Tag Archives: high school

Life’s Little “Pop Quizzes”

epic-fail

Yesterday I had “a day”. And we all know what that means: a day full of annoyances, conflict, disappointment, headaches and things breaking down – and mental breakdowns are not unheard of. It’s a day where all kinds of fun things happen. For example, you’re running late – and the snail-on-wheels in front of you doesn’t quite seem to grasp that. And of course something has to break – and it has to be the coffeemaker. Or (my personal favorite) your kids decide your life isn’t exciting enough and needs a little drama – and they’re happy to fix that for you. They’re so helpful that way. Or you forget your lunch so you roll through the drive-through only to discover you don’t have your wallet. But no worries – you know where it is. It’s sitting on the kitchen counter – right next to your lunch and the broken coffee maker. And to top it all off, you get to work (late) and pull up the document you’d worked on for a week and saved – or thought you saved …

All you can do at that point is to look up at the sky and inquire, “Is there a point here??”

Well, yes, actually there is. It’s one of life’s little “pop quizzes”, the let’s-see-how-much-you’ve-learned-character test that God loves to spring on us from time to time. And while I’d much prefer the paper and pencil version of that particular test (because I know all the right answers to that test), God seems to prefer the more “show, don’t tell” type of test. That’s the test that seems to go something like this:

Did you flash a friendly smile at the guy in the snail-mobile or – uhm, not?

Did you sit your kid down and patiently explain why it’s rude to use “that” language – or did you ground them until they’re 45? Not that there’s anything wrong with a good, long grounding – as long as you smile sweetly and the neighbors down the street don’t hear you do it.

Did you thank the nice lady at the drive through and politely explain that the wallet is on the counter next to the lunch and the broken coffee maker? And did you flash a friendly peace sign at the guy behind you in line who’s honking his horn like a maniac on steroids? Or did you yell at the nice lady that they took too long with your order so you don’t want it now and then roar off, squealing your tires?

For me, as a teacher, my tests often involve high school students who never got the memo that there are just certain things guaranteed to spoil your classroom experience. Like pitching a full-fledged fit when the teacher has the gall to tell you that naptime is over and to get your head up off the desk or to turn around and stop talking to your neighbor or to stop throwing pencils or to stop texting in class – and forget telling me it’s your mother. True story. Yesterday. All in one 45-minute period. Did I pass the test? Probably not. Which is why later I was near tears when, out of the blue, my sister called.

“What’s wrong??”

“Nothing.”

“You’re lying.”

“Okay.”

“What happened?”

So I told her what happened. What happened was I failed the test. I sort of let the little cherubs know I was not happy. Loudly. And I knew that it didn’t matter what they had done; I’d failed. Know what my sister said?

“‘To whom much is given, much is required.’”

Great. I would’ve preferred, “This too shall pass.”

The thing about these little pop quizzes is that God tailor-makes them all. For some it’s the patience test;  for some it’s the “love the least of these” test; for some it’s the giving-money test; for some it’s the scrub-the-toilet-servant test; for some it’s the gossip test – et cetera. And guess what else? God doesn’t do social promotions. It doesn’t matter to God how long it takes us to pass our ICE’s (Individualized Character Tests) – God has all eternity.

So – Rule #1 if you fail the test: admit it. We all have to do that. Or we get to take the truthfulness test again. And once we pass that test and admit what we’ve done, then we get to start all over with the original character test that we wouldn’t admit we’d failed. Ever hear of “life-long learning”? Well, now you have.

Point?

Don’t get discouraged when you get a failing grade on your pop character quiz. It means God’s working.

Honestly? Yesterday, that was the one thing that made me feel better – the idea that the difficult circumstances were for a purpose. I know I learned something – for me it wasn’t about what I said because it wasn’t unreasonable. The point is how I said it. I learned that there’s a wrong way to say the right thing.  

Will I have to take this little quiz again? I hope not – but, yes. Then I can move onto the next grade. More lessons, more quizzes. Do I like that? Not really. But then I consider the alternative: no more lessons – and no more transformation. And never again being entrusted with more. Of course, God is a gentleman; He won’t teach us anything without our permission. So what’s our answer?

If we want to be entrusted with the bigger things that lead to fulfilling our destinies, then there can only be one answer.

 

 

When the Dream Is Not Behaving

Broken Success Glass           Did you ever have a dream come true – but not the way you thought? It didn’t happen the way you thought it would happen, it didn’t look the way you thought it would look, and it didn’t turn out the way you thought it would turn out. But still, your dream came true . . .

            Or did it?

            When I began teaching 17 years ago, it was after I’d been out of school for many years and teaching didn’t look at all like I thought it would look. Not that God hadn’t called me to it; He most clearly had in ways that were undeniable. But teaching looked and felt so different than what I had expected that many times I would’ve quit – had God not made His call so clear.

            But still, when I began teaching high school English and found that 10th and 11th grade students couldn’t tell a noun from a verb from an adjective – nor did they care to – I was upset. But, I thought, just hold on till next year. It’ll be better then. But it wasn’t. By the third year of “I don’t know, don’t care, and don’t care to know,” I had a moment of truth: it was always going to be this way.

           Livin’ the dream.

           Of course (some would argue), if a teacher is a good one, she’ll make kids want to learn. However, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him write an essay. (Or something like that.)  Nevertheless, they might be right. Back in the day when I was in school, teachers made us want to work. I think their paddles might have had something to do with that.

            Today I guess I’m reflecting on all of this because four things happened last week to make the point. Not, unfortunately, that last week was all that unusual.

            Monday I noticed a student crying. She wouldn’t say why but another student told me that there’d been a suicide in her (extended) family. What do you say to that? I told her how sorry I was and tried to coax her to talk to me, to somebody, but she wouldn’t. I didn’t ask her to do any work but I had to wonder why she’d come to school. Maybe it was just better than being at home . . .

          Tuesday I went to a house to tutor a student who, by the way, doesn’t do any work. And he’ll tell you that. He told me that – twelve times. And he’s been not working for several months while being home-tutored, but next year he’ll be in the next grade anyway. Why? Because in this country, we have this wonderful thing called “social promotion” (which I could write a whole post on); this means that students are promoted through school based on age and facial hair – no lie – and not on mastery of skills. Of course, mastery is such a ridiculously archaic idea. Ever wonder why the United States ranks behind a hundred other countries in education? That’s why.

           Wednesday I had a kid arguing and yelling that he would most certainly not put his cell phone on my desk, and when I suggested he then go to the office and explain it to them, he declined that offer, too – only louder – in case I didn’t hear him the first time. Of course, I insisted (how mean of me) but still, he didn’t see my point of view. And from there it went. Eventually, he left but informed me on the way out the door that he would not, despite my recommendation, leave his phone in his locker next time.

           Sigh.

           Thursday, a girl in study hall had a major meltdown because another teacher had given her a lower grade on a project than she thought she deserved. There was much yelling and the throwing of books and threats of bodily harm to the teacher. Attempts on my part to do negotiations failed miserably. Oh, well. She’ll probably end up with the completely effective deterrent of home-bound tutoring where she’ll be forced to sleep in and play video games all day except for the two hours she’d be rudely interrupted to be tutored one-on-one. So sad.

           Why am I venting like this? To make a point: there will be days when “the dream” is just not behaving itself. There will be disappointments, perhaps tears, maybe even a failure here and there. You might even hear yourself saying some version of, “Why did I ever want to do this???”  But then, right when you’re ready to get the eraser and re-write the dream, you feel a little nudge and hear a quiet whisper, “You know why . . .”

            And you do.