doesn't like him. In fact, he said as much. What he couldn't see was the love it took for me to face him down, draw a line in the sand and tell him his behavior was not good enough and would not be tolerated. What he couldn't hear was the good I see in him or that I recognize and brag about his vast intelligence that he so often uses for evil rather than what's right. What he wasn't ready for was that my truth wasn't an effort to insult him, rant at him, accuse him, wound him or abandon him. It was to say to him, "You are made for more. Now, live up to that."
So, no matter what, I am not sorry for that conversation no matter how messy it got. Paco will probably warp and twist it into things that are perversions of thee original content and intent, but not because he is at war with me. He is at war with himself, and if I care about him, I have to do all I can to teach him even if he isn't ready to receive what I have to plant into him.
One day, he will be elsewhere and those seeds with sprout and he will have to look at them and come to terms with Sra. Lenord and his year with me in Spanish 1. He will have eyes to see and ears to hear, and he will know that that day wasn't about my not liking him, but my not liking his choices. Those two things are entirely different. Maybe if I am lucky he will realize the hope and faith I had in him that day despite the storm that raged inside of him.
But no, I was placed in his life to speak truth to that storm. Just like you are placed in your students' lives to do the same. Be brave. Your job is not to be nice, but to be kind. To quote the author of the book I am reading Holley Gerth writes in Fierce Hearted,
"Niceness comes from fear.
Kindness comes from love.
Niceness says, 'I want to please you.'
Kindness says, 'I want the highest good for both of us.'
Niceness says, 'I will tell you what you want to hear.'
Kindness says, 'I will speak the truth with grace.'
Niceness says, 'It's okay if you habitually hurt me.'
Kindness says, 'It's not okay because hurting me hurts God, you and us.'"
I signed up for this gig, and this gig requires truth wrapped in kindness, not niceness. Niceness doesn't do anyone any favors.
To whoever has ears, let them hear. -- Matthew 13:9
Happy Coaching, Friends!
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