I’ve written this post before. Except that I haven’t. The message is the same. I’ve put this off. Because I’ve said it before. Because you might be tired of my subbing stories. Because I am breaking a rule of good blogging and posting without a picture. But the message is still burning in my heart and I want to say it again, because maybe you missed it the first time.
Sometimes we think that to see the poor and oppressed and to refocus on what really matters we need to travel far away. To a foreign land. But dears, right here, in the cities, especially in the old car capitals of Michigan, you can find the hopeless. Satan may be using pride and entitlement to complicate and confuse the issues, but the kids in inner city messes need to be loved too. Remember them in your prayers, remember those who fight daily to make learning happen there.
As the school year winds down, and I think of my dear friend who has spent day after exhausting day teaching these creations of God, I praise the Lord for her work and wonder how to make myself, and my kids and even you remember this ignored population in prayer this summer. They are not reading cute blogs or dreaming of a summer at their cabin up north. A hurricane or earthquake has not destroyed their home. Still, destruction of the soul and of the home is taking place. If your heart is hard toward this population or you have forgotten. Go visit the halls of these inner city schools next year. Hear stories and let your heart break. They are your neighbors. Love them. Until then I hope to stir you the only way I know how…with stories.
I want to call her cute. This 15 year-old sweet girl. I subbed in her class for all of December and am happy to see her again. She does her work, never complains, and her laugh falls out light, with little prompting. The boys love her. Too much I think. She moves her bulge easily compared to my pregnant thirty-something friends. She doesn’t waddle. But I can’t call a 15-year-old pregnant girl, cute, even if she is.
“Complete worksheet #1. Then worksheet #2. Don’t write on #2 but put your answers on the back of #1. Then complete the assigned problems in the book.” I would repeat these directions, also written on the board 15 times each period.
I walk around the room, hoping my nearness will bring focus, reminding them of the chance to eat lunch with their teacher tomorrow if they don’t finish. My presence is as effective as crayon on a plastic cup. Here, being an adult is not enough to get respect.
I want to usher the sweet girl out to the hallway and ask what her plans are. Will she keep the baby? Who will raise it? Did she considered adoption? Who is helping her? As a sub who sees her less than a dozen times a year, I say nothing. There is no opportunity.
Some of the boys are getting loud and haven’t done a problem in over 5 minutes. I walk toward their desks hoping a verbal jab will be enough to silence them. The red head, undaunted by my tactics, points at his friends. “He raped his little sister.”
They all laugh, waiting for my reaction. The accused laughs loudest and says, “No, no, no, it wasn’t like that.” They enjoy the shock in my eyes that I cannot hide. I tell them their conversation is inappropriate and more talk like that and they will be out of the classroom and in the principal’s office. It stops the conversation. But is that enough? Do I really just stop the conversation and consider it over? Were they serious or just messing with this white girl who isn’t wise in the way of the streets? Did any student who heard this conversation react inwardly with anger?
Later in the day, I sigh as I pass out the 15th pencil of the day. These kids can’t keep track of pencils, or notebooks or even math books. And it is never their fault. Someone stole my math book they tell me. My sister took my notebook. Personal responsibility is almost as rare as a brocolli eater in this school. Hoping to make learning happen these kids are handed free health care, free breakfast, free lunch, and free pencils. Make them take responsibility a newbie thinks. But so many of them would quit, and the stats on dropouts would skyrocket and the crime rate might go up and the school–the state would take it over for failing. So they hand out freebies and hope some learning will happen. The cycle of educational enablement is baffling and complicated and the opening to make it stop will wreck everything for years before fixing a single thing if fixing is possible.
Subbing at that school is hard. But I need to go there. So do you. At home, the state of my own sins and shortcomings and struggles and efforts to raise my girls well consumes me and I forget about others. My world is small and filled with people like me. I am so thankful my friend keeps calling me to sub, pulling me into a world where I am helpless to do anything but pray. The best teachers can’t teach kids who have no desire to learn and no one at home telling them they have to. In that place, I have no personal strengths, no ideas for how to help, I can only turn it over to the One who can.
To read other lessons God taught me while subbing, click here.