26. A Lesson from My Students

My monkeys and I now have a Twitter account. I suppose it was only a matter of time. Is it possible to tweet using typewriters?

I’m just a week away from finishing student teaching. I still have a few weeks of paperwork and seminars and whatnot, but seven days from this moment I’ll have finished my work in the classroom. The last ten weeks have been stressful, rewarding, exhausting and interesting.

Especially interesting has been my time with the MEC students, kids whom the school considers at-risk—in danger of dropping out of classes due to misbehavior or failing grades. I felt rather apprehensive about working with at-risk kids, but some of them turned out to be pretty awesome. Granted, others turned out not to be awesome at all. Most of them fell somewhere in between, alternating between diligence and laziness, respect and disrespect, cooperation and insubordination.

Friday was my last day in the MEC classroom; in the week to come I’ll be phasing out of my other classes. I was reflecting upon my time with the MEC students, and it occurred to me that working with at-risk students presented two major frustrations.

First was when the MEC students refused to accept the consequences of their actions. They would break a rule half a dozen times, ignoring all warnings, and whine about the unfairness of it all when they finally received the penalty for their misbehavior.

Second was when the MEC students complained about school: it was boring to read a short story, stupid to learn vocabulary instead of playing games on the computer, impossible to sit and work quietly for forty-five minutes. No matter how often we tried to explain that school is not pointless, that they need a high school diploma to qualify for most jobs, that they can’t spend the rest of their lives living with their parents and playing video games—in short, that school is actually meant to help them—they wouldn’t listen.

It would be pretty easy to judge the MEC students, except for one little point. It occurred to me a day or two ago that I do the exact same thing.

If I have a bad day, I tend to feel put upon. I wonder grumpily why God lets unpleasant things happen to me. What I forget is that many of those unpleasant things are the consequences of my own mistakes, and many more of those unpleasant things are actually helping me in the long run. Yes, I might feel tired and unfocused all day, but it’s because I was up so late the night before watching trailers on YouTube. True, I might be totally worn out by a rough day of student teaching, but it’s teaching me to handle the responsibilities of being an English teacher.

Not all bad things are the result of my own mistakes, but some are. Not all bad things are part of the painful process by which God makes me a better person, but some are. Instead of grumbling and groaning and griping, I need to endure patiently.

That’s a lesson from my at-risk students, and a lesson I hope they can learn too.

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