Friday, September 25, 2009

Fall like rain

Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. Deuteronomy 32:2

A print of a watercolor calligraphy of this verse, a member gift from LEA long ago, hangs on my office wall. The verse is my prayer each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before I pick up my bag and head down to my classroom. It is a potent reminder of my responsibility, and of the grace offered by my Savior.

I don't teach kindergarten anymore. I don't even teach in a Lutheran classroom anymore. One of the nice things about teaching children is that no one tells you to not get emotionally involved. Getting emotionally involved with your students is a blessing. You spend all day with them; you learn their quirks and endearing mannerisms. You get hints as to the struggles they face and know all too well the struggles they might cause in your classroom. While no teacher relishes the need to talk with parents about tough situations, and we all dread having to call Child Protective Services about possible abuse, it is, none the less, a blessing that we can do this. We can make a difference in a child's life; a difference that some children desperately need.

I don't teach young children, anymore. Now, I teach big kids on a university campus. These students are, for a mere 16 weeks, on my roster. I see them for two hours a week and some not even that much. What does "teaching fall like rain" mean in this situation?

I am starting to get to know some of the 82 students I teach. One young man has asked me for writing advice as he and his father are writing a book on divorce. Another young man turned down an offer to play pro baseball because he wants a degree in business. He will probably have that pro career but he is thinking beyond that. Another athlete gets physically ill when his football team loses a game. Then there are the students who struggle with unexpected issues, like the two students who missed class because they attended the funeral of their best friend's fathers. Or the young man who admitted to me, in a paper he handed in, that he has a drinking problem. I can't forget the foreign students who have so much beyond language to translate as they swim in this culture so different from their own. And I worry over the young man who is struggling with seizures and doesn't want to register his condition as a disability so he can ask the professor for pre-written notes from class. Then there are the students who are on academic probation due to their indulgence in new-found freedoms. For many of them their habits of last semester are still driving their decisions this semester.

For some of them, I want to call their parents and set up a parent/teacher conference. I threaten to do it, but the students and I both know, I can't. The best I can do is to refer them to available help. Again, I ask, what does teaching that falls like rain mean in this type of setting?

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants not he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. I Corinthians 3: 6- 7

This verse helps me to put things into a better perspective. I asked God to let my teaching fall like a gentle nurturing rain. I do not ask Him to give me the responsibility to make the grass grow. This responsibility always belongs to God. He blesses us by allowing us to be a small part in the process. With this small part, come huge responsibilities to take care of our behavior and to pay attention to how we represent our Savior to the young ones in our care. We are to work, through the power of the Spirit, to follow the opening line of the Hippocratic Oath: first, do no harm. The efficacy of the rain is God's responsibility. Sometimes we plant a seed, sometimes we water the seed previously planted. The growth of the plant is God's job.

To my friends who teach: I will remember you in my prayers this week. May God always let your teaching fall like rain. And may He show you the growth; you seek, in your students.

No comments: