October 8, 2013
Having been a high school teacher for eight years now, not much with regards to teenagers and their actions surprises me. I’ve seen and heard many things from teens over the last eight years that I never thought would be possible. I’ve had them come to me and confess the events of their weekends, good, bad, indifferent, and very much usually embarrassing – at least for me to listen to. I’ve had them tell me of their home situations and so many of them have seen way more in their short years of life than I have seen in all of mine. I’ve watched many of them stumble along having no clue what the real world is going to be like in a few years when they’re out there floundering in it. I’ve had some that were more “together” than many adults I know. I’ve even witnessed their “expressing themselves” in their outfits and hair styles as they enter the school daily. Occasionally though, these guys and life in general throws you a curve and you have to stand back and reevaluate things. I received one of those curves this past week with some of my students.
I generally have students in my class anywhere from 55 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes, so I am with them longer than most teachers in their day. I’ve come to know my students in my morning session pretty well over the beginning course of this school year. They are a good group of kids that are genuinely polite and are actually interested in the subject matter. They come in, get their things out and get busy without prompting. In actuality, they are truly a teacher’s dream class come true. This past week, we had our annual back to school picnic and something we call “shop wars,” where each class competes in different Minute to Win It type games. The shop with the most points at the end of the day receives a pizza party. My students had democratically elected a class member as their team captain and on the morning of the event, he was going over the games with them and they were all engaged and volunteering for who wanted to do which event. I had stepped over to the class directly next door to me and was “pestering” those students trying to get them excited and ready to go too. I was gone probably a total of 2 minutes. When I stepped back into my classroom, my students were in a huddle toward the front of my class. They looked like the football team just before the game on Friday nights. There were tall ones, short ones, ones from different schools, different back grounds, different parts of town, but in that moment, they were one. Their captain was giving them a pep talk. This was a pep talk that would definitely move you to action! From a 16 year old boy, it was an awesome pep talk! He told them he was already proud of them, no matter what the score and that he hoped that each one of them went out there and had fun and that they would all work together and support each other. The next thing I witness is that they are all bowed together in prayer, the student having asked the others if it would be alright if he prayed and they all said “yes, please”. He prayed one of the most sincere and heartfelt prayers I have ever heard prayed in my life. At the end, every one of the students said “Amen.”
I sat there for the longest time watching them and trying to take it all in. I have never seen a group of students so kind and so spiritual. At that moment, I was in awe of this group of young people. I was also a very proud and very humbled teacher, as well as humbled human. There are definitely times when these kids absolutely amaze me and absolutely take my breath away. I’m so glad that I was able to witness this simple act and I’m proud to say that these are my students!! Even though I am their teacher, this just goes to show that I can learn something from them from time to time too!