Its funny how things do work out. No this isn’t a moment where I suddenly admit I think it is all truth but one where I admit (again) that some of those guys who wrote the Bible were pretty smart and really understood the human condition.
Let’s start with my second bible study. New group with new people. Scary. I ended up telling my story in the beginning- not because I decided to do that but because it was the right moment. Kevin (who was one of the hosts) was asking me some “getting to know you” questions and asked specifically if I had just moved here. Obviously I would have found them sooner if I had lived here for a while. I said I was in a special situation.
OH MY GOSH “SPECIAL SITUATION”???? Seriously, what was I thinking. I immediately realized that made me sound worse, like a mass murderer or something. So I spilled the beans so to speak. Everyone was great. No one moved over so they didn’t have to sit next to the non-believer. No one gasped. Well no one gasped loud enough for me to hear it over my own fast beating heart. Everything was fine and we started. All that worry over nothing.
There was a part of the evening where there was an analogy about people coming to house-sit and you leave them a book detailing when the garbage needs to go out, when the pets should be fed, how often to water the lawn and the importance of doing these things while the owner is gone. The people who have said they will take care of the house read the information, they study it, they highlight it, they even meet with their friends to talk about it. But when the home owners come back the garbage is still sitting next to the house, the pets, plants and grass are all dead. All that reading and studying meant nothing because they didn’t do anything about it. They just forgot to do it.
My take on it is people are like this all the time with things in their life not just with their approach to Jesus. People have things that are important to them but there are priorities and things get pushed aside, forgotten or even though they really feel it should be important it is not important enough for them to do anything. I was faced with such a situation yesterday.
Yesterday I was substituting for the Librarian at a local elementary school. Nothing much was going on at first because there was state testing in the morning but I had a few classes come in, then had lunch and then yard duty for 30 minutes. Yard Duty is simple. You stand around and make sure no one is doing anything to hurt themselves.
Or in the case of yesterday, you choke back your own tears at the completely disgusting treatment of a 4th grade boy.
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Its a chilly day but the sun is shining. I wish I had known I was going to have yard duty because I would have worn a jacket; my sweater isn’t too bad as long as I stand in the sun and the wind doesn’t blow. The other teacher (let’s call him Teacher M) is over by the basketball hoops while I am close to the building where the kids are jumping rope. All is fine. Then Teacher M is yelling at a boy who is walking towards the building. I am not sure what is going on. Teacher M is saying things like “You want to be that way? Fine we can just do this again tomorrow.” The boy is a thin blond headed boy with a black hoodie on. He has light skin and later I will notice the freckles splatters across his nose and cheeks. He’s obviously being defiant. I think at one point the boy might have flipped the teacher off but his hands were in his sleeves so you can’t be sure. It was just the look on his face that said that that particular hand gesture would go well with the rest of his body language. The boy stands obediently by the wall. He is obviously angry but keeps it to himself. Teacher M shares his attention with the kids on the playground near him and the boy standing against the wall near me.
There is a rubber bin with basketballs and jump ropes in it next to the boy. He picks one up and is untangling it. Teacher M yells at him to put it down; he doesn’t get to do anything but stand there. So the boy stands. A few minutes later the boy is messing with the jump ropes again. I walk up to him to talk. I explain to him that I don’t have a problem with him and he doesn’t have a problem with me, right? He agrees. I talk to him to tell him to put the jump ripe down and to just not do anything else to get in more trouble. I didn’t get very far when the Gym Coach is walking up telling every one to not put the jump ropes in the bin with the basketballs. He directs the boy to take all the jump ropes out of the bin and that is exactly what the boy does. What he was told. I walk away.
Cue rage and fury from Teacher M. He yells from across the playground that the boy needs to put the jump ropes down. That he isn’t allowed to be doing anything. The Gym Coach tells Teacher M that he was the one who asked him but Teacher M doesn’t care and says that. I want to clarify that Teacher M just told another teacher that he didn’t care what they had to say. So it is not just that Teacher M disregards a defiant little boy he also disregards what other professionals at his place of employment think.
The little boy is obviously upset. How was he supposed to chose which adult to listen to? Should he have told the Gym Teacher no? How can a child know what to do here? This is a lose/lose situation for this little boy. He is obviously frustrated by the whole situation and punches the metal door that leads into the cafeteria.
Teacher M sees this and is yelling at the boy that he’s not very smart because that is a metal door and he isn’t hurting the door by punching it. Teacher M walks over to the boy who is against the wall and gets into his face and laid into him like a drill sergeant. Teacher M was basically telling the boy that he wasn’t important and didn’t matter. He was yelling in his face and the boy had tears streaming down his cheeks. Teacher M never even thought to even look to see if the kid’s hand was ok but had no problem going on and on in that boys face for about 5 minutes and in front of all the other kids who were lined up right there to go in for lunch. This is when I was choking my own tears back. I kept looking at the boy hoping he would look at me and see that I cared for him even though I didn’t know him.
This was a blatant abuse of power by this teacher. He was on a complete power trip. An adult who was in a position of trust was treating this child like he was garbage and do you know what I did?
I am ashamed that I didn’t speak up right then and there. That would have really shown that boy that maybe a teacher can be a nice person. Maybe it would have been the eventual difference between that little boy liking school and hating it. Maybe it would have made a difference in his life somehow. But I didn’t do anything. I felt like it wasn’t my place. I am just a substitute; I am just a person that comes in and is only slightly more qualified then a babysitter, right?
I went on about the day as there were still 2.5 hours left. I knew that boy wouldn’t be in the library later because I didn’t have any more fourth grade classes coming in. If I have ever really felt like there was a time I truly prayed this was it. Any time there is something to do with children being mistreated I hope I am wrong. In my head, right there in a public school, I prayed that I be wrong and that boy would have any reason at all to come into the library, to walk by the computer lab, into the office, or even just bump into me at the end of the day. If there was a God he would show me through that boy showing up in my presence again. I felt like if I could just tell him that even though he still needed to do what the adults told him to do that I understood how frustrated and how unfair the situation at recess had been.
He never came in or walked by. I didn’t see that boy again and I probably never will.
At the end of my day I went to my car and I sat there. Pondering if I should just go home. What had happened was still weighing on me heavily as it is still weighing on me almost 30 hours later. I thought about the analogy of the home sitters and how they just forgot to act despite knowing what the right thing to do was. I got myself out of my car and walked back into the school and asked to speak to the principal. Of course she was busy. I called back today and she wasn’t there so I left a message on her voicemail. Hopefully I will get a call back tomorrow or the next week. If not I plan to take my concerns to the district office.
I don’t think my actions are extreme or an over-reaction. I was choking back tears seeing this boy being belittled and cut down; anyone who knows me knows this is not something I do easily.
For now the story with the boy is at a stand-still. I don’t know how it will turn out. I don’t think I ever will know the complete story because I am “just a substitute.” At least I can know I did something. Instead of just talking about how we should be treating children I actually did something even though I almost forgot.