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Where’s the Adult? Oh, That’s Me

Summer sounds like a good time to start up a teaching/learning blog again. We've had a lot of life changes around here, including moving (again), finding a new job (again), and starting in a new school (again.)

Starting new isn't easy. There have been many nights (middle of nights, end of nights, begging-sleep-to-come-nights) where I've found myself startling and thinking to myself, what have I done?! Uprooting from familiarity, comfort, mild weather, and routine to something altogether different. Have you ever felt the call of the inevitable?
Teaching middle school was different from teaching high school. This seems like common sense. But I mean, it was really different, especially since I was teaching 5th grade for two years (not technically middle school, but thank you, overcrowding, for this particular growing experience!) I had to learn to be gentler, to realize that some kids had not yet developed the ability to understand idioms or be able to navigate a world filled with lockers and memorized combination numbers. I’m particularly grateful that there was no Instagram or Facebook (both dying breeds now, apparently) for my peers to leave lasting comments on as I went through many awkward phases in my childhood.

Lockers are a bigger hurdle than you’d think. Some mastered it within a week. Others took a few months. Some chose to entrust their friends to open theirs for them. Every. Day. Some of the crafty (and lazy) few stuck pencils in the latch so it would swing open without prerequisite work. A great many teachers took it to be their mission to find these lockers, remove pencils, or find some other form of punishment to teach these students a lesson.

Sometimes I saw students engaged in some silly behavior and laughed, thinking to myself, wow, someone should do something about that! And then I realize. Me. I’m the one who should be doing something about that. I’m the adult! When does this happen, anyway? I remember reveling at people I considered grown, 26- and 32-year-olds who were mysterious in their wisdom. Now that I am older than my parents were when they had me, I realize growth is not so much about mystery and wisdom. Growing mostly consists of ungracefully rolling down life’s hill letting gravity pound lessons into your skull with larger and smaller humans expecting you to fulfill certain obligations for them as you tumble.

When Peter launched himself off a boat, Jesus was not there to prevent him from doing so. He didn’t say, “Wait Pete, you’re not ready for this.” He let Peter jump, lifted him up when he fell, and watched while he did it again and again. If Peter had a locker, he’d probably have put a stick in the latch and proudly proclaimed how he was the first one to get it open in the mornings.

Sometimes God treats me like I’m a child. Tenderly, compassionately, standing close by. Other times I think He wants me to look around and realize I’m supposed to be grown. I’m supposed to make choices, not be frozen until given directions. Obviously, we should seek spiritual guidance, but sometimes I think our “looking to God” is the middle school equivalent of “what do I do next?” It might be appropriate when you’re in school, but keep bugging your boss about it when you’re supposed to be working and it may not be appreciated.

Good teachers want their students to be independent thinkers. They do not “teach to the test” or want students to be able to succeed only with their support. A good rule of thumb for teaching is “don’t steal the struggle.” Often it is struggle that helps us most. When students make mistakes, it is not because they are ill-taught or stupid, but a chance for them to see the whole problem and learn in multiple ways.

As we grow, God sometimes pushes us into spaces that are uncomfortable. We make mistakes and hopefully change our thinking. We discover different sides of who we are and who God is and learn how to function with a spiritual mindset instead of that of a child that needs constant supervision. I see God not “stealing my struggle,” so when I do find myself in a struggle, I do not feel alone or despair. I realize that I’ve been looking for the adult in my spiritual life, looking to teachers and pastors as wizards of faith, when I’ve already been given solid direction. Other times we become immoveable in what we think we’ve learned, blocking out all the teachers God has placed in our lives because we think we’ve arrived already.

Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher, but the teacher-student relationship resonates with me. Of course, there are many different ways I relate with God, but that is my favorite. What relationship with God resonates most with you? What lessons have you learned in His school?

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