So, I wasn’t planning to write today, which is often the opposite of what I would say. Many days I plan to write, but then other things get in the way – emails, grading, going to the store, lesson plans, appointments, my dog, the outdoors, cooking, a good book, YouTube, Facebook, the list can go on and on, with either productive or time wasting reasons, as to why I might not write. But, today I knew I had to write down what I was thinking before the magic was lost. The magic in today was my students.
Now, before I tell you all the magic, I don’t want to give any teacher who had a less than wonderful teaching day the impression that my students were all perfect angels, or that I was anything close to the perfect teacher. In one of my classes, many of the students were very distracted from the moment they entered my doors. Enough school days have passed now that they know the routine in my class. They know to look at the board and follow the instructions for the beginning activity. This is usually something meaningful, but simple, that doesn’t require my explanation at the start of class. So, today they knew what to do. But, they didn’t appear to know. Lots of laughter, chatting, opening of iPads (none of these were instructions of what to do on my board by the way.) But, that didn’t stop me from noticing the ONE, yes, LITERALLY ONE student who had read the board and was writing diligently, completely unaffected by all the distractions in the room. After I thanked that ONE student for knowing what to do and doing the right thing, everyone else miraculously followed that behavior. While that miraculous switch in classroom atmosphere wasn’t the magic I noticed, it was actually pretty magical for that ONE student to have done the right thing right from the start. I could have been annoyed with the crowd and not noticed the one, but for some reason, that one caught my attention.
So, that brings me to the main reason I think I noticed magic in my students today, although I use that term “magic” lightly because I know it had absolutely nothing to do with magic. It was much more than that.
Today was a chapel day, and the message was about who is the greatest. Our pastor reenacted a very entertaining game show to illustrate this point, acting as a game show host for a game called “Who is the Greatest?” Three 8th Grade contestants were asked questions to see who was the greatest. Some of the questions were, “What’s the greatest thing you’ve ever done? How many friends do you have? What’s your best quality?” The answers by two contestants were answers that the world might answer as the best – answers like, “I have the most friends possible on all my social media,” and “I have so many great qualities, I’d have to say everything about me is great.” These answers gave these contestants the most points, whereas the third contestant answered with, “I work at a nursing home,” and “I have four really good friends,” and “Kindness is my best quality.” These answers earned him zero points.
But, the game didn’t end there. The game show host was informed that the real title of the game show was “Who is the greatest according to Jesus?” After hearing that, the points were reassigned to the third contestant, who clearly won the show by Jesus standards.
The summary of that message is significant to what I saw in my students today because both before and after that message, I sat and noticed little things about my students that really touched my heart. Notice I said little things. They weren’t things that anyone walking in might have paid much attention to, but they made my day. I stared at the picture on the projector of a kayak in the water, a beautiful picture for sure, but all the more beautiful when the pastor announced that it was her son in the boat, a recent graduate who I was blessed to teach. I noticed the student who read the Bible passage, a student who has struggled with anxiety, conduct himself with confidence and calm. I listened to 4th graders sing “If I were a Butterfly” and fondly remembered singing that song as a kid and as a 4th Grade teacher. I heard 8th grade girls sing solo parts to a song called “Make a Difference” and was in awe of not just the beauty in their voices, but in their willingness and courage to stand up like that and sing in front of everyone. I watched an 8th grader strum his guitar in front of everyone, the first time I’d seen him do that, and I was so happy that this middle school boy didn’t think he was “too cool,” or that he wasn’t embarrassed, to play a guitar in front of others in chapel.
When I left chapel, I felt that feeling you sometimes get when you realize things will be right in the world. There is good in the world. This place I am blessed to work in makes a difference. These kids I see each day will go out and make a difference, even if it’s just in one person like little old me, and the world will be better because of it.
I left with that good feeling before I began that class of mostly distracted students. Maybe that’s why I noticed that ONE who made a difference. It doesn’t take a lot. It can just be ONE little thing, or a bunch of little things that add up to make a day bright. And that isn’t magic. It’s absolutely, undeniably, Jesus.