Saturday, June 9, 2012

Looking Ahead

Though it is wise to live in a way that honors the past, it is useless to dwell on the past.  By now, I've said all that I possibly can to and regarding the Class of 2012, and I can let go, secure in the knowledge that my impact will live on with them in some form, and their impact on me will live on in how I teach.

Today, I look ahead.  The future of CAJ is a bright one, as there are many strong classes coming up through the high school.  I want to give particular mention to the students who I taught as freshmen this past year (now sophomores... I don't really know what title to use, so I might as well just say class of 2015).  Yesterday was the last day of school for the students.  As such, the class of 2015 wanted to have an end-of-the-year party.  They made all of the arrangements themselves: emailing the principal for permission, asking to use my classroom, planning out snacks and drinks, organizing indoor and outdoor activities and even cleaning up after themselves afterward.  I agreed to supervise, along with the other core freshmen teachers.

I didn't get a chance to count, but it seemed like most, if not all of the class was there.  They started by eating snacks and watching videos that they'd made for various school activities, including their SWOW (School Without Walls) projects, as well as films made in Video Productions class.  They enjoyed this time of reminiscing, commenting on how much younger everyone looked in October (when SWOW happened) and laughing at both intentionally and unintentionally funny moments.  Then, they went outside to play a class-wide game of capture the flag.  Though I took that opportunity to duck into the gym and practice my speech a few times, they came back into the classroom about 40 minutes later smiling and laughing, so I am assuming the games went well.

What happened next really made an impression on me.  First, they thanked their teachers for a good year and presented each of us with a gift (they gave me a duck-shaped sponge, as they know I like ducks).  Then, they asked each student who would be leaving CAJ to come up to the front of the room.  There were 5 who would not be returning (though several of those students are leaving for a one-year furlough and will likely return to CAJ for their Junior year), and their classmates presented each of them with a giant card containing a class picture and messages from the rest of the class.  Then, several classmates gathered around each departing student, and prayed for them.  They asked me to open and another teacher to close.  There were moments during the prayer where everyone laughed out loud; there were moments during the prayer where many were in tears.  Overall, it was a very earnest and heartfelt gesture, and as a teacher it was very moving and powerful to watch a class come together in prayer like this, of their own volition.

Then, they cleaned the room, wiping down desks and vacuuming the floors, as they'd promised, and went outside for a massive water-fight (I went home to nap, but apparently, they were having so much fun that they forgot the time and had to be booted off campus by maintenance, since grad would be starting not long after).

Each year, the Senior English teachers lead a unit on the topic of bringing Cosmos out of Chaos.  These terms come from a quote by Madeline L'Engle and refer to the idea of restoring Shalom to a broken world.  Yesterday, I saw a glimpse of Cosmos in that classroom as the students prayed for each other.  Around the world, there are freshmen classes where kids dropped out of school, where fights broke out, where bullying was rampant, where back-biting and gossip made for an environment where nobody felt safe speaking their minds.  There were freshmen classes where students had already fallen deeply into partying, drunkenness, drug use.  There were freshmen classes where girls dropped out because they were pregnant, where boys had to adjust to the reality of fatherhood far too early.  There were freshmen classes where lonely, confused and marginalized kids took their own lives.  Some kids in the world did not even get the privilege of a freshmen year due to poverty, racial or gender discrimination, or perhaps some other cultural limitation.  Yet, despite the brokenness that could be found in schools in so many parts of the world, I am so grateful for the moment of grace and peace that I witnessed in my classroom yesterday.  We may complain that those moments are too rare.  I understand the complaint, but I prefer to rejoice when they do happen because they are the first-fruits that we read about in Scripture: a foretaste of what the new, fully restored creation will be like, freely given to us to savor in the present.  In moments like that, I cannot doubt the power of the Holy Spirit to break through the selfishness and arrogance of broken humanity.

As a teacher, I do not want to inflate the self-esteem of these students to the point that they become arrogant about their selflessness, kindness and humility (as Screwtape instructs Wormwood to do to the Patient at one point in C.S. Lewis' classic book), but I do want them to know that God is clearly working in them, and to encourage them to continue to serve one another so that God's glory might be revealed more vibrantly in the halls of CAJ.  I'm looking forward to working with that group again during their Junior year, and am excited to have two completely new groups of students (Class of 2014 and Class of 2016) next year.  What a beautiful note on which to end this school-year!

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