People are asking when I will move to the Junior High stories! Soon, soon! I thought I was ready today, but I remembered two more stories I’d like to share. Patience, dear readers, those awesome Junior High kids with their off-the-wall sense of humor, will be right along!
In my little class, there was one adorable little guy who always seemed to be happy and upbeat; a real joy to have in my class. During the spring, he appeared on several days with beautiful bouquets of tulips. I was always happy to receive his gift and put them in a vase where they graced my desk and added a special charm to our room.
It wasn’t until tulip season was over that I had occasion to drive down the street where he lived. I saw his house up ahead and to my surprise there was not a flower garden to be seen! I had supposed the tulips had come from their garden, but not so!
Then it hit me! Between his house and the school was a large bakery. Outside the bakery were lovely beds of tulips! And I remembered that they were the same type and colour as the ones that found their way to my classroom!
What should I do? How should I handle it? I made a decision; I’m not sure if it was the right one or not, but I decided that I would not challenge him on this. I had no proof that they had come from the bakery garden, and I would have crushed a little boy’s joy in bringing flowers to his teacher.
My sweet little one, I loved the flowers and you brought great joy to my heart in so many ways.
Have you ever felt the pulse of a city? The first time I experienced it was in Saint John, New Brunswick, many years ago. I was uptown for an appointment and standing on a street corner, mid-morning, I felt the pulse. It’s a nebulous thing, a feeling akin to joy and excitement, a living city on the move, awakening to a new day.
I’ve also experienced it in Toronto and most recently in Guelph. From my balcony, on an early morning, I love watching the city awaken. Cars swish by taking their occupants to destinations unknown to me. Seniors walk their dogs on leashes, the dogs straining to sniff each new thing in their path; kids on bikes welcome the day with shouts of laughter. I hear the thunk of tennis balls hitting rackets in the park nearby; a train rushes past behind the trees. I can just see the tops of the rail cars as they pass through the city.
This morning a plane thrusts into the air from the Airport in Breslau. Birds twitter in the pine trees just off my balcony. Squirrels chatter and chase each other along the fence, up the tree trunks, through the grass, in play or anger, I cannot tell. Voices of children playing reach my ear as I rock in the shade, quite private amid the bustle around me.
I love these early morning sounds and sights. I love the feel of the awakening city. I love to experience the pulse of a living, active, busy city. I love to feel a part of the awakening.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10: 27 NIV
During a recent trip to Scotland, I visited a sheep farm. The resident shepherd raises and trains Border Collies as sheep dogs and did an extensive demonstration of their skills. But my attention was on the sheep who moved to the east, to the west, around in circles, out to the field, back to the front, all at the voice of the shepherd.
When they strayed, he gave directions to the dogs to get them back where they should be. His series of whistles was known both to the dogs and the sheep. There was no question of hearing the piercing sound as it travelled over the field. The question was; would they obey his voice?
As I watched, my thoughts turned to Christ as the Good Shepherd and I marvelled at how we wander just like the sheep of this pasture. We hear his voice, but do we listen? Do we obey his leading? If we listen to the voice of Christ and move where he wants us to go, we will be under the care and protection of our shepherd.
The sheep seemed directionless. I couldn’t help but notice that they seemed simple and slow-witted. They need a shepherd! They wander as far as twelve miles away from the home field, but the shepherd walks the distance to minister to their needs. We, like them, wander. How comforting to know that our Good Shepherd seeks us and gently brings us back to the fold.
Are you under the care and protection of the Good Shepherd? Do you hear his voice and listen to him?
I’m still with my little people this morning. I’m reluctant to leave them. My story today concerns a student in another classroom but in the same school. It is another sad story.
This classroom had a very dynamic, caring teacher; one who understood her students and looked beyond the surface of behaviours to seek the reason behind.
