New Every Morning

April 3, 2012

Because of the steadfast love of the Lord, we are not cut off;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning

I think, as a teacher, that I must be like Hosea.

Each morning, as I greet the students who enter my classroom, they all have a clean slate.  It doesn’t matter if a student has refused to learn and participate for the last 4 months … if she wants to learn today, I will be eager, ready, and willing to come along side.  If a student has struggled to respect me in the classroom for the entire semester, but decides today that he wants my help, I will be available.  I must constantly forget who students have been, even as close as yesterday.  I must allow them to change.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t have students who are not going to pass my class, not going to graduate, and not going to do much with their lives.  I do, and it kills me.  But, it does mean that when the student with a 43% in my class shows up ready to work on Tuesday (even if it’s the only day that month that he or she does), he or she is going to get as much of my devoted attention as the student with a 97%.  I think this is what it means to never give up on a student.  I allow them to be new every morning.

I am honest with them, at the same time, I’m not going to lie to my student who shows up the afternoon before something is due, utterly lost but wanting to do well.  She’s not going to do as well as the student who has been working diligently all semester … but she’s here and she wants to work, and for that she deserves respect and attention.

Somehow this mercy, this not considering the day before, is balanced with justice, of course.  I’m not going to do my students any favors by letting them off “easy.”  Students who don’t turn in my work on time get zeros.  I’ve given an entire essay a zero for one plagiarized sentence.  I don’t run after students asking them if they need my help.  They must come to me, but when they do, I will be there.

I can tell, by the embarrassment, hesitancy and fear that my students bring when they ask me for help, that they’ve had bad teachers in the past.  They’ve had teachers who held grudges, weren’t willing to walk through the instructions for an essay for the fifth, sixth, or seventh time, and who made them feel like they were imposing, by coming in with questions over lunch.  I can see in my students’ eyes when they ask for help, apologizing.  I always tell them to stop.  This is my favorite part of my job, I tell them, working with you.  Seriously.

I don’t know if they believe me.

I know that it takes extraordinary courage to change your habits, to try at something you’ve never tried at before.
I know that it is painful to attempt something you’ve always failed at.
I know that I have the same grace being extended to me, new every morning; I have never been cut off.

R. Card-Hyatt

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