Extreme caring in the classroom
Could this challenging class take a turn for the better?
By Ivana Fuentes
I’ve been teaching high school and middle school students for the past 12 years. Every year, there is always one group of students that challenges me the most.
One year (which happened to be my first in a new school district) a particular class challenged me daily. They were resistant to most things I proposed, even to activities which I thought would be most fun and interesting. The students were unkind to one another, and there was a constant atmosphere of tension, which made it very difficult to teach.
At a certain point, there was a situation where one student made a very poor and inappropriate decision on an assignment, for which I had to follow through with appropriate but severe consequence. This student was funny, intelligent and well-liked by his peers, so as a result, the whole class turned against me.
Each day, I left class frustrated… but this didn’t stop me from praying for them. I asked for the grace to see them with “new eyes” and to give them another chance.
Despite advice from colleagues to be tough or indifferent, I decided to walk into each class with a smile and to love Jesus in each student (cf. Mt 25:40). I decided to see the potential for growth in love, maturity and character. I would make a point to say hello to even the most uncooperative students, and ask about something important to them — a sport or activity they were involved in.
One day, we got the news that a student in my class was hit by a car. It wasn’t known when she would return. I decided to put together a get-well card, and invited each student to sign it, along with well wishes.
Months later, toward the end of the year, I received an email from a staff member informing me that I was nominated by a student who was being inducted into the National Honor Society for Teacher of the Year. It was actually a student from this class!
I attended the ceremony to receive this recognition, and the student (whom I would have never suspected) handed me a personal letter, expressing her gratitude for the impact I had made on her life.
Her letter mentioned that she appreciated how patient and “extremely caring” I had been since the start of the year, even though I was treated unfairly by some students. She was also touched by how I prepared a card for the student who had been injured, and that I took the time to explain concepts to students who seemed to be falling behind.
Finally, she mentioned how much content and important life qualities she had learned about in my class. Furthermore, she explained that although she does not plan on being a teacher, she felt inspired to apply the qualities of respect, care, passion and patience to her future career.
I was so moved at how, with God’s grace to persevere in loving, I was able to touch this student’s life in a positive way. By the end of the school year, not all, but many more students began to say hello and goodbye as they walked in and out of the classroom.
Even the student who had made a bad decision applied himself to working harder in my class, showing both respect and making better choices. I even decided that I would nominate him for the National Honor Society, because I felt that he deserved another chance.