I used to call them rude; maybe some of them are. But lately—largely in part, I’m sure, because God gave me His eyes and not mine—the perspective is shifting. Now when they ignore those “good mornings” or avoid eye contact or stare blankly at playful banter . . . . the reason may transcend insolence. Or self-centeredness. Or pesky teenage hormones.
In this moment, it’s as clear as day that my students—someone’s children—all of our futures—shoulder a daily, unimaginable burden of detachment. Rejection. Invisibility.
And it’s costing us greatly.
Please know that this blog is one of personal reflection on my responsibility to care for each human in my path. It’s not, however, a declaration of blame, solutions, or criticisms on school violence. I’m not that smart. Or even that informed. But one thing I do know after decades in the classroom and even longer than that following Jesus’s teachings: In order to help each other, we must first see each other.
Many teachers like me get an eyeful every day:
We may allow students to choose their own groups for activities. One kid nervously scans the room, not knowing which to join. So we jump in, asking the members of Group A to pull up a chair for so-and-so. They do so respectfully enough but then essentially ignore him. I’m not suggesting it’s on purpose. But why is that?
We notice isolated students in hallways and during lunches, perhaps masking the awkwardness via earbuds or cell phones. Hundreds walk past—kids and adults—but no one acknowledges the Lone Wolves’ presence, not even with a hello, because they obviously prefer alone time. But do they?
We read the essays, attend the parent conferences, consult the guidance counselors, observe the abyss. . . . and feel our students’ heaviness. We want to take them home. (But we can’t.) We want to whisper to a nice group of kids, “Invite her along.” (But we don’t dare.) We want to write little notes to the warriors: the kids who show up day after day, even though they feel different, misunderstood, unnoticed. (Maybe we should.)
Big or small, grown or getting there, we all want to belong. To matter. And helping teens find their way is increasingly difficult. But Heavenly wisdom abounds, and every day that I ask Him, God shows me a clear way to connect. Just this week, for instance, after seventeen weeks of smiling and trying in vain to make conversation with a student, I finally got a “hi” and a grin. Joy overflowed with this breakthrough; in fact, I almost hugged her! Maybe next time, God willing, I will.
As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another and forgiving each other . . . just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”
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