Saturday, August 24, 2013

The tension of the Christian public school teacher

Yesterday was one of the hardest days I’ve had in the educational field.  I’ll spare you of all the details—but nothing went according to plan, technology failed me, and I ripped a hole in my pants.  Leave it to me to bring a literal meaning to the phrase “showing your tail off”.  Thank goodness for jackets to cover and a short ride home to change!  But those things are not what bothered me so much.

A little background:  on the first day of school I had an “ask the teacher” session.  The students were free to ask me any appropriate question and the subject of music and singing came up.  The students asked if I liked to sing and if I would sing to them.  As awkward as it was, I sang the first song that popped in my head – “Amazing Grace”.  I’ve noticed that one student often sings the song during transition times, and three weeks later, keeps asking me to sing nearly every day.  Yesterday was no exception—the conversation went something like this:

Student: “Mrs. L, you gonna sing for us again?”

Me: “I would love to sing a lot, but I have to teach.”

Student: “Well, I bet Grace would be real proud the way you’re singin’ her song.”

Me: “Do you think grace is a person?”

Student: “huh?”

Me: “Do you know what grace means?”

Student: “I just thought it was a girl’s name.  And you sing her song real good.”

Me: “Have you ever heard “Amazing Grace” before?”

Student: “Not til you sang it.  Why?  What does grace mean?”

And this is where the tension in my heart arose.  I’m a public school teacher and a Christian.  Were it not for my position, I would have explained the entire song to him.  Were it not for the fact that I had 26 other people to be responsible for, I could have taken the time to help him really understand.  However, we were off to the next class so I told the student to ask my daughter, because her middle name is Grace and she should know what it means.

I had a couple of minutes later to find out this boy asked my daughter during recess what the word meant.  I’m stunned that he is so curious and I can’t help but wonder why he is so fascinated with a song he heard for the first time three weeks ago.  I could tell him that grace meant getting what you don’t deserve.  I can explain that grace can not be earned by your good behavior, that grace is freely given but that it costs something to the one who gives grace.  But unfortunately, for this season, I can’t tell this student that he’s half right—grace is personified perfectly by one Person, but He’s not a little girl.  I can’t tell my students that before we mustered up some good behavior, Christ died for us, took all the punishment that we deserve and put it on Himself.  I can’t tell them it’s by grace we are saved.

I CAN show my students what grace is, but honestly that’s harder.  I get stressed, I get overwhelmed, I get ticked at technology and changed plans, and I have to unwaveringly dish out consequences for “bad” behavior.  I’m not nearly as good at personifying grace like my Savior, and that scares me, because I clearly have a HUGE responsibility to introduce children to a grace they’ve not known before.

But I have to trust that grace is at work with or without my efforts.  This season, and this song, isn’t finished yet….

“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved….
How precious does that grace appear, in these hours I still believe…””