There was a problem in the classroom. Students’ recess snacks were disappearing. Someone was taking what didn’t belong to them. This always causes heartache for the student who has lost the coveted snack, shock and dismay for the other students, and heartache for the teacher. She became vigilant and one morning caught the culprit. Today’s theft was a large, shiny apple.
The student was taken to the office where a discussion took place between the teacher and the student.
The question, “Why did you take the apple,” elicited the response, “I was hungry.” This was followed by, “Didn’t you have breakfast this morning? The response turned our staff upside-down. “No, I didn’t have breakfast. It wasn’t my turn to eat.”
I can feel the tears threatening to spill from my eyes. What he said was true. Further investigation brought us the information that the family could not afford to feed everyone, so they took turns eating.
Our response was swift and effective. Immediately a breakfast program was started in our school. The details are hazy after so many years, but I believe it began with this family and later developed into a wider program.
It’s hard to believe the level of poverty that existed and stills exists in our wealthy, first-world country. This child lived in a poorer section of town, but only a block away from well-to-do families. The children from the wealthy section mingled with the children living in poverty. At this early level, I don’t remember any distinction shown by the students. They were just all equally students at our school. I can only imagine that as they grew and became aware of the world around them, that the distinction became obvious.
My own little group were a mix from both worlds. It must have been difficult for my littles ones who did not have the clothes, toys, trips etc. that they saw and heard about; but never once did I hear them complain.
Oh my little ones, where did you go in life? My hope for you is that you were able to rise above the circumstances of your childhood and follow your dreams.
Amidst the joy of life there is always sorrow. It’s the same in the classroom. I can’t leave this sweet class without adding a little about the things that nearly broke my heart.
Every morning I would lead these little ones into the classroom where they would remove coats, boots, and bags. The following few minutes fell into a delightful pattern. I would sit at my desk, they would line up beside me to tell me their stories from the few hours we’d been apart. It was such a special time of the day; the time before classes actually began, the time when I got to know them and their families a little better. Sometimes they would go on and on and I’d have to hurry them along so the person behind would have a chance to tell their story.
Most of the stories were funny and sweet, but sometimes in the midst of this joy would come a note of sorrow. The one that touched me the most was from a sweet little girl. This particular little girl was cute and lively, with a big smile that melted my heart. Her stories were usually charming and entertaining. One day as she approached the front of the line, the same smile was on her face, but her words belied the happy look. She, in a very matter of fact voice, told me that her father had hit her mother the night before. Her tone of voice told me that this was not an uncommon event. I was shocked. I asked her if her mother was okay. She assured me that she was fine.
The rest of that day, I kept a close eye on this little one, but she seemed to take it all in stride. What other things had she experienced in her young life? All these years later, I still feel sad when I think about this story. I’ve lost track of this little one and can only hope and pray that she had the opportunity to do what she wanted in life and to be free from any violence in her future.
My experience in the classroom over the years was coloured by this event. Whenever a child was acting in ways not usual for them, I was always aware that they may have left a difficult situation at home. Sometimes the cause would become clear later in the day or in the following days, but sometimes I just had to keep it to myself and wonder.
To you, my little one, I would love to send you a hug. I do hope that someday we may reconnect. You made an impact on my life with your ability to carry on during difficulties. I love you for that.
The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.” Gen 7:1 NIV
God graciously supplied everything that Noah and his family needed while God was destroying sinful mankind. The ark provided safety, salvation, security, life, protection, and provisions. The world outside the ark was harsh, treacherous, stormy, frightening, and deadly. But inside was peace through the storm, life rather than death, and protection from the elements.
This reminds me of what we have in Christ. We are safe in his arms. We are saved from our sinful natures. We are eternally secure. We have abundant life. We have protection from the evil one. And God has promised that he has given us everything we need to live our lives as Christ-followers.
In Philippians 4:19 Paul tells us, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” What a wonderful truth. What a wonderful provision. Often our problem is that we expect him to meet all of our wants and when he doesn’t, we begin to think he doesn’t care. But he is faithful and fulfills all his promises. We need to align our wants to his perspective of our needs; then we will see that he has provided everything we need.
