Saturday, October 3, 2015

Love Never Fails

September 2015 felt like it was12 weeks long. That was a long month. The days seemed interminable. About ten students, with individual issues, challenged us from the first week of school, with behaviors an outsider would find hard to believe.

Every day was rife with emergencies, and every day demanded strategy sessions that monopolized us school leaders, our campus officer, teachers, and many itinerant workers, including our school psychologist and social worker.

In their classrooms, teachers soldiered bravely every day, trying to be consistent and firm, yet warm and relational, as they established productive learning environments through their own expertise and with the backup of our our multi-leveled school discipline system.

This year, we did not wait on students to show us unproductive behaviors over the course of the first quarter. We implemented our Success in School Playbook from the first day of school, intervening early when anyone failed to behave appropriately or put forth effort on their school work.

Although we are kind, we have a mission that requires us to be in our students’ faces, so to speak, about their life’s goals, their work habits, their peer relations and interactions, and their learning.

I think our intentional early intervention with our youth squeezed out some issues and attitudes that may not have surfaced until later in the quarter. So be it. Let’s get to it.

On the other hand, it helped a lot of kids to decide not to mess around, to go ahead and get with the program as expected, to engage in learning and growing.

The initial pressure to work and do right exposed a number of young people who struggle with be-ing … with being a son or a daughter, with being a learner, with being a friend, with being okay at all around others, or when they don’t get what they think they want.

People may not believe it, but discipline, delivered in relationship, is the only hope and help for severely misbehaving kids.

Discipline is mentoring:

Do life like this.
No, not like that.
Watch me.
You don’t have to feel bad.
I’ll help you.
Sit here.
Pay attention.
You can get it.
See what you did?
You’re getting it.
Try again.
You’re out of bounds.
This is where you hit the ropes.
Sit out and regroup.
Make a choice.
How did that work for you?
What will you do next time?
Have a Pepsi.
How do you feel?
Let’s try again.
We’re with you.

That's what teachers do. They mentor. They are trusted guides and advisors.

Despite all of the exhausting incidents, I keep hearing a love message in my heart:

When you apply this verse to our work at school, it spins the dynamic of our interactions enough to gift us with a brilliant new perspective.

Here’s what I mean: There’s quite a lot to bear and endure in the teaching profession. Educators bear the blame of all of society for whatever folks do or don’t see happening with youth. Educators bear attacks from media, from parents, from kids, from pundits, from all manner of critics.

If it were merely a thankless job, it would be bearable. The fact is, it can be somewhat hostile.

Teachers have to bear with one another as well. When a substitute doesn’t show up, teachers have to cover one another’s classes during their too-short planning periods, and in all systems, "the strong have to bear the infirmities of the weak."

They have to bear the pressure to consistently improve their craft. They have tremendous time pressures to manage work loads unrivaled in most professions.

But if we decide to bear our own and others’ burdens because we love, that’s a different experience of the weight we carry.

Love believes all things, hopes all things. We have to continue to believe that the kid who is showing us absolutely zero zeal for life and learning will find a reason to rise one day.

We have to believe in ourselves when we don’t get the results we worked so hard to achieve. We have to hope that our efforts, and that education itself, will pay off for our kids, even though it feels like a fight for their lives that we, or they, might not all win.

But if we decide to believe in our kids and in ourselves because we love, that ignites our passion to give our best while they are with us, no matter how grouchy, selfish, or unreachable they may seem today (or the next day, or the next day).

Our hope, because we love, is that they will live, they will know fulfillment, they will build on the foundation they got in school, where we were together and loved one another.

The next verse in I Corinthians 13 says:  Love never fails.

Good news.