It had to happen. Our school is busting at the seams, and I’m just a part-time teacher who more easily can be inconvenienced for a few hours of my day. So it’s back to the tiny room, in which I’ve taught for four of my six years. This room is the size of a nursing home room, because it used to be a nursing home room, and about 16 teenagers and I will squish into the space next year. I’ve received pitying glances and solicitous questions from my fellow teachers, and these demand a response.
The tricky thing about a response is that it can either be an emotional heave from the gut or it can be planned and purposeful.
So Jesus and I have talked, and I’m in agreement that cheerful submission to authority (and my superintendent’s wise use of school space) and gratitude should be the final destination.
In my imagination I go to Google Maps and type in “submission and gratitude”. This is where I am going. Click on directions.
Language is what gets me there.
“How do you feel about your new room?” a fellow teacher asked me this week.
“It doesn’t matter how I feel. This is what needs to happen overall for the sake of our school.” These are words that acknowledge the needs of the school are bigger than my own personal feelings. These are words I chose to say. Planned to say.
In September my students will walk into that tiny space. Before they can heave a visceral response to how small it is, I’m going to show a slide show of my Kampala, Uganda trip, where I visited a private Christian school. That school looked like horse stalls. The rooms had bench seating, dirt floors, no technology, no electricity, and only a teacher, a few books, and a chalkboard. Remembering that school visit helps me to see my own situation from a better perspective. I teach in a rich environment.
My first lesson for the first day of school in the fall is going to be about language, but not Spanish like the students signed up for.
We’re going to learn the language of gratitude.
My students are going to look at the lights above us and all of the supplies that line one wall. We’re going to feel the chair backs and how comfortable it is to be able to lean back instead of sitting on a bench. We’re going to look at the clean carpet and the projector screen connected to a computer.
And we’re going to speak gratitude. We’re going to bow our heads and recognize the gift of God for how crazy rich we are, even in this limited space. We’re going to say thank you, thank you, thank you for how generous he has been with us.
Response to unpleasant life circumstances is always a choice, and I’m the first to admit that I often choose poor, even destructive language. (I was tempted to whine about losing my big classroom.) But I’m working on it. In fact, I’m thankful for having to change classrooms just for the opportunity it is giving me to grow inside and to teach my students how to do the same. They might forget a lot of the Spanish verbs and nouns I teach them, but maybe they won’t forget the language of gratitude. Wouldn’t that be something?
You have unpleasantness in your life right now. No doubt. How are you talking about it? And are your words taking you where Jesus wants you to go?