A few years ago my sister, author of the blog In My Father’s Vineyard, wrote one of my favorite posts about the society’s view on homelessness. The blog post was written shortly after she changed professions and began serving the poor of Northern Colorado, which is neither an easy task nor a desired one. Many put their blinders on to suffering and pass the homeless on the street not even acknowledging their existence. The culmination of the post was a beautiful reflection on the concept of being “pro life” while serving the homeless. She talked about the fact that the right to life isn’t just for the unborn or elderly but for every single human being: old, young, wealthy, poor, loved or unloved. Feel free to read it here. I’ll explain why I mention this a little later.
These last four weeks marked a big move in my college career, I began student teaching.
The process to actually get placed at a school was an absolute nightmare. From the beginning of my college career I had wanted to student teach at a Catholic School. Only a private Catholic school. The only problem? Every time I came close to that happening it seemed like a huge door was being shut right in front of me. I had almost lost all my hope until I was finally able to get in contact with the principal of a local Catholic Middle School in Fort Collins about my interest in teaching at her school. Only a short 2 weeks later I got an email notification that I was officially placed at that school and would be in communication with my cooperating teacher.
I cannot describe to you the joy of receiving the email “Congratulations! You have been placed!” from CSU. I immediately emailed my teacher.. and then I emailed her again.. and then I emailed her again.
I called my cooperating teacher the week before I was supposed to take finals and once again got no response from her. After calls and emails I finally went to the only source I could find, the principal of the school. We arranged to meet the following Monday of finals week and I am so thankful that we did. Goodness. If we hadn’t met that Monday I very well could not be student teaching this semester and I would be forced to push my whole college career back one semester.
“I talked to your teacher and she doesn’t want to do it. She won’t have the time or receive the credits she was expecting.”
My heart dropped when Sister Rose Mary said those words. My dream of student teaching at a Catholic school was gone.
Throughout the next few days I had to come to grips with the fact that I had been telling God what I wanted instead of allowing Him to place me where I was needed.
Thankfully, a few days later I got a notification that I had a new placement. I was placed at a public school in Greeley, CO and my first reaction was complete and total relief at finding myself a new place I could finish out my college career, then my second reaction was total and absolute fear.
Shortly after I began sharing with friends and family that I was going to be in Greeley at John Evans middle school, I was met with so much negativity. One friend of ours even looked at my Dad and said, “Is there anyway she could switch?”
My Dad and I both knew why she said this …. the school I would be student teaching at is surrounded by low socioeconomic housing, 70 to 80 percent of the students are Hispanic, a small percentage are refugees and the rest are white, and all of the students are confronted with the very real issue of gang violence.
“Is there anyway she could switch?”
That statement came from a place we have all been, a place of fear.
I could have listened. I could have chosen another route. I could have given up.
But a voice deep inside kept repeating to me,”You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7)
I walked into my school two weeks later full of anxiety, fear, and worry.
I had always thought I would be student teaching at a Catholic school in my own safe Catholic bubble. Now that I wasn’t going to be doing that, I was fearful of what God was asking me to do because He was calling me out into the desert and asking that I follow where He leads me…. obediently. How scary! I was afraid that if I taught in a public school I would have to pretend to be somebody I wasn’t. I was afraid that I would have to hide the deep love I have for my Catholic faith and Jesus Christ. Amidst all that fear and anxiety I still had a peace that God had flipped a lot of things around in order to place me here, therefore, He would never abandon me.
The past four weeks God has been allowing me to discover why He placed me at John Evans Middle School
Some of the students that I teach fall under the following criteria:
Over half of them has a parent that is in jail.
Gangs. Some are in them, some are trying to be.
Some are just beginning to understand English and they come from various parts of the world including: Somalia, Thailand, Mexico, and many others.
Some students read at a kindergarten level and others at 5th grade level, what they all have in common is that they don’t read at their own grade level.
Some students are constantly told they won’t amount to anything… by those that should love them the most.
Some students are in between coming out of jail, others have left because they have gone back to jail… And yes…My students are only 11 and 12.
Some students only know how to roll a joint.
Some students are homeless.
To the rest of society, these students are a waste. They will never go anywhere. They’re never going to amount to anything….
At least that’s what they’ve been told.
What the students at John Evans need is hope.
Hope is Jesus Christ.
Just as my sister noticed a need for people to respect the dignity, suffering, and humanity of the homeless… I, too, have noticed a need for people to increase their understanding of the dignity of each one of my students. Many judge John Evans and fear the students that we are teaching without even taking the TIME to hear their stories.
I preach the fact that I am pro-life and the reality is that comes in more forms than just respecting the life of the unborn. It calls out the respect for the hopeless, destitute, lost, and lonely.
Let me tell you… I have no doubt questioned my desire to become a teacher more than once throughout these last 4 weeks, but I also couldn’t be happier where I am. That is where the paradox lies.
I find myself giving all that I am to these students and it is exhausting. I care for them even though they don’t care for themselves. In this exhaustion I also find there’s a peace that at least I am trying and I am fighting for them and I may be one of only a few adults who is actually doing so. I may not say out loud “you need Jesus, do you know Him?” like your FOCUS missionary would do, but I serve them as best I can.
You don’t need to be a FOCUS missionary to evangelize and bring Christ to others. You can do it wherever you are and in any part of your life. Missionary work isn’t just for college campuses and other countries, it’s for the students that fill the schools marked with the dreaded “Title I” reputation. It is for the students that people believe have already failed. The answer is simple to battle this… we bring Christ to others when we act like Christ to them. We do this through loving even the most hardened of hearts, through serving others in both simple and complex ways, through holding one another accountable, through giving and not counting the cost. I could keep going.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I ask that you pray for my students and all those who are struggling in this life. Please pray for those who find themselves hopeless so that they can indeed find hope in Christ. Finally, pray for all educators and those blessed with the job of supporting these future generations.