Glinda or the Wicked Witch of the West?
I remember daydreaming in college about the day that I would finally get a classroom of my own. I envisioned how I would set up my classroom, the beautiful bulletin boards that would grace the walls, and my cherub students sitting in their desks eagerly watching me, their loving, beneficent teacher leading them throughout the day with a kind smile and patient correction for anyone who might step out of line. I would be the gracious queen of my little classroom kingdom.
It was such a beautiful dream…having it play out in reality is not quite the same! Let’s just say that my cherubs don’t particularly like being led through Math, English, Reading, Science and History. They don’t particularly like my classroom rules and procedures. Not talking in class is one of their least favorite rules. Standing quietly in the hallway is another one that they tend to buck against. We practice…again and again we practice. I discipline….again and again. But you know what? They just don’t want to get with my idea of our perfect little classroom!
And instead of the gracious queen, I feel like an impossible dictator. Instead of sweet Glinda reigning over the munchkins, I feel more like the Wicked Witch of the West! My kingdom is not going as planned! I feel out of control! I look around at our classroom and feel intense feelings of frustration…why won’t they listen to me?! Why won’t they just obey?! And those feelings of frustration soon begin to bubble over into impatience and irritation with the students who are messing up my plans for my little kingdom.
And I would love to justify it as righteous anger – after all, they are not pleasing God, and they are distracting others from learning! But when I examine my own heart, I quickly find that I am more upset that they are getting in the way of my desires and plans. And James has a little something to say about that!
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)
James is so clear in letting us know that our sin comes from our desires. I am frustrated and impatient because my desire for a neat, well-behaved class (which is a good thing in and of itself!), has become an out-of-control need. I need to have a neat, well-behaved class, or I can’t be happy. I need to have a great class, or I can’t be patient.
Wait, who’s in charge here?
I have viewed my class as my little kingdom…when in fact, my classroom is God’s Kingdom. I am trying to orchestrate my plans to be in control of my classroom. I don’t have time for student misbehavior – that’s not a part of my kingdom plan! I don’t have time for students who are not getting on board with my procedures and methods- that’s not a part of my kingdom plan! My kingdom looks like 25 students sitting in their seats, diligently and faithfully completing their assignments, doing well in school, getting along with each other, respecting and loving me as their teacher, and growing into the most spiritually mature third and fourth graders ever! But many days, that is not the way that God’s kingdom looks as it plays out in my classroom. My students fight with each other. They don’t obey. They don’t turn in their homework. They talk and goof off as they walk in the hallway to their specials! But God wants to use each and every one of those situations to grow all of us – students and teacher – to be more like Christ. I think about Jesus Christ and His time here on earth – how many times that, in earthly terms, His plans were derailed. The woman with the issue of blood that stopped Him as He was going to the home of Jarius (Matt. 9:20-22), the children coming to Him (Luke 18:15-17), His disciples not understanding what He said (Luke 9:44-45), the disciples arguing with each other (Luke 9:46), healing a paralyzed man while He was teaching (Luke 5:17-26), and the crowd following Him when He went to be alone (Matthew 13:13-14).
Oh, friends -if anyone can identify with what we feel in our classrooms when our students fail to understand, interrupt with misbehavior, and have needs that feel overwhelming to meet – it is Christ!
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
How did He show love & patience with all of these interruptions? Because He realized that He was there to build God’s Kingdom. And behind each & every one of those interruptions was a person who needed God.
Too much of a good thing?
Of course, it is not wrong to strive for a well-run, obedient, peaceful classroom – those are all good things that we should be working for! The issue is when those desires become what our classroom needs to be like for us to function. How can we tell if those good desires have morphed into out-of-control needs? By the way we react when we don’t get them!
Honestly, for me, I react in impatience and frustration because I want my perfect little kingdom instead of God’s perfect plan. My classroom is God’s Kingdom…and God’s Kingdom is about glorifying Him through saving sinners and conforming them to be more like Him. That student who refuses to obey is in desperate need of God’s grace, not my impatience! Perhaps he needs to be saved…or perhaps he has accepted Christ to be His Savior, but he needs to submit his will to God and grow in sanctification. Ultimately, that student’s problem is not submission to me — it is submission to God.
When I look at my classroom as God’s Kingdom and not my own , that student’s behavior is not personal towards me. Instead of reacting to his disobedience towards me and how it has affected our class, I should be concerned for how his behavior is affecting his relationship with God. When that is the case, instead of being quick to anger and quick to lecture them, I will be slow to anger and slow to speak…because my primary motive is not fixing my kingdom but rather building God’s kingdom, and anger & impatience are not tools for that!
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20)
Building God’s Kingdom is messy work here on earth. Especially when it is that time of the semester, you are exhausted, and you have that tough class. My students are in need of transforming grace, but so is their teacher! I need God’s amazing, transforming grace to tune my heart to His — to see my classroom as His Kingdom that He is ruling and reigning over. I am simply the steward – not the ruler!
So, yes, we will still have rules & procedures. There will be consequences when those rules & procedures are not followed. But I am begging God for His grace to help me respond in love & patience in those times, because it’s not about having my little kingdom upended. It’s all about Him and growing His Kingdom!