The beginning of that school year was the beginning of my career as a special education teacher. I was twenty-two years old, just beginning to put my knowledge to the test. Looking back, I didn’t know near as much as I thought I did. Isn’t that the truth for most of us, when we were in our twenties? Big on ideas, not real big on life experience.
The morning was underway. Attendance had been taken, and learning groups had already begun. Bobby*, a sixth grader, wasn’t there yet. He was late. The classroom clock ticked off the first moments of the school day. The door opened and in walked Bobby*. He came up to me, eyes averted, and mumbled something about being late. I, in my own naive youth, abruptly replied to him with, “I understand you are late to school, but it is important for you to be on time. Now you are going to be behind this morning. Hurry up and put your stuff in your desk, so we can get you in your group.” My teacher mindset appreciated punctuality and I wanted to get that across to him, but Bobby* wasn’t finished. He looked at me and said, “I’m sorry. Last night, with all the rain and wind, the living room wall caved in. I was up most of the night with my Daddy putting tarp up, so our stuff didn’t get wet.”
Tears began to well up in my eyes. I looked away. Now it was my turn to mumble an apology. This poor boy, who was a good student, and had a tender heart, after a difficult and stressful night, now had to listen to his teacher gripe at him. He had helped his Daddy. He was doing important work to save his family’s house. I felt badly about my cavalier attitude, not comprehending what it meant to live in a house that was weather worn and crumbling.
I learned a lesson that day, one that stuck with me. I learned a lesson that didn’t just apply to my career in teaching, but to life. Things are not always what they seem, in fact many times, we only skim the surface of what is going on with people. We often jump to our own conclusions about others because it is more convenient.
And that is wrong….. so wrong.
None of us is perfect, and most are fighting battles that others know nothing about….because of this, I can’t go wrong treating everyone with kindness.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 NIV
*Bobby is not my former student’s real name.