New every morning

Do you ever have a sense of dread when walking into your school in the morning because you're thinking of all the annoying or disrespectful things your students are going to say and do? Have you ever anticipated problems, getting yourself geared up and ready for the first affront so you can put the offending student in his or her place immediately?

I do sometimes--including one day last week. It's a miserable state of mind that just seems to take over every now and then. And I finally realized what I'm doing wrong.

When I'm in that negative mental state, I keep all of the bad stuff from the whole school year fresh in my mind, so I'm ready to bring it up as soon as the kid does something wrong. ("Didn't I tell you yesterday not to do that? We've gone over this every single day since August! Remember last week when you had to sit out at recess? That's what's going to happen again today! You better think about that, or else I'll be calling mom. Again!")

I would NEVER do that to an adult. But I constantly bring up my students' past mistakes--in my own mind and then later aloud-- in hopes of teaching the kids a lesson and showing them their non-productive patterns of behavior.

Irony at it's best. This genius passive-aggressive technique works no better with children than it does with spouses, as I'm sure you've ascertained. But a small child isn't smart enough to call you on it, and is prohibited from backtalking, anyway. We train kids to sit there and take it, to listen to us spew an endless stream of criticism and judgement. That gives us a free and open forum to bash students over the head with everything they've ever done wrong. It also makes it extremely easy for us to neglect the privilege of forgiveness.

In doing so, I can see that I get loaded down with the weight of the mistakes I'm holding over the kids' heads. I'm clinging to every wrongdoing, waiting for certain kids to screw up so I can toss the blame off onto them and lighten my load. No wonder it feels so good to say, "That's your third warning. Go sit by yourself." I can finally let go of my list of offenses and and place the burden squarely on the shoulders of the person who 'deserves' it. I can also better focus on the other 20 burdens I'm carrying around, and begin building a fresh case against the punished child.

This is one way that teachers end up exhausted by 8:30 in the morning.

What if we practiced forgiveness with our kids like we do with the adults in our lives? What if, instead of going to bed at night anticipating the next day's offenses, we never let the sun go down on our anger? What if we truly let God renew his mercy for us every day?

We can choose to forgive our students for their disrespect, innattention, laziness, and disobedience. We can start every day afresh, and deal with each problematic situation as it arises. Then we'll find ourselves slower to anger, quicker to forgive, more rich in love and compassion. That lightens the load for everyone.

"Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed. His mercies are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."
(Lamentations 3:22-23)


dom said...

Wow...I just stumbled upon this while googling "teacher devotions." I have really been struggling with this issue. Today I actually reached a breaking point. I feel like the Lord really directed me here. Thank you so much for this devotion. I am a new teacher, and I hope you continue blogging. Also, I read your blog about voting and I completely agree! Finally!

Sandy@ Jesus and Dark Chocolate said...

Great point......and that kind of attitude is also a means for survival when those rough days come your way!! :)
Glad I found your blog! All of us christian teachers need a place to find spiritual encouragement. Here is my favorite teacher post -