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Do you ever make the mistake of forgetting that life is longer than a school year?
There is an eternity out there, yet we often view time as an extremely finite resource. Our own understanding of life is so limited, and we are often blinded by the here and now.
The same concept applies to education, more specifically, to how we educators view our students. We tend to be blinded by the here and now. We see and judge students' lives based on the years they are in our building, or based the sole school year during which we teach them, or even by the mere minutes a day that they are in our class. No matter what grade level you teach, you are interacting with students at one small point on the overall spectrum of their lives. On top of that, the point at which we interact with them falls in the most immature portion of that spectrum. We know this; however, we often forget that life extends and changes beyond this crossing of paths.
Last week I had a wonderful opportunity to be reminded of my shortsightedness. I received a phone call from a student who I will refer to as Jason. Jason spent three years at the school where I work before completing his GED a few years ago, and let's just say that his three years here weren't always the most pleasant. While Jason, who transferred to our school after his freshman year at a neighboring high school, wasn't exactly a "bad" kid, he never really seemed happy. His grades weren't good; in fact, he failed many classes. He really didn't interact well with most teachers, got into some trouble here and there, and basically seemed like he wanted to be anywhere else but here.
Based on what I saw of Jason, it would be very easy to predict that the poor decisions he was making in high school would continue and probably escalate in the future. More than likely, the next time I heard his name it would be for making a life-altering mistake. And then he called me last week....
Jason called to ask for a reference. He pointed out that he really had never made much of relationship with any of his teachers, and since as an administrator I deal with student discipline, I was the person he knew best from high school.
Over the past 3 or 4 years since Jason had left our school, Jason had become active in a local church. He had surrendered his life to something bigger than himself and was a changed person. He was leading a young adult Bible study. He told me that one of the reasons why he never properly engaged during high school was due to the fact that he felt like he had no purpose. But now, in his new faith, he had found his purpose. In talking with him for a short time, it was evident that he was a new person with new goals, a new outlook, and a new reason for being. After some encouragement from members of his church, Jason had decided to pursue full-time ministry. He was applying to a Bible school in Kentucky and needed a reference from a former educator. And so he called me.
I was so excited to hear that Jason's life had turned around and that things were really looking up for him. My interaction with Jason reminded me of an important concept. It reminded me that when I'm interacting with others - specifically, these students at my school - I must not limit their potential for growth based on what I see during a single point on the timeline of eternity.
We get to be a part of people's lives for a very short time. If we only think about the here and now we are more likely to only give our best where we see the most benefit and to withhold our best when we judge the case to be hopeless. But if we are aware that life continues beyond our school and that ALL our students have the potential to live meaningful stories, then we are more likely to do what we're called to do - pour love into all our students and plant the seeds that point them to a purposeful life and an exciting story.