Faith that Works

Teaching middle schoolers how to live and practice their faith

Happy Lent all!  I am sorry that I haven’t been posting any Lenten prayer and teaching resources, but it has been a difficult time for me and my family, and I had to shift some priorities to make sure that everything was in the appropriate order.  Stay tuned for Holy Week resources- meditations and reflections for each day of Holy Week will be posted throughout this next week so that you can use them to enhance your Holy Week celebration.  The theme of the reflections will be The Seven Last Words of Christ, and there will be ideas and activities to use from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday.

But for today I have a reflection based on my own experiences with my students over the last few months.  As an avid facebook user (something I am working on this Lent), I see article after article on my newsfeed, each talking about the problems our students have with empathy and caring, and how difficult it is to teach empathy.  I understand these problems and face them myself everyday in my efforts to teach not just content, but also what it looks like to be a follower of Christ in the real world.  But I also think sometimes we don’t give our students enough credit for the ways they look out for each other and for us, their teachers and mentors.

It’s been a tough year for many of the staff at our school this year.  Our music teacher lost her husband to a long term illness just before Thanksgiving.  Our longtime custodian and bus driver passed away unexpectedly a few weeks ago.  The day after he passed, I lost someone in my family to cancer that had recently returned.  In each of those situations I watched as my students went out of their way to show how much they cared for us.  They made get well cards for Antonio in the hospital.  They wrote scripture verses on flowers and gave them to the music teacher to surround her husband with love and positivity in his final days.  I saw these things and was so proud of them.  Even though I had organized these efforts and supplied them with the materials, I was proud of the ways they showed maturity and compassion with their words.

And then a few weeks after Christmas, my father-in-law, who we thought had successfully beat cancer, found out that he was ill again.  For weeks I struggled to balance it all- family, home, school, being a good teacher.  Many days I could push until school let out, but then I had no time for grading or giving extra help.  I felt like I was failing my students, my family, and myself.  About a week before my father-in-law passed away, I had nothing left to give.  I sat down at my desk at lunch, unsure of what I was going to do to fill my afternoon classes because I had no energy left to teach.  Here’s what I found there:

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Is it harder for students to show empathy in a world of facebook, snapchat, instagram etc.?  Definitely.  Can students still catch us off guard with their kindness and compassion?  Absolutely.  By modeling empathy and love for others, even if it doesn’t seem like students always pay attention or catch on, we can help  students see the emotional needs of others.  And more often than not, seeing others’ needs is the first step in showing that we care.

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