The new school year is in full swing and I’ve begun another year of subbing. I’ve talked in other posts about how much I love this job and the joy middle schoolers bring me. However, there are days . . .
Yesterday I was in a 6th grade language arts class.
This is how one period began.
“Everybody — pencils down, face forward, eyes on me.
Today we are going to work on a packet from chapter 3. We will start with the first preview page, go over it together, and then you will work alone, filling in the blanks. When everyone is done with page 1, we will move onto page 2. If we don’t finish, it will not be homework.”
And this is where it got tricky.
I said again, “If we don’t finish this packet, it will not be homework.” (I emphasized the will not part.)
And one more time, “It will not be homework if you don’t finish.”
Then I asked them, “Will this be homework if you don’t finish?”
34 pairs of eyes were on me and 34 lips were saying, “NO.”
We got started.
“Mrs. Williamson, will this be homework if we don’t finish?” So innocent and sincere. I wanted to scream.
I stood there in front of this sweet class of newbies and just hung my head. I did. I literally hung my head.
Am I an ineffective communicator? Maybe.
Are these 11-12 year olds ineffective listeners? Way more likely.
It. Always. Happens. Always.
I calmly and clearly speak directions and information. I make sure they are watching and listening, repeating what I’ve said, and INEVITABLY, a hand, asking about something I just went over.
It really is amusing if it wasn’t so FRUSTRATING.
Even though they were “paying attention”, they weren’t really paying attention to me. Regardless of their posture and their apparent attentiveness, they weren’t hearing what I was saying in a way that registers and effects behavior.
This scenario struck a chord in me yesterday.
Every day, early in the morning, I sit and pay attention to what the Lord might be saying to me. But am I paying attention? It’s quiet and dark, my hands are still, my eyes are closed, but am I attentive to God and His voice whispering in the darkness? Or is my mind on the day ahead — moving the cars before the street repavers come, the milk we need, the class I will be subbing later that morning, mail to send, money to be deposited, kids to call, dogs to walk . . .
Anyone watching would think I was paying attention, but clearly, I’m paying attention to the wrong things. The words the Lord will speak to me won’t register or affect my behavior. Later, I’ll raise my hand and ask, “What was that you said? What did you direct me to do, to say? Where did you want me to go?” And maybe He’ll hang His head.
But His love for me never fails, His mercies never cease, His faithfulness is great, and He’ll tell me again.
However, the goal is to be a better listener. To hear the first time and remember it and do it. Looking like I’m paying attention means nothing if I am not actually paying attention.
Today, then, I take into the classroom love and mercy and faithfulness to my job and to these kids. They do need to learn to be better listeners, and there will likely be a lot more head hanging.
But until then, love and mercy and faithfulness.
It’ll come for them eventually, along with getting to class on time and never forgetting their P.E. clothes. Oh, and never calling me, Hey Teacher, because they can’t pronounce “Williamson”.