We were asked in our teacher inservice to name a characteristic that we highly value in our classroom. My answer: “I love to laugh, and I love to see the kids laugh.” It is my belief that a happy, engaged, and curious student will turn into a whole adult who also happens to be a life-learner.
Granted, laughter is risky business in middle school – you have to be assured that kids are laughing WITH and not AT each other. Then there’s the whole matter of what kids will laugh at. Anything related to a bathroom and they snort and giggle, and I gag.
Nevertheless, an environment where you can laugh often and laugh well is an environment where dreams are launched. My goal is always to instill a love of learning – laughter is one of the staples. I have not always been successful to this end. In fact, I can hardly think of year when I haven’t started out musing, “If I only I had known this … been like this … tried this … last year or ten years ago.” I always second guess whether or not I’ve done enough … or hearing the difficult journeys former students have found themselves on, I have to ask, did I accomplish anything?
Teaching is tough because life is tough, but I believe with all my heart that next to what happens inside of a home, the classroom is the most vital room in our country. If you want to shape a nation, you shape the classroom.
If I am right, there are sobering consequences to the condition of our schools in light of the state of our very divided nation. Most of us feel helpless, because unless you are a teacher (and even teachers are often constrained), there seems little we can do to impact schools. From a distance that may be true, but then, that is the problem … distance.
I think we can improve our nation starting immediately. It commences with “adopting” a school – RIGHT NOW. If you don’t have kids in a school, pick one close by. Pray for teachers, administrative team, students, and families every time you drive or walk by. I anticipate that not only will their lives be touched, but so will be your heart.
And if you really want to change the world, get involved. Refuse to say you don’t have time, but find a way. Think about it … someone has found time to influence our schools. How do you like the results? Before we can complain, we need to check our own involvement. There is a long list of ways to engage:
Instead of going to a movie, how about going to a sporting event of an area High School? How about becoming a regular fixture at those games?
Volunteer. Or get a job … part-time jobs are listed all the time for bus drivers, para-educators, office staff, lunch room, referees, coaches, and more.
Talk to the kids at your church. Ask them them how you can pray for them and for their school. You may be surprised at the responses you’ll get. Then, FOLLOW UP. Let the kids know you’ve been praying. Ask them how it is going. Be ready for a whole bunch of new friends to be part of your life.
Be a safe person. Love schools and the people in them, because Christ loves them … right where they are at. Refuse to allow ulterior motives or unrealistic expectations to get in the way. Don’t go to argue.
Reach out to the teachers you know. Again, you don’t have to have school age children. What about the teacher who lives across the street or in the apartment above? Make a meal for her family during parent-teacher conference week (just make sure it doesn’t come off as a bribe if you do have kids in the school!). Or offer to do a chore that might save him some time. A couple of parents approached our middle school team one year and offered to wrap the Christmas gifts we had bought for our families. What a treat, and what a time-saver.
Really – don’t forget the teachers. A lot of teachers find themselves at odds with parents and even strangers because schools are seen as failing, and teachers are pegged as the reason. There is so much more to the difficulties of our schools than teacher performance.
The load that teachers juggle, especially in the public schools, is daunting and angry parents only make it worse. Just this summer, I’ve had three different people tell me they got out of teaching because of the parents. Wow! These were really good teachers, too. Imagine how positive and caring interactions with parents could make a difference in these teachers lives and therefore, in the lives of the kids they could still continue to influence.
Every day is not all joy and laughter. Sometimes everything from ridiculousness to apathy to vomit to snot shows up. It gets crazy. It gets tiring. It’s always adventurous.
I am not a great teacher every day. But I’ve got a goal. I’m out to make the world more whole … a safer, and a kinder place. It starts in my school … one laugh at a time. Come join me!