Mid-chapel service on Tuesday, our headmaster called out, “Mrs. Dagen, could we add to tomorrow’s announcements that we are not whining tomorrow?”
He had been talking about our virtue of the month—gratefulness—and challenged students to choose to be thankful instead of whining. No-Whine Wednesday, as I quickly coined it, was a perfect opportunity to practice what he preached.
I attacked the announcements with vigor, adding Scripture verses and a list of reminders—such as “be grateful, don’t whine, be kind, rewind…” and other rhyming platitudes in line with No-Whine Wednesday.
As I greeted students Wednesday morning as parents dropped them off, I pretended to scold them, wagging my finger and saying, “Don’t forget! It’s No-Whine Wednesday.”
To which a sophomore facetiously retorted, “Oh, so we’ve moved on to whiskey?”
“Whiskey Wednesday,” the alliterative student suggested.
Funny, funny. Haha. Nice Christian school kid…
During home base, I had my juniors share one thing for which they were thankful… parents, our school, Hump Day, the previous weekend’s church retreat, the coming day off from school. But a few insincere replies included a reluctant “for my car” and a sarcastic “this Gatorade I’m drinking.”
First period was fine. Between periods, as I took up my hall duty, I found that some exuberant, thankful parents had begun forming a 3D-tree in the spot where I usually leaned as I monitored the door and halls during classes. I was whine-free enough to simply stand in front of it, hold my arms out like limbs, and pretend I was part of the tree. (I didn’t fool anyone.)
Second period was a bit rough. Few seniors had read our current novel and were unprepared for class discussion. I asked a question to one young man, who made a dramatic pause, batted his eyes several times as if actually thinking, and then replied, “I bet you know the answer to that.”
Sigh. But no whine. Well, maybe just inside.
By the time fifth period hit, the paper tree had added some leaves of thanks—one that got stuck in my hair—and some letters on the wall expressing gratefulness further blocking my leaning. My arms were tired from their tree-limb mimicry, and I was envisioning doing hall duty actually standing rather than leaning for the rest of the month.
My fifth period students were awful. Our vocabulary lesson was a chore, and our discussion of reading made me realize they weren’t even courteous enough to read SparkNotes… so I lectured—with a bit of a expressed whine.
It was downhill from there.
I couldn’t get into the office I share with my colleague because it was being shared with some committee who managed to move all the notebooks I had spread out for work. My new, prized pen was missing. My students’ frameworks for their upcoming essays were so completely wrong that I determined every one had to be redone. I was asked to cover study hall the last period of the day so that the reigning teacher could meet with a parent—but before I could leave my classroom it filled with students because another teacher had decided to use my classroom for an extra study session. Someone had gotten someone other than me to cover study hall, but now my office and my classroom were in use—not by me. Then the two students who were to clean my classroom that hour couldn’t, which meant that my room didn’t get cleaned. Student papers were piling up on a desk I couldn’t use, and I had to focus on administrative duties with nowhere to work, and I was feeling overwhelmed. Which impossible task should I do first? And then the Internet stopped working …
Enough! Whining to myself, I went home. No-Whine Wednesday was a fail. At least for me.
I got home, took a phone call, greeted my husband, answered his question but used too many words, was asked to give him some time to wind down before speaking, and shut my mouth.
But I was whining on the inside. Again. I compared myself to Alexander in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I think I will go to Australia.
A little later, I (quietly and) bravely leaned against my husband (since he didn’t have a 3D-tree blocking me from leaning) in a half-hearted hug, and I looked sad. He had decompressed enough to recognize my need. He hugged me tight, apologized for his snappiness earlier, and for that moment all seemed right with the world.
I hadn’t told him about No-Whine Wednesday, and so what happened next surprised me and went straight to my heart. As he hugged me, he murmured, “We are so fortunate. We really are. I don’t know why I complain so much.”
I realized how right he was. I am blessed. Why whine?
The Bible says in Proverbs 3:27 that “as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.” I couldn’t do No-Whine Wednesday by just suppressing whining. I needed to change the way I was thinking. Like this:
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).
With that in mind, maybe today I will aim for Thanksgiving Thursday.
(I will definitely aim for Reading Pop Quiz Thursday and Rewrite Right Thursday, even though they are less alliterative. I can help my students realize what is excellent and worthy of praise—and, likely, listen to them whine…)