Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
A new student walked into my room today. A challenge right from the start. We teachers know a child is going to be tougher than average when he or she immediately is challenging us. Most kids will have a honeymoon period of a few weeks before they begin showing their facets. Not so with ‘Joe’. Across the room was ‘Martin’, a boy whom I taught last year, not without challenges too, but whom I developed a bond with. Martin was with us last year until trouble forced him out of our school. A while later he was shot by a rival. (That rival, another former student of mine, later got shot along with another of my students)
Martin showed up at school again this year, shouldn’t have been admitted because of last years troubles, but somehow was admitted. Today in class I was giving a few last minute study moments for a test. Martin was hard at it. Out of the blue Joe was yelling at him, cussing, challenging him, threatening him. I herded him out the door. Martin kept his cool. Joe’s agitated state worsened as security arrived just in the nick of time. The security folks wanted Martin to go to our school disciplinarian. He was pleading to stay in class as he was prepared for the test, but off he went.
10 minutes later a student showed up from the office with a drop slip for Martin. I was stunned. Martin had done everything right in my view. I didn’t want Martin to be kicked out of school again. I feared for him and Joe. Will Martin try to get revenge on Joe for this? Will Joe try to continue the feud out on the streets somewhere?
I went to the office after school to act for justice for Martin. In my view, and I confirmed this with several other students, Martin really had done nothing wrong in that classroom. I pray he’ll receive justice and be let back in school. It may be the last chance he has.
“Administer justice every morning.” Jeremiah 21:12 Inner city teachers are administers of justice each morning. The story of Tawanda is compelling to me
A girl walked up to me when I was quite new at my school. She told me she had just been added to my class. I checked my attendance, didn’t see her name figuring the counselors hadn’t added her yet. I welcomed her into the room and helped her get into the flow of things.
Tawanda was not very receptive to my welcome. In fact she was very disruptive. She proceeded to try every which way to get under my skin. She did! Tawanda was not in the room very long, but she had done a lot of damage. Try as I might she had the other girls in the single sex classroom all worked up. She was ‘entertaining’ them, which was much better than learning about economics! A frustrating hour indeed.
As her appearance was quite distinctive I was able to identify Tawanda to our school disciplinarian and we quickly were able to figure out her name. It turns out Tawanda was on the girls basketball team. Coaches in inner city schools are like parents to their players. Tawanda’s coach was very interested to hear what Tawanda had done!
Coach brought Tawanda to me the very next day and she apologized. I assured her I would forgive her although I was still quite upset for the major disruption to my class.
Tawanda started saying hi to me when I saw her in travels around the school. Soon it was clear we were developing a relationship. Over Christmas I stopped by the gym and saw the girls basketball team waiting in the gym to go to a game later in the afternoon. I saw Tawanda (who was ineligible to play) and asked her if she wanted to play a game of one on one. Coach said she needed the workout so away we went. We had a blast, Tawanda wore me down and was the first to ten.
2nd Semester I checked my new class lists and saw Tawanda’s name. I wondered if she would revert to the display of several months earlier. Instead Tawanda was one of the kids I enjoyed greatly in class. She earned a B for the semester. Lesson learned, forgive and forget.
Tawanda failed another class and was not permitted to graduate. She had an offer to play college basketball. If she went to summer school she may still be able to make it. Coach told me the other day Tawanda didn’t make it to summer school. She didn’t come back to school this fall to complete her HS education.
I’ve thought a lot about Tawanda in the last few days. Where is she, what’s going to happen to her? I’m not sure. With little family support it’s bleak. These are the mountains and valleys of teaching in difficult places.
Psalm 72:4 (The Message)
“Please stand up for the poor, help the children of the needy.”
This is the worst week of the year for a teacher. Summer’s glorious vacation days are over. No more carefree days of fishing, biking, thinking this is just what retirement will be like. And we don’t have children in our rooms yet. Instead, many of us have to endure meetings, and more meetings, meetings about meetings, and then more meetings. I’m not saying I dislike meetings, I just wish we never had any.
Today in a meeting I learned something fascinating. According to a study adults who are on welfare have a working vocabulary equivalent to a 3-4 year old growing up in a home with parent(s) who are professionals. This alerts our minds to the challenge ahead.
When we think of needy children as the Psalmist pointed out we should, did you ever think that a need was a language deficit? How about a student who told me (post high school) he had never been to the dentist? Did he deserve to be stood up for? Of course.
Pray for your inner city schools and teachers. Pray for the students in these schools. Pray for ways in which you could help the children of the needy.