[notice]Musings around children’s ministry. Reflections on week 2 of 10 weeks teaching stint.[/notice]
This week has been different from last week due to the union strike going on during the week. It was confusing who was meant to be on strike because while the majority of the staff turned up to school, more than half of the learners did not turn up for school! It turns out that many of the local taxi drivers who bring the children to school had assumed that the schools would be shut and slept in a little! It was like a ghost town…my class only hosted 14 little ones and it was a pleasant time for all. 50 children in a class are really too much; I was reminded of that when I was fruitfully engaging the few learners I had. Having fewer numbers in the classroom allowed me to get on with some marking too…45 out of 200 books done! It is a pity that learners who desperately need the classroom time did not get it due to the power struggles that are happening between the Union and the Department of Education. I am not sure that I know enough to speak deeply into the situation but I will say that in these instances the people who suffer most are the children. As it is, the education system is unstable and constantly shifting the children every five or so years… to improve our learners desperately need stability.
In my own walk I continue to struggle with discipline among the learners. The other morning after the second break I struggled to pull two learners off each other. The one child had the other one in a choke hold so strong that with all my effort I could not separate them. It took another two teachers to come and intervene to get the two children apart. I was totally challenged…for once I did not have a clever response or a neat scripture to apply to the situation. It was a scary reminder of how desperately these children need love in their hearts. Not fancy theories and cute mantras but God’s love that pierces darkness.
Hungry for love
If you’re inclined to believe that that is just another cute line…I’ll prove it to you that these children are hungry for love. Earlier this week my guardian teacher told a young girl how good her reading was and the little girl burst into tears! We kept trying to tell her that it was a good thing and we were proud of her but she was inconsolable. We asked her if she was sad and she shook her head. So what was it? Was she happy that ma’am had commended her? She nodded yes. Can you imagine? Just that little bit of love and encouragement shown had pierced her heart and released a flood of tears that she could not stop.
Still skeptical? Don’t be-these children are hungry for love and encouragement and they blossom under it. A real love for them is coming over me in spite of myself. I find myself absent-mindedly fixing their collars and standing by the door, as the learners file out, encouraging them to speak more in class. I told one kid that I wanted to hear more from him because I know how clever he is….I didn’t really have proof of that but I noticed that my declaring that over him lit up his face and he promised to participate more.
I’m asking myself if I have a tendency to become so hardened to the children who don’t respond the way I want them to, that I withhold affection. The few kids I have taken the time to express love towards have been visibly pleased and they work hard to please me with their behaviour. One little girl seemed mortified when I told her to keep quiet during class… she apologised and spent the rest of the lesson trying to show me how intently she was paying attention.
I wonder if this war will be won through terror or love. Why is shouting always the first stop before we encourage them? Recently after one of the breaks I went to bring order to a group of children that weren’t getting into line and were talking loudly. As I asked them what they were doing I turned around just in time to see another teacher draw in a big breath to bellow over them. As the kids fell into line and quietened down I smiled at the sight of him releasing the breath and looking for his new victims. Jokes aside, I learned that “through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone” (Proverbs 25:15). That was such an important lesson for me to stop shouting all the time and try a little tenderness! If I speak with tongues of men and angels and don’t have love I’m like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1): Just loud and with no real effect! Jesus’ prayer (John 17) was that the love that the Father has for Jesus would be in us and that Jesus would be in us… This is how people will know that I am a disciple of the Jesus.
Even though my heart is not always right and I get annoyed with the kids every now and then, it’s important for me and every other teacher out there to know that when I show love I protect the children in my class; I hope for the best in the children in my class; I keep no record of their wrongs and show patient with them. So what would that look like practically in my class? Well for one, I can show love to these children by writing more encouraging comments in their books. I can also stop giving warning looks to the more difficult children before they’ve even done anything! When I show love in little moments it overshadows everything else. There is room to forgive each other in love. I had an encounter with a Grade 7 girl who I took out for speaking to me disrespectfully. After I had laid into her I regretted it and thought what a bad testimony it was. I was nervous about seeing her the next day and as they filed in another Grade 7 learner who had been eavesdropping on us the day before shouted gleefully to me ,”Do you remember this girl ma’am?” Did I remember her? Of course I did! Was I going to hold yesterday against her? No. To be honest I was hoping she wouldn’t hold it against me. I forced myself to approach the girl in question and said something to her (I can’t remember what I said!). She could hardly look at me and mumbled something incomprehensible in response. The next lesson she came into my class I made an effort to smile at her when she walked in. As she walked out of the class after the lesson I told her to share more in class, because I can hear her answers under her breath and they are brilliant. She smiled and quickly shuffled out of the class. I don’t know what our next encounter will hold but I hope that we can leave the tension of that disagreement behind and that she’ll learn loads from me because she feels comfortable in my class. There really is room to forgive each other in love.
It is likely I’ll slip up every now and then…but I can trust that when I turn my heart, in love, towards these kids, they’ll respond and we’ll both have hardness melted off us little bits at a time.
Please pray for classrooms all over South Africa that learners and teachers would shape each other in love, so good fruit will abound.