I just got home from school about thirty minutes ago, I’m in my bed, coffee mug beside me and the radio is playing a 90’s pop ballad softly in the next room. This is probably the calmest part of my day and boy what a day it has been!
Working as a high-school teacher is (I assume) a little like being schizophrenic. I hear a hundred voices in the day. The difference is that they are mostly not in my head. It is the student whose enhancement class schedule is not quite right, the colleague who wants to discuss the ‘attitude’ of a cheeky 11th grader, the disappointed parent who writes a long email about his son still not finding good friends, the list is endless. I hear complaints and laughter, anecdotes and protests, girly talk and boy trouble and all about teenage romances!
And then suddenly, in the midst of all these voices I hear something that catches my attention. A cry for help, a colleague in need of someone who he can share with, a child who needs to confess something or a teenager facing adult problems that seem to weigh down heavily on his young shoulders. It’s in those moments when I stop hearing and begin listening instead.
At this juncture, I’m forced to reflect on how we live our lives. Are we too focused on the messages WE want to deliver, and not necessarily on the messages the people around us want us to receive? Are we just constantly talking AT our students, and not engaging them in conversation? Do we take enough time to actually listen to the subtle hints, the cries for help or the joy that is waiting to be shared?
The last year has been eye-opening for me. I’ve realized that 21st century children have a whole new set of 21st century problems to deal with, and sometimes listening to these things leaves me down and miserable. My thoughts come like torrents. Why do children have to have bad days? Why can’t adults be more sensitive? Why can’t friends be more supportive? Why do children have to suffer?
But then when the questioning slows down, when the emotions settle a little and when there’s a moment of quietness I realize that there is a calm reassurance within; a gentle voice whispering to me and reminding me ‘that’s what you’re here for’. So I sit down and think. I plan. I organize. I pray. I remember that HE is in control and so I take one day at a time and do what I can each day, every day. And by the time the end of the year rolls around I may be worn a little thin, but I’ll end the year knowing I have done what I can, for as many as I can. And, most of the time that is enough.
Sigh! Coffee’s gone cold.