Are you safe and secure in the arms of Jesus, our ark? If not, the Bible reminds us that today is the day of salvation. Don’t delay the most important decision of your life.
I’ve subtitled this one, Fri-day = Lice-day!
Of all the schools where I taught, this one takes the prize for number of lice sightings! Perhaps it was because the children were younger than the ones where I would ultimately spend my teaching time, or perhaps it was the area, or the times. Whatever the reason, every Friday morning was lice-quest day. Are you surprised that I didn’t eat lunch on Fridays?
After the morning bell and opening exercises, it was time to have the children put their heads down on their desks, for me to get clean sticks from my desk drawer (similar to popsicle sticks), and begin the ritual. This was repeated by each teacher in each classroom throughout the school.
I would begin at the back of the row by the windows and work my way around the classroom. Holding a stick in each hand, I would carefully lift the hair, looking for the culprits. I knew where I would find them, but to spare any unnecessary embarrassment, each child would be checked. And although I knew where they would be, occasionally another student would harbour one or two due to the close proximity of the children.
There were always at least two heads that held the fugitives. How do you send these children to the office without the others knowing? Difficult, even impossible. I made it as painless as I could, distracting the others. Fortunately, almost everyone had them at least once during the year, so the embarrassment was shared. I must say, that never once did I hear a negative word said to anyone who had to be sent to the office. My little darlings were very accepting.
We, as teachers, were following policies set by the schoolboard. The child would be sent to the office where he or she would be checked again. The home would be notified and the child sent home with instructions on how to rid a head of lice. Once they returned to school, there was an office check, and then the child returned to the classroom, usually the next day.
I fully believe that our policies were correct, but all parents did not agree with our decisions or our suggestions for removal. All of our hard work was useless because of the heads that were not completely cleared. Sometimes it was an economic difficulty and in those cases we tried to supply what was needed, but some families would not accept our help. Other times it was a lack of caring or of neglect. It always amazed me that some parents really didn’t seem to care if the lice persisted. Perhaps it was an overwhelming problem in the midst of even greater overwhelming problems in the home.
I learned several things from my Friday mornings. I learned that I could check a head and not gag! This was a major breakthrough for me! I learned that my heart filled with compassion for these children who were unable to help themselves. They were at the mercy of the adults in their lives. I learned that I could bend over their desks and help them with their assignments without worrying about the possibility of sharing the lice. I learned that children have little or no control over the environment into which they’re born. I learned that the child with the dirty face and ripped clothing was just as loving and delightful as the scrupulously clean and well-dressed child.
The hearts of these little ones touched mine in a way that I could never have imagined. Even all these years later, I feel tears on my eyelashes as I remember their dear little faces. You were my first class, my little ones, and I loved you and the lessons you taught me. I will never forget you.
The same little class had other very bright children. One little guy constantly squirmed in his seat, always doing his work and not bothering anyone else, but never still. When I would catch his eye, I was usually awarded with a grin. I knew he was knowledgeable on many topics, well beyond his age level.
I discovered that at home in his spare time, he read the encyclopedia! And not just fun things, but articles of interest which steadily increased his information base.
He was an incredible, very charming little boy. I’ve checked into his career path and have found that he’s a very successful lawyer. What a privilege to have been a part of the education path of this intelligent child.
I knew you would go far! Your delightful personality, coupled with your knowledge base, and topped off with a brilliant mind, were early signs of future success. Well done little one.
I have often been asked if I will ever write a book about my experiences as a teacher. The answer is always, no. I have a multitude of memories of my incredible students, all crowding my mind. I have no interest in writing a book about them, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share some of the more memorable ones. Don’t worry, my lovelies, I won’t use your names, although should you choose to read my blogs, you may recognize yourself. I promise to be kind!
