Today, I completed one of the hardest tasks I have experienced in a long time. This task was more difficult than corralling preschoolers in a ballet class. This task was more draining than cooking lunch over a camp fire for 12 campers. This task was more humbling than totaling a sedan. But it was also more rewarding than acing all of my finals. This morning I sat in front of my class of 22 third graders and apologized for my behavior.
I know you are shaking your head at me, so please let me explain. Before I became a teacher, I never imagined that I would become frustrated with my students. It’s not that I am a particularly peaceful person because, in fact, I can have an incredibly short temper. However, I have never lost my temper with anyone but my own family. I don’t know why this made me think I understood how to be patient, but I did. So, this week, when my students would not pay attention or settle down to learn, I became frustrated and did not know how to let go of that frustration. I began snapping at students and aggressively taking away privileges and rewards. I suppose I had hoped to scare the students into obedience, but it only made them more wild and rebellious. Yesterday after school, I was so embarrassed and disappointed in myself that I really had no idea what to do. I wanted the last day of the week to be better, but I wasn’t sure how to make certain that I could maintain civility. All I could think to do was pray.
I prayed that God would give me peace, comfort, and strength. I prayed that He would help my students to stay calm and obedient throughout the day. I prayed that my discipline techniques would work. I prayed to find patience anywhere deep inside me. I prayed, but I still didn’t feel much better. I went to bed and cried out of desperation. After a while, I began to think of my students and the arguments they have. “How many times,” I said to myself, “have you told them simply to apologize? Even if it was just an accident, apologize.” That was when I knew God had given me my answer. I had hurt and offended my students. The only way for me to fix that and teach them courtesy and forgiveness was to humble myself and apologize.
I am not proud to say that apologies have never been easy for me. I agonized all night and all morning about the task before me. When students began arriving, I wasn’t sure that today would actually be any different than the rest of the week. I was so afraid, and I don’t really know why. Finally, though, it was time for our morning meeting. So, I apologized. I asked my students to forgive me for becoming upset with them and treating them badly. I nearly wept, I was so ashamed. Then, a little girl raised her hand. “Will you forgive me for being disobedient yesterday?” Several other students asked me similar questions, and all I could do was nod my head. “Yes,” I said, holding back my tears. “I forgive you.”
I hope my students learned something today about making apologies and asking forgiveness. We certainly had a much better day. Whatever they learned, though, I know I learned more about patience and forgiveness in those few minutes than I have in 21 years of living.
Have a blessed weekend.