Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Religious Bullies in School

This past week, the pastor at church spoke about the onslaught of religious bullying young people are facing in our schools.  There is a constant attack on their morals, a call to be “cool,” and a desire to destroy the connection they have or could have with the Lord. As the mother of three children and a public school educator, I know all too well what this "bullying" looks and sounds like. In fact, some days, I feel like I am headed into battle with a secret that must be shared. After all, I know I could be the only “Bible” some of my students ever see.

Knowing this fact, I strive to make connections with every student in my room. I shake their hands when they come into class. I laugh with them and share important moments in their lives.   I challenge them, care for them, and even hug them. I have been teaching for over a decade and have experience from preschool through college. Therefore, I have taught students fighting battles and religious bullies of every kind. I always say "nothing can surprise me anymore," but every time I mention that phrase I am proved wrong.

I have worked with students who have been abused, were homeless, on probation, or in drug and/or alcohol rehab. I have tutored students before school who were struggling to get homework done between work, babysitting siblings, or caring for their own child.  I have listened as a young lady shared about her life as a 13-year-old prostitute in Mexico, and tried not to break down in the teacher's lounge when I learned she and her family were being deported.  I have counseled a young girl who just learned she had a sexually transmitted disease and one who relapsed and began snorting crank again. I have taught kids who were heavily involved in gangs and had to go to gang training because of my complete naivet√© in this area. (There was a small incident where I unknowingly ran into the middle of a gang brawl to stop two of "my kids" from fighting.)
I have laughed, cried, and cheered for "my kids" as they performed in sports, plays, concerts, and academic bowls. I have celebrated with their families when they beat cancer, welcomed a new sibling or became the first in their family to graduate. I have mourned the loss of students killed by a drunk driver, heroin overdose, and suicide. I am still haunted, as I lie awake at night, thinking about a young boy I should have adopted my first year of teaching. 

These all seem like painful, awful experiences, but these are actually highlights in my career. Why? Because they were all opportunities for God to show what He can do. Each one of these students was prayed over, and some even came to church with my family and I.  I knelt with some in prayer, laughed and cried with them, and provided many with food, clothing, and school supplies. I told each one they were talented and that they were loved. Now, I am not a special teacher, nor am I "trying to toot my own horn." I am just pointing out what God can do with one broken, sinful vessel. It still amazes me God is using someone as unworthy as I am to share His word.

 

It does not matter if students grasp the difference in transitive and intransitive verbs or understand prepositions are, “anywhere a mouse can go.” However, it does matter if I show students God’s love. I feel my job is to share the true knowledge of Christ through my actions and the way I care for my kids. I want them to learn that being a follower of Christ is not about being blameless, but about seeking forgiveness. It is not about knowing the Bible word for word, but about learning what God’s word can do in their lives and in the lives of others.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14



My desire is to prepare them for the battles they may face, armed with the words of 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. My prayer is that the young people in our world embrace these words as a call to action, grapple with them, wallow in their simplicity and use them in every choice they make in their lives. I am definitely not worthy to call myself a disciple of the Lord, but I am willing to be and this is how I can make a difference. It is not always going to be easy, but it will always be worth it.   I am an educator, not just a teacher, and I want my students to leave my room knowing all that I do is “done in love.”