My teaching career began many years ago, and it’s to these earliest memories that I turn first. For most of my career, I taught junior high grades, but early on, I did have a younger class. I loved these little ones and their stories but knew that my teaching career would be more successful with the older students.
As my mind wanders around this little classroom, faces and names pour in. There were several very bright students who have since gone on to be successful in many ventures. One incredibly interesting child set out to defeat the standard IQ test, a difficult task as they were so designed to be immune to this. However, the makers of the test had not encountered the brilliant brain and calculating mind of this child. When the test was graded, it became evident that something had not gone as planned; the score was well below what we anticipated. The test was administered again, this time in a one to one situation, and that was when we discovered that the child was deliberately answering the questions incorrectly!
What an ingenious mind! I enjoyed this child so much and appreciated his creative thinking processes. To be able to manipulate and control a situation like this at such a young age, spoke volumes to me of the potential leadership abilities of this child. I have recently done some investigation as to where he is today, and was thrilled to find he is extremely successful in his chosen, high profile career. Well done, my little one! I knew back then that you were no ordinary student!
Jesus spent many hours teaching his disciples. He knew his time with them was short, and he had so much he wanted to tell them, so much he wanted to explain to them, so many ways he wanted to encourage them, so many ways he wanted to challenge them. There must have been times he wondered if they would ever ‘get it’.
But he believed in them; he had chosen them. I find it so interesting that he didn’t choose the intellectuals of the day, nor did he choose the religious leaders, nor the wealthy. He chose ordinary human beings who experienced the work and pleasure of their existence. They were labourers who spent their days eking out a living. They were not academics, but Jesus put their understanding to the test over his three year appointment with them.
They had learned so much; about God, about the Messiah, about life, about Heaven, and about themselves. And now he had to teach them about the future, about the end of the present age. These were men who were tied to the earth; tied to the everyday work of living. Maybe they had wondered what would happen in the distant future, but it seems more likely they had been more concerned with weather conditions, the run of fish, the direction of the wind, family matters, and a multitude of earthly details.
Now Jesus turns their thoughts far into the future. He engaged their curiosity when he drew their attention to the temple and told them it would be destroyed. They couldn’t imagine this happening. They must have discussed it among themselves because the next time they were alone with him, they asked him when this would happen and would there be signs of his coming.
Now Jesus enters a long teaching session and we are able to tune in and absorb the facts along with the disciples. Here are some of the facts:
- You will hear of wars and rumors of wars
- Many will come in my name and deceive many
- Nation will rise against nation
- Kingdom will rise against kingdom
- There will be famines
- There will be earthquakes
- Christ-followers will be persecuted
- Christ-followers will be put to death
- Christ-followers will be hated
- Many will turn away from the faith
- False prophets will come
- There will be an increase of wickedness
- The gospel will be preached in the whole world
Anything sound familiar?
I listen to the National news every evening. The constant theme is wars and rumors of wars, nations rising against nations, famines, earthquakes, and evil in many forms. Through our missionaries and mission organizations we hear of persecutions, death, and hatred of Christ-followers.
Just last week we were shocked and saddened to hear of the massacre at the University of Garissa in Nairobi, Kenya where 147 Christians were targeted and killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
And the gospel is being preached around the world. With the sophistication of our global communications, radio and TV programing is beamed around the world. Mission organizations are in every country. Because of our immigration policies, the world is now coming to our neighbourhoods. Broadcasts from North America are being beamed into distant countries; neighbourhoods are being blitzed with the message of the gospel through the written word and through media. The internet has made it possible to reach millions who would otherwise never be reached.
It boggles my mind that so many of the signs Jesus mentioned almost 2,000 years ago are visible in our present day. But Jesus gives us three cautions: watch out that no one deceives you (Matt. 24:4), no one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, not the Son, but only the Father (Matt. 24:36), and, therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. (Matt. 24:42)
I encourage you to read Matthew 24. It’s an exciting and enlightening chapter. We need to be alert to the times and be ready when the day comes.