by Michele Latham
A public school can be an unfriendly place. There are constant deadlines, misunderstandings, peer pressure, and the ever-present feeling of being judged and criticized. And I’m referring to the teachers! Students, of course, have their own set of challenges and struggles and it sometimes seems that the system is designed to discourage children and staff alike.
One may question how love can survive in such an atmosphere.I’ve come to realize it is one of the best arenas in which to practice Christ’s command to love one another. My opinion has been formed through watching a certain history teacher, my husband, as he uses the power of love every day in his job. He may not love the current climate of the public school system, or the random drug testing of his students, or being a part of yet another non-education related committee. But he loves those high school kids every day.
He uses a respectful manner of teaching and engaging with the students. Many of them have been negatively labeled before they get to his class (lazy, stupid, discipline problem, bad home situation, etc). He makes a point of ignoring the labels and treating each one like an actual person! Although he can’t exactly teach about Orthodoxy ( he sneaks in as much as he can in Western Civilization class), his actions are based on Christ’s teachings.
There are ups and downs as the classes progress each semester. Some days he comes home questioning if teaching is the best job for him. Then the year ends and it’s time to say good-bye to the seniors. It never fails, a few of the students write thank you notes to him. And they always go something like this:
“I can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am for having the wonderful opportunity to have you as a teacher and role model. You have had a tremendous impact on me and my life. I have learned so much from you and your classes. Not only have I learned about history, but about life and how to live it. I can only hope to have teachers at the University that teach like you do, that care about students like you do, and that question things like you do. You’re one of my biggest heroes.”
It is amazing to me that there are kids who take the time to put into words their gratitude for him. I don’t think they will realize until later that what they learned from their teacher was not history, or politics or even how to appreciate good roots music, but rather they learned how to love. How to use a situation or a job (even one that seems less than ideal) as an opportunity to minister to others.
I must remind myself to look for opportunities in my everyday life to serve others and I see from my husband’s example that there are opportunities all around me. Standing in church with my brothers and sisters I’m aware that they are busy looking for opportunities also. In fact, I am thinking that the title of this post could just as easily have been:
at the Office
at the Construction Site
at the Library
at the Gym
at the Hospital
at the University
at the Winery
at the Farm
We have only to look for it.