The Substitute Teacher Goes To School


They say teachers, like parents, have eyes in the back of their heads.

It is not true.

What is true is, like a good parent, a good teacher has honed the God breathed ability to read between the lines…the giggles…the whispers.

A good teacher is like a good shepherd.
Each member of the flock is a priority.
Each one under the watchful eye of a caring leader.
Good teachers don’t have eyes in the back of their heads.
What they have is telescopic vision.

They can see way deep. They can see way far.

When the blinders come off and one looks past the rising stigma of public schools in general and public educators in particular, sometimes seeing becomes believing.
Believing that, despite all the out-dated buildings, humanistic philosophy and common core anxiety, Jesus just might make an appearance in a public school.

Hard to believe, I know.

It’s like sensing God’s holy presence in Wal-Mart.
What could He possibly have to do with Broken-Cart Wal-Mart?

Unless it’s the broken down, people-forsaken places where we actually find Him.

The news rhetoric that public school in America has become a people-forsaken place.  A federally-funded, low scoring, hormonally charged public space full of socially wired and overly medicated children; soul-bruised and belly hungry because, quite simply, mom and dad just don’t get it.

Poor. Uneducated. Socially wired and overly medicated moms and dads navigating this world with nothing but a broken cart.

Teachers, the good ones, must learn to look past the first thing they see; the poverty of mind, body and soul. They learn to see what could be, what is meant to be.

A subsitute teacher sees things too.

But this one has taken the better part of sixteen years to see past the first thing to the second thing where God is.

When you learn to see the second thing, what is meant to be, you put your rocks down.

Mercy enables you to walk away from a stoning.
Grace enables you to recognize it was Jesus’s idea to help you to do it. 

As school winds down this week, I am reminded of the many grace moments that I have seen throughout the years. Grace moments that have opened my eyes to the holy assignment of teaching.

Moments like when you, teacher, have come in early and stayed late for the sake of being prepared to impact a child.

I’ve seen you pick up countless pencils and twisted paper clips and wads of paper and used straws.

I’ve seen your intimate relationship with the photocopier. I’ve seen your struggle with the laminator.

I’ve seen you read thousands and thousands and thousands of words.

I’ve seen you write slowly and perfectly for the beginning reader every single time.

I’ve seen you reach down, reach up, and reach over one more time when you really want to escape to the teacher’s room for one minute of peace.

I’ve seen you buttoning, zipping and tying all of the unbuttoned, unzipped, untied places.

I’ve seen your overloaded bags and totes and carts.

I’ve seen you navigate the rough waters of hurting parents who hurt back.

I’ve seen you buy pants and shirts and sneakers and coats and Book Fair books with your own money for kids who will never stand in line at the cash register to get something cool.

I’ve seen you restore dignity to an unruly child.

I’ve seen the weariness in your eyes when you’ve chosen to keep going until you see understanding’s light appears in a child’s eyes.

I’ve seen you stand on the tracks willing to take head on a train wreck of a kid.

I’ve seen you stand up to bullying with the understanding of a seasoned diplomat and the heart of a mother bear.

I’ve seen you eulogize a young girl who couldn’t see past her pain to your outstretched hand and took her life anyway. I’ve seen how your words breathed hope to a grief-bashed community.

I’ve seen a student’s disappointment when it was me sitting at your desk and not you.

I’ve seen children love you.

If you are a teacher reading this, may this Summer refresh you in such a way that, come Fall, new mercies and grace will be upon you for another year of opening up your telescope and seeing what you are believing for.

This is dedicated to my dear teacher friend, who retires this year.  A shepherd of children, she has led many of them by the still waters of understanding and learning to the deep oceans of grace.

To Carol, With Love.