I ran into a former student the other day. He is a wonderful person, smiling, running his own business, happily married, an active father of two beautiful children and he was very helpful to me that day. I tell you this because when I taught him many years ago, I expelled him from my class. At the time of his expulsion we sat down to talk and I will never forget the words that he spoke. In defense of his actions, he told me in anger and in defiance that I didn’t really know him and that this expulsion didn’t define him. He wanted me to know that he really was upset that I had given up on him. And there is the rub!
Those words stung and have never left me. I have many justifications of why I stuck to my decision to expel him from my class, but years later it still bothers me. I am pricked to core because I did give up on him. I didn’t want him in my class anymore.
When we work with children, we are required to see beyond the (angry) face that is staring at us in the present and we need to see the potential of the person in the future. We need to nurture and care for the student and let them know that we won’t give up on them. And yet we do.
I know that this former student has forgiven me because he blames himself more than me. However for me….the doubt remains. If I had been more patient, able to see beyond the incident that day maybe I would have handled things differently. I don’t know.
My guess is that at the end of a school year where you have been taxed to the limit, there are times and situations where you wish that you may have handled things differently in the classroom, with your colleagues or with your students. There may be things that need asking forgiveness. In the end, we hang onto the promises/grace of God and we pray that our decisions do no lasting harm. On this side of heaven, we must recognize our brokenness and our limitations. There is nothing more powerful than saying “I’m sorry” to a class or to a student when you are/were wrong. I know from experience it is not easy but I also know that it is necessary.
Perhaps the hardest thing that we need to do after we have asked for forgiveness and received it….is the ability to forgive ourselves.
May you have a refreshing and grace-filled summer!
See you in September,