Despite My Best Efforts, I Wasn’t Prepared for This

Originally titled: Totally unprepared am I…

I’ve always wanted to be in “The Sound of Music”–singing wide-armed while twirling on an exquisite, snow-capped mountain, creatively persuading children to not only behave but also to perform… Alas! It is not so. My singing is not of Julie Andrews’ caliber, I live in flat (albeit exquisite) Florida, and the children I parent and teach aren’t models of good behavior and too rarely perform to their potential.

But last week while teaching, I very well could have performed “I Am Sixteen Going on Seventeen” (if you add thirty years) just for the line “totally unprepared am I to face the world of [students]” … because despite my best efforts and intentions (and, yes, I know what paves the road to Hell), I was totally unprepared to teach my middle school grammar class, made up of students pulled from electives to spend the last period of the day with me.

It wasn’t as if I hadn’t tried to prepare; it’s just that my efforts were fruitless, and as the students filed in for sixth period, I was slightly irritated and frazzled and completely at a loss for words (read that: at a loss for a plan).

To calm me and them, I began the class with prayer, and I’m pretty sure God took over from there.

As I answered a student’s question after the prayer, I found myself sharing my personal story–which includes love, marriage, widowhood, a second marriage to a widower that made me an instant mother of four, and all manner of what must be interventions by God, etc. Sort of interesting. Perched on my green-cushioned stool in front of the class, I told my story, and the students were entranced.

When I finished I was still at a loss as to what to do the rest of the period, but one of my sixth graders made a hoop with his arms, referred to it as the “story bag,” and told me to throw my story into it. Ever obedient, I did. Then a couple of students made comments about my story, saying “Wow! That could be a movie!” and such.

It reminded me of something I had learned in journalism school: Everybody has a story.

And so I asked, “Who would like to share their story next?”

And a lesson plan was born.

One student after the other eagerly perched on the newly dubbed “story stool” and shared–stories about relatives with terrible illnesses and prolonged hospital stays; about near-tragic accidents with wildlife or heavy equipment and supernatural interventions; about being orphaned; about deaths due to cancer; and about losing loved ones to drugs and crime. These middle school students and their teacher listened, incredulous, to each heart-wrenching tale, all too true, and a few sillier stories told by the more fortunate.

Each story completed was “thrown” into the “story bag”–and stored in my heart. Each story, in its own way, a testimony–if only that God can help us walk through anything.

Even being totally unprepared.

Lesson plans for the rest of the week simply flowed from our personal stories–with the opportunity to plan, write, rewrite, and edit autobiographies near and dear to our hearts. It was a perfect plan made by a perfect Teacher. Not me.

And me? I was seeing a big God who cares about something as mundane as lesson plans and something as significant as the cares and hurts of young teenagers.

A God who cares enough about them to let me see too.

And plan accordingly. 🙂

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