I have yet to meet an educator who doesn’t love kids, love teaching, and love learning. Your calling to this field, and to the students you teach, is filled with meaning and relationships.
The problem is, sometimes adults get in the way.
I have found this school year to be the most challenging year yet for managing the interpersonal dynamics and relationships that make up the institutions of our communities. Simply put, there seems to be a lot of people in education losing their patience with one another.
I have often thought of the passage in Matthew 18:21-22, where Jesus tells Peter to forgive his brother or sister who sins against him “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Then when I looked up the passage, it struck me that it’s the same chapter of Matthew where Jesus calls little children forward and places them among the crowd.
In other words, Jesus talks about forgiveness of one another just as a bunch of adults are getting frustrated about the children in their midst. Sound familiar to those of you working in education?
There have been times I have even been asked this year, “how many chances are we going to give?” regarding a student or a colleague. And the answer is almost always, more. We are called to live in community with one another, and while I’m still learning exactly what that might mean, I know it doesn’t give a formula. It gives us people of God, each other, and the grace to try again.
Perhaps this requires a strength of purpose, of resolve, to continually return to situations that are hard. And it is by no means easy for us when we are feeling hurt, tired, and worn out. It is a uniquely vulnerable position to be in, to invite those who are hurt and disconnected into our lives, and to make peace with the inevitable ways we might be hurt again.
This is where our faith and our Savior make us strong. Because we and our students know that God’s love for each of us is unconditional, we can be okay with recognizing our own mistakes or pushing into hard situations.
In restorative practices approaches to students, there is often a focus on separating the deed from the doer. These deeds that happen, these broken relationships, do not make the doer any less valuable or necessary to the community. That’s an incredibly difficult thing to live out and to communicate to one another in the midst of hurt and pain.
As Lynn Swaner and Andy Wolfe shared recently in Flourishing Together: A Christian Vision for Students, Educators & Schools, our relationships with one another are not a means to make school run smoothly, though it certainly helps. Our relationships are the point in themselves. So even if we could run a school smoothly without them, we would certainly be missing the point of Christian education!
I wish I had a magic formula to smooth out the hurt that seems so prevalent in our world right now. Our approaches always depend on the circumstances and the context. But when it comes to how many chances our brothers and sisters in Christ deserve, I believe our faith and love calls us to more.
So, I pray for you, and your community, that God gives you the strength and support you need to walk back in to those hard situations, to try again. Looking back to Matthew 18:21-22, Jesus tells Peter to forgive his brother or sister “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” These words remind us to keep going and keep trying… as many times as it takes. And to reflect the love that God has given each one of us in the process.