Editor’s note: Today’s post started (a couple of years ago) as an open letter to all of my Christian teacher friends. It was originally written in part due to some of the emotions I was feeling and in part to some of the things I saw happening. For some reason or another it was never actually sent…perhaps it wasn’t the right time. But today feels good. And while this was originally composed with teachers in mind, I think its message applies to all.
If there is one thing a teacher hates, it’s to be disrespected. I have a college degree – two of them in fact! I’ve worked for many years becoming an expert in my content area and an expert in the art of educating. I am a grown woman, who is a mother, a wife, and a professional. Not to mention, I’m a pretty nice person who tries very, very, very, hard to practice the “do unto others” thing. I deserve to be respected!! I should not have to deal with some snot-nosed brat who has never held a job, can’t name all 50 states, and isn’t even allowed to drive mouthing off to me. When I ask you take your hat off – take it off. When I ask you to pick up the paper wad you threw – pick it up. But it doesn’t quite work that way.
Christ was God’s son in the flesh and yet he was disrespected in almost every way. Are we so much better than he that our egos can’t handle a 14 year-old rolling her eyes? And yet everyday kids all over the country are being disrespectful.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s okay for these kids to run wild and do whatever they want. We would be doing our students a grave disservice if we did not call them out on their bad behavior. Their ability to be successful in the future depends on us teaching them the proper ways to interact with society. Unfortunately many of these kids are not getting that lesson at home.
It is up to us to call them out on their behavior because it’s not acceptable and in other settings that behavior can have consequences (i.e. fired from a job, loss of a client, verbal altercation turns physical). But don’t jump on their case because they hurt your feelings or made you mad. Get over it. Just as Christ had to deal with many people who did not respect the authority he brought so will you. It is how you choose to respond that can be used as an example.
As teachers we have a unique opportunity to model the behavior of Christ over and over and over again every day. Our influence can be felt not only in the things we do and say, but also in the things we choose not to do or say. For example, cursing apparently is a big deal in my school. I hear of students getting office referrals for cursing. I rarely write anyone an office referral for cursing. When a student curses in my presence my message is always the same “find better words.” In not writing the referral I’m trying to show my students grace, because I know I’m not perfect. I force myself to remember, that for some of these kids, cursing is a way of life. It’s how their parents talk to each other and how their parents talk to them. For some of these kids it is even acceptable for them to curse at or around their parents.
I don’t want my students to not curse just because they want to avoid a trip to the office, I want them to consciously choose better words. That is a much more important skill than not offending my sensitive ears. Today it’s the “F” bomb. Next week it’s the “F” bomb followed by “I’m sorry Mrs. Smith.” Who knows maybe by the end of the year I won’t hear the “F” bomb anymore.