Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Perspective

I recently had the chance to talk with a good family friend from church - actually, he's more of boyfriend's family frien, now that I think about it. He knows my family too, but is actually much closer to Jon's family. Either way, I personally consider him a good family friend of mine... I can sense another post coming on that one!

As I was talking to this particular gentleman, we started talking abut work and business, and he asked how I was enjoying my new job (which, which by the way, is a lot of fun). This line of conversation led to whether or not I feel there is a general lack of confidence in at-risk kids in modern public schools (which, yes, I believe there is - I'm full of potential posts here!). That followed with the question of how I approach this problem as a teacher of high-risk students.

While I'm sure he didn't intentionally mean for the conversation to do so - though he might have - it really challenged me to think about how my Christian worldview affects my teaching philosophy. There are definitely certain aspects of this that have crossed my mind before, but never with this kind of force. What do I do, specifically, that is salt and light in my students' worlds?

For starters, since graduating, I have been drawn to needy kids. I never thought I would be. In fact, my advisor in college told me she could really see me working with gifted students. I'm currently in my third remedial position in as may years. Jesus told us "whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me." I work day-in and day-out with "the least of these." I told a principal once during an interview, "you can keep telling me how miserably horrible they are, but that will just make me want the job more." People tend to be amazed that I enjoy working with the kids I do, but I cana't imagine anything more rewarding or challenging.

With that said, needy kids usually - read: almost always - come with baggage. They are usually sent to me because everyone else is at the end of their ropes with them, whether for academic or behavioral reasons. I think there is something to be said for making sure every student feels and is truly welcome in my room. I do not like them any less because of their baggage. I try to make it very clear that I still have high expectations, regardless of baggage, and it doesn't mean that they are any less valuable as people. For many of them, it is the first time they have ever experiences an unconditional love.

Something else I've been working on lately (I tend to be much better at it in my professional life than in my personal life) is the part of 1 Corinthians that says "love keeps no record of wrongs." When working with these kids especially, you are going to have disruptions, and there will be kkids bound to make trouble. Something I try to stick to in order to make my classroom a safe place is to never hold a student's actions against him. If there's a disruption one day, I deal with it then, and the next day it's over. They are back in my good graces and they get to start over again with a clean slate.

Finally, I know that students are looking at every part of my life. I realize that the way I live usually is (and should be) different from most adults these kids interact with. Kids are wonderful hypocrisy detectors, and in order for them to take my attitutdes and actions seriously in the classroom, they need to know that those attitudes and actions are echoed in the rest of my life. I try to do this with student ministries too, but it's just as important for my students at school. When they ask me questions about my life, I'm open and honest with them. I want them to see an exampe of someone who cares enough to dedicate their lives to them.

I'm sure there are more ways my worldview affects my teaching, but these are the ones consciously on my mind and weighing on my heart. I can only hope that I'm making some kind of difference... and I'm (again) sensing another post to come...

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