I love to make plans. Planning is for real one of my favorite parts of teaching. I love the creative process. In fact, I could be happy just sitting around dreaming up ideas all day long. So naturally, with a summer of teaching (Math, Science, and English to Middle Schoolers at the Union Gospel Mission) ahead of me I began to plan. In fact, I had an entire week where I got paid planning time. I planned, and replanned until my plans were perfect—I was certain of it.
Then I met my students. That first day they were so rowdy I had to scream to be heard over them at times. The second day was better. The first day had been all business; you know rules, and get-to-know-yous. But still. I dreaded coming to work every day because my students wouldn’t listen to me, and they complained about every activity I gave them. That was tough because I had spent so much time pouring myself into every lesson. I worked hard to make sure they could have fun and grow.
Finally, on the last day of Week One we had a heart-to-heart. I was straight up with them about how I’d been feeling. Some tears were shed (mostly mine). Some of my students apologized for their behavior in the classroom. My site supervisor explained to them why we even have school as a part of this summer camp. She shared how as people of color, and people whose parents hadn’t gone to college my students were already at a disadvantage in our education system. Silence struck the room. They were listening. Then I opened up the floor for suggestions.
“More hands-on stuff.”
“Can we go outside?”
“It’s hard to focus on Fridays.”
Due to their feedback, I dropped almost every single plan that I had made. Goodbye pretty wrapped-up-nice-with-a-ribbon-on-top-plans. Instead of weeklong projects, I did one Math day a week, one Science day, one Language Arts day, and on Fridays we spent most of class outside. I shortened the silent reading time. I gave the kids a break half-way through our time together. And you know what? The second week went drastically better than the first!
I think that in order to be our best, we must be stretched. The bible says that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. So I leaped outside of my comfort zone for thirty searching, teenage faces. God stepped into my inability to be flexible, loosened my grip on my plans, and helped me to better love and serve a group of his kids. Maybe I'll let him spoil the rest of my plans, too.